August 17, 2010
The National Park Service is focusing its recruitment efforts on college students as it will soon face a shortage of national park rangers, reported The Washington Post.
According to Jill Hawk, chief ranger for the National Park Service's northeast region, because of federally mandated age guidelines, about 55 percent of her rangers will be eligible to retire in the next five years. In anticipation of this, Hawk partnered up with Anthony Luongo, director of criminal justice programs at Temple University to develop ProRangers, an internship program designed to attract students to law enforcement careers at urban national parks.
Hawk felt that Temple University was the best place to recruit because of its nationally ranked criminal justice program and diverse student body. As more than 80 percent of her force is Caucasian, diversity is a priority in her recruiting efforts. Currently, she said her agency "does not reflect the areas we serve". Nationally, two percent of commissioned rangers are African American, four percent are Latino and just 18 percent are female.
Temple University graduates also tend to stay in the Philadelphia area so the program helps graduates "broaden their horizons" said Rachel Brown, director of the Career Center at Temple, to CNN Money.
Hawk stated that recruiting for urban parks, such as Bunker Hill Monument in Boston and Independence Hall in Philadelphia, is difficult because most people expect rangers to be in the wilderness. "The myth of the national park rangers is that they're at Yosemite, they're at the Everglades," she said. "What's not really well known is that there are park rangers in the inner city protecting the national heritage of the U.S." In addition to finding a new generation of rangers, the ProRanger internship program hopes to undo that myth.
According to The Baltimore Sun, the 12-week paid summer internship is open to students of any major at Temple, although Hawk told CNN Money that she is specifically seeking students in criminal justice, anthropology, sociology and biology. After graduation, students must attend 13 weeks at a law enforcement academy. Once commissioned by the park service, they are guaranteed placement as a park ranger, which falls under the federal job category.
Some students had no idea what a park ranger did before starting the program. Lytia Solomon, a sophomore at Temple, was inspired by her sister, who served in Iraq, to explore a career in law enforcement. "I thought of a park ranger as someone who rode horses and gave tours," she told The Baltimore Sun. So far, she has enjoyed her summer internship at Baltimore's Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and hopes to land an internship at Gettysburg or the Statue of Liberty next summer.
Owen McDaniel, graduate student at Temple, said the internship was a dream come true. Growing up, he had a love for national historic sites, but never thought about being a park ranger until he learned about ProRanger. "I never thought it could be a permanent job. It seemed like a fantasy job, too unreal," he exclaimed.
The program had 13 interns its first year and anticipates that interest will grow. "We want people to think broadly, particularly in this economy," said Brown in CNN Money.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"As half of park rangers near retirement, U.S. recruits college students," baltimoresun.com, August 13, 2010, Lorraine Mirabella
"Can't find a job, college grad? National Park Service is hiring," CNNMoney.com, August 16, 2010, Aaron Smith
"National Park Service goes back to college to build ranks, diversity," washingtonpost.com, August 11, 2010, Joe Davidson