Like most college students, I ended Sophomore year wondering what my years as an upperclassman would look like. I was a Secondary Education and History major who wasn’t sold on being a teacher. When I thought of my possible career paths, all I could envision was a giant question mark hovering over my head like the stars that hovered around the heads of cartoon characters. I liked kids, but I loved museums and was interested in what a career in a history museum would look like. That summer, I decided to apply to museum internships near my house, and I remembered going on a field trip to the Boott Cotton Mills museum back in Elementary School. I sent them an introductory email, and they decided to take me on as an intern for the summer. Turns out, the museum was part of a National Park down the street from me that I did not even know was there. I spent that summer interning at Lowell National Historic Park and sending that email was the best professional decision I have ever made.
Prior to my internship, I knew almost nothing about national parks. When I thought of national parks, I pictured Teddy Roosevelt riding a bison through the Grand Canyon wearing some funky hat. But the reality of working in a National Park is so much better than that. Actually, no, Teddy Roosevelt riding a bison will always be the coolest thing, but working as a National Park Ranger is the second coolest.
My official title was, “Family Programming and Interpretation Intern”, which essentially just meant that I worked in the Interpretation division of the park and focused on Family Programming. During my internship, I designed and implemented educational crafts and activities that centered around the main themes of the park. Unlike formal education in schools, the informal educational experiences that I was crafting allowed families to learn together and create lasting memories without fear of getting a bad grade or getting in trouble. During one particular program, we partnered with the New England Quilt Museum to create quilt-themed educational crafts. One of the crafts that I designed was a contact and tissue paper butterfly. Though it seems silly, the child learned simple symmetry with her mother through the butterfly craft. I left work that day beaming with pride because I had been able to create this memory for the family.
At the end of my internship, my supervisor helped me to craft my resume to apply for a full-time job for the following summer. The hiring process within the federal government is so much more difficult than the private sector so it took a lot of time to carefully fine-tune my resume and cover letter for the application. But all my work paid off when I was offered the job.
Last summer was my first summer as a full-time Park Ranger at Lowell and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Along with family programming, I staffed museum sites, gave interpretive talks to visitors, and eventually gave boat tours to paying customers. In between the daily responsibilities of the job, I was encouraged to research and learn as much as I could so I could teach visitors as much as possible and develop my own programming and interpretive material. That research and passion for my job carried onto and inspired my Senior Seminar project.
Following my graduation this May, I will return to Lowell National Historic Park for another season as a Park Ranger with aspirations of a career in the National Park Service. I am so thankful for all of the opportunities that the Park Service has given me thus far, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me.