Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Centennial SCAs

Reblogged from Ernestine White at the National Park Service

Across the National Park Service (NPS), Volunteer Ambassadors are making a difference – serving over 40,000 hours in 66 parks in the last 5 months.
 Quin Feller and Kelly McCann - MISS Centennial Volunteer Ambassadors 

In 2015, the National Park Service (NPS) strengthened its commitment to volunteerism.  Through a partnership with the Student Conservation Association, the agency recruited a group of 70 energetic, young adults who are stationed at 66 national parks.  These year-long Centennial Volunteer Ambassadors are working to connect people of all ages to their national parks and to enhance community engagement efforts in support of volunteer and service-learning opportunities.  The Program, now the largest youth developmental program in the NPS, supports the Department of the Interior’s Play, Learn, Serve, Work Youth Initiative to expand recreational, educational, volunteer, and career opportunities for millions of youth and veterans on the nation’s public lands. The program has garnered the attention of many, including members of the U.S. Congress who have reached out to the Volunteer Ambassadors from their districts to personally thank them for their service.

Now in its sixth month, the Program has shown many signs of success: Volunteer Ambassadors assisted in the coordination of the 2015 National Public Lands Day events, the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort and the largest National Public Lands Day event in the history of the program.  Out of all the federal agencies, NPS had the highest sites count, with 129 more parks participating than in FY 2014!  

Volunteer Ambassadors are increasing NPS presence on social media, helping to reach new audiences.  Sites with Volunteer Ambassadors are incorporating volunteerism and service learning opportunities into existing programs and activities and local annual events; e.g. Junior Ranger Programs, National Trails Day and MLK Day of Service. 

At Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Ambassador Kelly McCann started a native plant nursery as part of an ongoing pollinator project.  She forged partnerships with five local schools and says the student volunteers “give us the capacity to grow plants that don’t germinate well from seed and allow us to move the money we now spend on seed to other restoration issues.”

At Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Sally Goldman is working with the local community to offer volunteer-led bike tours in the spring and summer of 2016. Tours will be five to fourteen miles long and will feature locations significant to the Trail of Tears and Central High and. Participants can count miles from the tours toward the Iron Ranger Challenge. This program has play, learn and serve components. “I’m happy that we will re-start our bike tour program during the NPS centennial year. The Iron Ranger Challenge is the perfect opportunity for more community engagement through volunteer involvement and to share the mission of the NPS.” 

At Appalachian Trail, Hope Midock, helped to create the trail’s Next Generation Advisory Council.  The Council will consist of approximately 10 bright young minds who will volunteer their time to develop, share, and implement creative solutions for volunteer outreach and engagement along the Trail as a way to expand to a more diverse audience.  “Duties such as trail maintenance and recruitment largely fall to our partners such as the trail clubs.  Without dedicated volunteers, such as these, the trail wouldn’t exist, our goal is to provide them with all the tools and opportunities they need to succeed.” Hope said.

Ambassador Ian Harvey organized thousands of volunteers over the summer at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington.  “The vast majority of my hours involved hiking out to groups, getting my hands dirty, and talking to the people that truly keep the park running,” he says.  “Volunteers from all over the world came out to give back to the park that has given something to them.”

We are pleased to announce that the Ambassador program has been reauthorized for another fiscal year.  For FY 2016 sites will be selected from parks requesting an Ambassador through the Request for Internship Proposal (RFIP) process. In the RFIP, parks should share their interest in sponsoring an Ambassador, describe how the park is set up to promote the Ambassador’s success, and articulate how the Ambassador will help increase the number of people engaged through volunteer, service, and outreach opportunities.