News Release

TTAP Interns Perform Meaningful Work at Andrew Johnson National Cemetery

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Date: May 6, 2024
Contact: Shawn Gillette, 423-639-3711

What do three young women, a cemetery, and the National Park Service have in common? Turns out, quite a bit. Meet Alyssa Vicars, Kelsi Lindberg, and Selena Spadafino, who are spending their summer working at the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery as TTAP Interns. TTAP stands for Traditional Trades Advancement Program (TTAP), which is a federally funded 27-week immersive program committed to providing aspiring preservationists with a unique opportunity to work in national parks while building professional experience. Participants learn the fundamentals of historic preservation and receive on-the-job training in a traditional trade, such as masonry, carpentry, environmental restoration/preservation, wood-crafting, and more.

Many visitors to our National Parks have wondered how they might get jobs working in some of this nation’s most prestigious and breath-taking locations. The answer is often through hard work and, in cases of parks with active historic preservation and environmental restoration/preservation programs, skill sets, which can be difficult to come by. TTAP interns learn to do jobs, which are indispensable in parks across the country. For instance, they may repoint the brickwork in a historic fort; make repairs on centuries-old Puebloan structures; or perform restoration work in historic landscapes. These are just some of the jobs which can help TTAP interns compete for future jobs in the National Park Service or other federal land agencies.

Andrew Johnson National Cemetery offers a unique opportunity for training in historic landscape preservation. Established in 1906, the cemetery is a unit of the National Cemetery System. Like other National Cemeteries, it was designed to honor the final resting place of military veterans through arrangement of its grounds and the deliberate cultivation of its landscape. Gravestones were laid out in a precise order and the grounds adorned with specific ornamental trees, which evoke reverence and respect for our nation’s honored dead. Maintaining the cemetery involves more than operating lawn equipment. Evaluating plant species, protecting tree species, restoring areas following environmental damage. How can these skills translate to other job opportunities? Ever visit the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg; walk the sacred trails of Arlington National Cemetery; or lose yourself in a federally protected redwood forest? Protection and preservation of these sites require skills in environmental restoration/preservation and/or cultural landscape management.

Alyssa Vicars, a local from Kingsport, TN., has always envisioned a future working in the outdoors. She enjoys the opportunities that being a TTAP Intern at Andrew Johnson National Cemetery provides. “I am learning to use new tools, and the opportunity to use them doing worthwhile work.” Alyssa, who hopes to travel across the country, appreciates the opportunities this TTAP internship will provide in cultivating new skills that she might be able to use in other areas of the country, performing similar work.

Kelsi Lindberg wasn’t looking specifically at the TTAP Program when she happened upon it. She’d been working for the Social Security Administration and wanted to find something more meaningful. Lindberg, a former member of the U.S. Navy, who also is interested in historic preservation, came across the TTAP position while searching for other jobs. Since joining the TTAP Team at Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, Kelsi “enjoys performing meaningful and important work, which definitely makes me want to come in each and every morning.” Like Vicars, Kelsi also hopes to travel in the future and see what opportunities may be out there, and that’s what made this opportunity appealing – the new skills she’s learning may help her find a job or possible career working for the National Park Service.

Selena Spadafino, the newest member of the TTAP Team, came to her position by another route. Spadafino has always been passionate about taking care of the planet. Like many young people, she had her fill of “indoor” jobs – working in radio, and even as a bar tender; however, a life-long desire to work outdoors led her to ROPES work and even as a supervisor at a Zip-line operation. She discovered the TTAP Program through an online agency and was excited at the possibility of pursuing a career in conservation with a land management agency. “I practice conservation and sustainability in my own life, and I’d like to educate others about it too.” Like Vicars and Lindberg, Spadafino realizes that the new skills she is learning through her TTAP internship at Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, may open doors in the future.

The Andrew Johnson National Cemetery’s TTAP Program is administered by the American Conservation Experience (ACE). The Interns perform a variety of cultural landscape management duties at the cemetery and as each readily admits it’s not always an easy job. Lindberg learned that she had to become aware of her own limitations, while Vicars admitted that making the transition to being a morning person wasn’t easy. “Pushing a loaded wheelbarrow along an incline isn’t easy either,” Lindberg says with a grin. Both appreciate how thorough the National Park Service’s commitment to safety is. “We’re trained on everything and never, never go into a job without the proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and a supervisor.”

All three TTAP interns agree that what they are doing at the cemetery is meaningful work, not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of the families of those interred here. “Taking care of the final resting place for our veterans is important,” Lindberg says. “Because, in life, they took care of us.”

To learn more about the National Park Service TTAP Program, visit…

To learn more about the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, visit…

Last updated: May 20, 2024

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Andrew Johnson National Historic Site
121 Monument Ave.

Greeneville, TN 37743


423 638-3551

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