When I decided to join the In My Backyard team this year, I knew I would get to work on subjects I care about, but I really wasn’t clear on what the summer would look like. I had a good feeling about the people in the program who I had spoken with, and I did my best to arrive in Seattle with an open mind. Coming from a much smaller town in Pennsylvania, living in the city alone took some adjusting in my first month here and it wasn’t always easy. Despite my new surroundings, I was instantly comforted by the warm personalities throughout the Klondike Gold Rush building – especially my fellow mentors and supervisors.
The outdoors became an important part of my life in the time leading up to this program, so I was both excited and amazed to learn about the organization responsible for managing great outdoor areas like our national parks. In addition to the outdoors, I was fascinated to learn about the history of our specific park here at Klondike. My time in Klondike has really helped me appreciate the importance of national park sites that focus on historical or cultural resources rather than mostly land. Being a part of the In My Backyard team has also been an incredible opportunity to learn about the history and culture of Seattle in general.
Outside of Klondike, I was lucky to spend time in Washington’s larger parks this summer and it only reinforced my goals for working with In My Backyard. The enjoyment and health benefits I experience in the outdoors are a large part of my motivation to share the outdoors with others. Truly, the more I benefit from nature, the more I am motivated to help others who don’t enjoy the privilege of access to outdoor areas. I have been extremely grateful for the opportunity to connect kids to the outdoors through the In My Backyard program, and it was deeply fulfilling to see our interns enjoying themselves in natural areas this summer. In the midst of a changing climate and changing policies, I believe it’s increasingly important for the next generation to appreciate outdoor areas so we have the support needed to protect them going forward.
As our summer program began and the interns arrived, I was definitely excited to get started. Despite my excitement, I was also anxious to see if they would care about the subjects we covered! As a sustainability major, I sometimes forget that not everyone cares about the outdoors or sustainability the way that I do. Lucky for me, all 14 interns turned out to be awesome people, and even those who had little experience with the outdoors (or the National Park Service) were eager to learn. Throughout the summer we took trips in and around Seattle, and hearing 14 fresh perspectives on the places we visited was a valuable learning experience for me. I had never been to most of the places we visited, so I was grateful to be able to share that experience with interns who were also seeing places for the first time.
I came into this program hoping to make a positive impact on the interns we worked with, and I’d like to think we’ve accomplished that. Time will tell how exactly we impacted them, but what really surprised me is how they impacted me! Whether it was direct conversation or just observing their different ways of thinking, the value that the interns provided to the program was limitless. Their personalities and willingness to learn were unmatched, and my favorite part of all was their ability to teach me. Thanks to our interns, I am leaving this program full of new ideas about the outdoors, the National Park Service, working with the next generation, and life in general.