Giving Back to Get Ahead: Volunteer Follows Conservation Ethic to Carlsbad Caverns
NPS Photo by Marjorie Thomas
Contact: Marjorie Thomas, 505.785.3127
The Great Outdoors has always lured people for a variety of different reasons. More and more young people are headed to places like Carlsbad Caverns National Park because of the value they find in practicing stewardship and learning how to teach others about the importance of conserving the world’s resources.
Amy Johnson, an intern with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), arrived from Portland, Oregon, in mid-May to assist the park’s education branch where she taught children five to twelve years old about the national park’s resources, helping them foster a care for the environment. Amy also worked in interpretation at the park, helping guide and trail cave tours, providing historical, geological, and biological information to visitors about the caverns, as well as creating programs from which visitors could become more knowledgeable about the park and how the caverns were created. Johnson will return to Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, in the middle of August, to complete a sociology and theology degree.
As needs outpace budgets on America’s public lands, the efforts of SCA volunteers have become essential. Some 45,000 young people have volunteered through SCA since 1957, and National Park Service Director Fran Mainella recently stated that “we can’t do without SCA.” The energy and idealism of the volunteers allows federal and state land-management agencies, as well as non-profit organizations, to meet the needs of the public in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Johnson, 19, hopes that her work at Carlsbad Caverns helped make a meaningful contribution to the park’s environment.
“Beauty cannot be defined by words. I find that places like Carlsbad Caverns humble us enough to stop using words and start working to conserve and save some of the only things that can define what beauty truly is,” says Johnson. “Working with the kids who visit the Caverns, I see the ingenuity in their ideals for the world. I’m hoping that the children who come through the park will gain an even greater appreciation when they see how incredible this place is. I want to learn from them how we might be able to relay this passion into future generations. A child’s mind is where the faith in change comes.”
SCA instills in its members an ethic of conservation where both the land and the individual are nourished through the performance of hands-on service. The experience leads many to become lifelong stewards, and 60 percent of SCA interns go on to successful careers in the conservation field.
The Student Conservation Association is dedicated to encouraging a new generation of conservation leaders, advancing the land ethic, and helping to conserve our nation’s natural and cultural resources. Its 3,000 high school, college, and graduate student members provide more than 1.5 million hours of service in national parks, forests, and other public lands annually.