From Virgin Islands Youth to National Park Steward: A Story of Skill & Service

National Park Service Employee in uniform standing next to a historic cannon
NPS Oswald Marsh at Christiansted, National Historic Site, Virgin Islands

NPS photo

Can you tell us about your background and how you first got involved with the National Park Service?
I am a United States Virgin islander living on the island of St. Croix. Raised as the sole offspring of my mother, I found a mentor and guide in my grandfather, a versatile individual who provided me with valuable skills. From an early age, his tutelage laid the groundwork for my personal and professional growth. He is a man of all trades. He made sure I was by his side, observing and learning with each project he worked on.

At the age of 15, an opportunity presented itself in the form of a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) application. Intrigued by the job description, I recognized it as a fitting avenue for my interests. After completing the application process, I was selected to participate in the YCC program. I participated in the program for three consecutive summers. Subsequently, my journey within the National Park Service (NPS) commenced. I became a YCC lead, a COVID hire, HPTC intern and eventually secured a permanent position with the National Park Service.

What motivated you to pursue a career with the NPS after your experience with the Youth Conservation Corps?
Youth Conservation Corps was what motivated me to pursue a career with the National Park Service. YCC gave me insight on the National Parks mission and the importance of the agency. It made me realize that I can play a part in preserving history, culture, and wildlife. What motivated me more was realizing I can partake in conservation efforts while doing work that I enjoy. Working alongside many skilled individuals that took on complicated projects reminded me of the days with my grandfather as a youth. These factors gave me the urge to enhance my skills so I can guide others who have the same will.

How did your role as a YCC leader prepare you for subsequent positions within the NPS?
My role as a YCC leader prepared me for a position within the NPS because it improved my communication skills and provided insight on how to be a leader within the workplace. Prior to assuming this leadership role, I harbored a reserved demeanor. However, the responsibilities of a lead taught me how to be more open to others, communicate effectively, provide insight, and listen to the concerns of other individuals. Additionally, being a YCC lead taught me accountability, improved my problem-solving capabilities, and the importance of taking initiative. This position provided the leadership skills that are important in a work environment.
Man standing on latter with a hard hat applies plaster to exterior building.
NPS Oswald Marsh applies plaster to Customs House at Christiansted National Historic Site.

NPS photo

Could you share a memorable experience or project that significantly contributed to your development within the NPS?
One memorable project that contributed to my development with the National Park Service was the restoration of the Customs House at Christiansted National Historic Site. The Historic Preservation Training Center team were the one’s responsible for the project and was willing to train NPS staff on masonry and limewash application. This project was my first experience doing masonry work for the park. I learned many skills from this training which included plastering techniques, the use of different masonry tools, and mixing ratios. The project contributed to my development within the National Park Service because I was provided on the job training for a skill that can be useful within the park. This hands-on experience not only enriched my skill set but also positioned me as a valuable asset capable of undertaking masonry repairs with minimal supervision.

How did participating in the internship with HPTC influence your career path and skill development?
Participating in an internship with HPTC influenced my career path and skill development by helping me develop a skill that piqued my interest. The trade that I was most interested in was masonry. My internship allowed me to work with individuals who were highly skilled in trades such as masonry and carpentry. The projects I assisted with further developed my skills in masonry. One of these projects included building a brick oven from scratch. Another was tuckpointing joints and doing masonry repairs on a portion of the limestone wall on Boca Chita Key at Biscayne National Park. These experiences influenced my career path to having the goal of becoming a masonry journeyman with the National Park Service.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to build a career within the National Park Service?
To those who are inspired to build a career with the National Park Service, take advantage of the programs that partner with NPS and find your passion within the agency. These programs include organizations such as Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), American Conservation Experience (ACE), and Traditional Trades Advancement Program (TTAP). There are many career options to choose from in the National Park Service. These career options include administration, interpretation, resource management, maintenance, and law enforcement. There is a field for you! Stick to your dream and make it a reality! Keep your face toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you – Walt Whithman.

Christiansted National Historic Site

Last updated: May 3, 2024