High School Interns Work and Learn about Career Opportunities in the Smokies

High School student hired as a park ranger helps a child find stream invertebrates in a park stream.

High School interns assisted with summer Junior Ranger programs catching stream invertebrates.

NPS Photo-Elizabeth Dupree

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with funding assistance from the Youth Partnership Program, hired eighteen high school students from its eight surrounding counties to participate in a summer intern program. The program allowed participants to learn a great deal about the park through on-site training exercises which enabled them to perform ranger duties. The interns assisted scientists and staff with field research and education programs while exploring possible career opportunities in the park. They were exposed to and gained knowledge of a variety of areas: wildlife biology, fisheries science, botany, forest and stream ecology, geology, Cherokee history and culture, and Appalachian history. They also gained an understanding of how the park is managed and what an important role it plays in the protection of this biologically diverse area.

"These programs are mutually beneficial," said the Park's Education Specialist Karen Ballentine. "The students got an in-depth study of resource education techniques, scientific methods, and field research to enhance their skills and talents, and, in turn, the park created advocates through better understanding of and appreciation for the Smokies. The interns also shared their education and experience with family and friends."

Park staff worked with local teachers and principals to recruit diverse students to apply for this 6-week paid summer internship.