Last updated: April 10, 2015
Last summer I began working at Badlands National Park with my friend, Earl Henry, and my math teacher, Mr. Menke. My experience over the last year working at Badlands National Park taught me that it is a wonderful environment. I have loved meeting new people like Julie (park education specialist), working with different co-workers from all over the world and getting a chance to be a role model for the younger generation. My experience here inspired me to make a change for my community, teach more kids about the Badlands, and show them there is more in life to appreciate. I enjoyed teaching elementary students at my tribal school about the park and want to continue doing that.
On my reservation where I am from it is a hard life for many Native Americans due to the struggle with unemployment. There are not many jobs in the community, so we have to go off the reservation and leave home and go find a stable job. Now that I am a young Native American woman who is employed at Badlands National Park I would like to help more Native American youth get the opportunity to be employed at the Badlands. For many years, the Lakota people passed down the traditions and kept and preserved their lands for the children. That’s my goal: to see more youth involved, to build their communication skills, and to help them in the real world.
Becoming a leader was not easy because I worked hard for it. I changed my ways, brought my grades up, and had good attendance. Last January I was an ambassador for Badlands National Park in New York City -- it was a once in a lifetime experience. I was picked by Mr. Menke because of my personality, the respect and love I shared with my fellow students, and for never giving up on hard work.
I also became interested in a career in wildlife and biology through my work at Badlands National Park. I plan to pursue a career as a wildlife biologist, because I care for wild animals and I would like to travel around the world and study different habitats. I love to learn about different species. What got me interested in this field was that the park showed me that you can be anything as long as you are in love with nature. You can teach people what you learned so that years from now the next generation appreciates it as much as we do. I will go to Black Hills State University in the fall, geta 4 year degree in environmental studies or biology, and I will be still curious to learn more about the wildlife.
In the end I do know that the hard work you do will pay off in the end. It is the philosophy I live by every day. I am thankful to be part of the staff at Badlands National Park. I will continue to work for a better future, more youth involvement in the Badlands, and to see more improvement in the community.
Dwan Wilcox, Age 17, Badlands Park Guide
Dwan and Earl Henry, ambassadors for Badlands National Park in New York City, pose on top of the Empire State Building: https://www.flickr.com/photos/badlandsnationalpark/12234953353/in/set-72157640350716203/