Hawai'i Volcanoes' Youth Internship Program Grows

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Date: April 6, 2012
Contact: Jessica Ferracane, 808-985-6018

Hawaii National Park, HI - This week, 52 students from East Hawaiʻi started spring internships with Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park's Youth Internship Program, part of the National Park Service's Youth Partnership Program.

One goal of the program is to train and hire 32 students to work part-time at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes this summer. Some will become park rangers, others will work as cultural and natural resources staff, or join the protection team. But the deeper purpose of the program is for the park to provide the opportunity for youth to acquire the values, competencies and skills needed to become successful, contributing adults. The Youth Internship Program (YIP) gives island youth a chance to learn about the precious natural and cultural resources that the park protects, and the numerous recreational opportunities the park offers. The students share their newly gained insight and appreciation with hundreds of thousands of park visitors during the busy summer months.

Ranger Tyler Atwood
Park Ranger and Youth Internship Program graduate, Tyler Atwood, a senior at Kaū High School

NPS Photo

One of the program's success stories is Kaʻū High senior Tyler Atwood, 18, who participated in the YIP program last year and now works part-time at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes as a park ranger. He uses words like "transformed" and "newfound respect" when describing his experience. "Before, I used to see trees and that's it. Now each individual tree has a name and a story to go along with it. I now look at the forests, beaches, volcanoes and stars with complete appreciation," Atwood said.

Kaʻū High School YIP participants
Kaʻū High School Yip participants

NPS photo

Three years ago, park staff listened carefully to community leaders who implored them to "do something for the teens." Park Ranger Kūpono McDaniel took it to heart and the first year he and his staff mentored a dozen students from Kaʻū High. This year, thanks to an increase in project funding, high school students in Puna and college students from the University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College, have landed internships.

Although fun and meaningful, the program is no walk in the park, so to speak. There's nine weeks of structured training, followed by individual assessment, and for those who make it, the thrill of donning their own flat hat and green-and-gray park service uniform. Other positive outcomes include personal growth, employability, civic involvement, and intellectual and physical health.

University of Hawai`i Hilo YIP participants
University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo YIP participants, left to right: Kanoa Severson,Melissa Adams, Allison Cornett, and Meghann Decker

NPS photo

We've had overwhelming support from all sectors of the community," McDaniel said. "From the schools, to the students, parents, leaders, and the increasing number of organizations committed to helping us fund the program, the program has been very well received," he said.

Supporting organizations include the National Park Service, the Omidyar ʻOhana Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, Hawaiʻi Pacific Parks Association, the Edmund C. Olson Trust, Friends of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, and Kaʻū, Pāhoa and Keaʻau high schools.



Last updated: February 28, 2015

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