Inspiring the Next Generation

August 06, 2015 Posted by: Marinell Chandler

Three young women and one young man holding five puppies in their arms.

The next generation of environmental stewards holds the next generation of Canine Rangers (NPS Photo/ Credit Colleen Miniuk-Sperry)

Every year, interns through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) dedicate their summers to taking care of our sled dogs, interacting with visitors, and living and working in Denali’s beautiful scenery. Our SCA and YCC interns log over a thousand hours keeping our dogs happy and healthy and ensuring that summer visitors have the experience of a lifetime. Their hard work and dedication to the kennels and this park is seen every day in the love that they show the dogs, and we couldn’t be happier to have them here.

With the National Park Service celebrating its centennial next year, and the Find Your Park campaign aimed at engaging the next generation of environmental stewards, our SCA NPS Academy intern Garron and YCC Alina have much to say about their experiences at the kennels and ways for youth to participate in protecting this nation’s beautiful places.

A volunteer sits next to a sled dog.

SCA Garron and Canine Ranger Skeeter (NPS Photo)

Name: Garron

Program: SCA Academy

Age: 22

Hometown: I’m from Togiak, Alaska, it’s a small village on the Southwest coast of Alaska.

Previous Experience: I’ve worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife around my area for 9 years cleaning up Togiak River, taking students camping, preventing poaching, and working on Salmon weirs, helping preserve my refuge for younger generations to enjoy.

How you got interested in SCA Academy: This program helps young adults around the United States get jobs with National Parks and other public lands. When you apply to be an intern with the SCA there are lots of internships you can chose from and all of them give you a chance to travel around the U.S. or Alaska working in different parks. I became interested in working with the SCA because I like to be in the wilderness and I also like to help preserve parks, and there was a specific program through the SCA that focuses on giving native Alaskans opportunities here.

Why You Wanted to Work at the Kennels: I was interested in working with the Denali National Park Kennels because I never got to see an actual sled dog before and I have to say these dogs are amazing animals.

Favorite NPS Sled Dog: Skeeter Favorite Part of the Job: My favorite part of the job is when I get to ride the sled during our Dog Demonstrations, when we get five dogs and harness them up to a sled to run around the track for everyone to see just how much sled dogs love to run.

A volunteer stands in front of sled dog for training.

Garron working on training with Canine Ranger Drachma (NPS Photo)

An internship at the Denali Kennels is one of hundreds of different internships you can apply for, but this National Park is the only one in over 400 units that uses sled dogs. There are many things I get to do here at the kennels like filling holes, scooping poop out of their yard, and health checking the dogs – Pretty much your usual dog stuff. I have also been training our new Canine Ranger pups, building dog houses, and talking with hundreds of visitors from all across the world about the importance of protecting Denali’s Wilderness.

Five dogs hooked up in team pull a sled around a track.

Garron drives the dog team into the pit during a demonstration (NPS Photo)

To apply with the SCA, you can go on the website and find a suitable program that interests you. You create a single application and the SCA sends “suggested” internships that match your qualifications as well as what you are interested in doing. Some internship applications are only open for a short period of time so keep checking back on the website to make sure you don’t miss one. The SCA is a paid internship program – travel and housing are typically taken care of and you receive a small stipend for food and other living expenses, but it’s very rewarding to help preserve the park for the next generation to enjoy. Maybe someday, because of their experiences in our National Parks, they will want to help preserve these places too.

So I encourage you to find a park near you and help preserve it, like the Canine Rangers do here for Denali. You never know what you may experience until you get up and try it.

Youth Conservation Corps volunteer poses with sled dog

Alina and Polly take a selfie

Name: Alina

Program: Youth Conservation Corps

Age: 15

Hometown: Healy, AK

Dream Job: I want to be a veterinarian someday.

Previous Experience: This is my first job.

Why You Wanted to Work at the Kennels: To gain experience with sled dogs and to make a difference.

Favorite NPS Sled Dog: Polly

Best Part of the Job: Socializing our puppies every day!

Hello! My name is Alina, and I am a high school student working at the kennels through the Youth Conservation Corps program. This program is involved with the National Park Service all over the United States and gives high school students the opportunity to play a role in protecting our parks. With YCC you are assigned to one of many fun jobs and projects around your park like trail crew, auto shop, or interpretation. This is an 8-10 week long summer program that lets you learn something new every day!

Volunteer runs alongside sled dog

Alina releases Nuna during one of our dog demonstrations (NPS Photo)

Working at the Denali National Park Kennels is the first job I have ever had and I absolutely love it. I spend all day socializing puppies, doing dog chores around the kennels, and talking to visitors during our Dog Demonstrations. I also get to walk our dogs for exercise along the park road, groom them, and spend a lot of time focusing on the care of our canine rangers. Getting to learn a little bit of veterinary care is very exciting too.

Do you want to be a YCC in a park? Learn more about the program and how to apply at qualify for the YCC program in a park near you, you must be a high school student (15-18 years old) in the local area. You do get paid an hourly wage, and get lots of experience for future jobs and careers.

My summer at the kennels is ending, and I am going to miss the dogs. It has been very rewarding to work at the kennels in Denali because it’s important for my generation to carry on the knowledge and desire to protect our National Parks. It is important for young students like me to be engaged in helping keep our parks as special as they can be. The sled dog kennels is so unique; we need to do everything we can to make sure that it will be here to protect the park for years to come.

Last updated: August 6, 2015

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PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755


907 683-9532
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