Career Day at Grand Canyon National Park offers diverse opportunities to students

National Park Service looks for employees as diverse as the lands they encompass

Students strike a pose after trying on Wildland Fire gear provided by Grand Canyon National Park during career day Oct. 6. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

Students strike a pose after trying on Wildland Fire gear provided by Grand Canyon National Park during career day Oct. 6. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Career Day at Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) is an opportunity for high school students to interact and get first hand information from park officials and employees while learning about working for the National Park Service (NPS).

This year more than 60 students from six high schools attended the event on Oct. 6 at Shrine of the Ages auditorium. Participating schools included Flagstaff, Hopi, Manyfarms, Crownpoint, Greyhills and Grand Canyon.

"The National Park Service wants to reflect the people of America and so we are trying to recruit kids of all different ethnicities and backgrounds," said SuZan Pearce, event coordinator and environmental education specialist at GCNP. "We want people to know that these are their parks and if they have an interest in this type of setting for work, then they can be in these type of positions."

Many students learned about career day from Northern Arizona University's Education Talent Search (ETS) TRiO coordinator Eugene Begay.

ETS aims to help students become aware of vocational options and find higher education and employment. For the last four years ETS has collaborated with the park for the event.

"It's an opportunity to learn about the jobs that are here, the career possibilities, possibly the internships and the volunteering

too," Begay said. "We open up their world to those things and ideas that are around them."

ETS visits two schools a month and takes the time to encourage students. Students prepare for opportunities after high school by maintaining good grades, completing volunteer work, seeking scholarships and through exposure to careers from various career days.

ETS is geared toward first generation low-income college students, especially in remote schools.

Laurel Poleyestewa a counselor with Hopi High brought 13 students to GCNP's career day. For the last three years Hopi High has participated in the event. Poleyestewa said career day benefits the students and helps them realize they have many options to choose from when it comes to future career choices.

"They learn a lot about the different careers the area has and it helps them narrow down a little more what they want to do after high school," she said. "They don't really have any idea about the different jobs (within NPS), once they come here they get an idea. Being on the reservation we don't see these kinds of jobs."

Park personnel were ready to greet students when they arrived. Students received national park journals for note taking and some fun national park schwag. After collecting their credentials, park rangers set up table sessions, allowing students to meet with professionals in the park service and ask questions regarding each of their career choices within the park.

During a panel of guest speakers, park employees had a chance to share with students how they became interested in pursuing their unique professions. Speakers included GCNP Deputy Superintendent Brian Drapeaux, Public Affairs Officer Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski, Albright Training Center Superintendent Denice Swanke, Richard Ullmann, chief of interpretation at Petrified Forest National Park and Amala Posey distance learning coordinator.

"I'm really excited to see you all here," Drapeaux said. "In my heart of hearts I really encourage each of you to set your own goals in terms of your life and how you want to live it and then find a way to do it. Find a way to put yourself on that pathway."

Following the speaker panel, students had the opportunity to eat lunch and visit the rim for a view of the Canyon.

Afternoon activities included four interactive in-depth sessions, where students were divided into small groups and rotated between hands-on programs. Each session allowed students opportunities to try on wildland fire gear, transplant grasses with the park's vegetation crew, get an inside look at medical equipment and procedures used by park EMS crews and see how the park is using distance learning through its use of technological resources.

Greta Quotskuyva, a junior at Hopi High, said she was not aware how many jobs the park offered. After graduation, Quotskuyva plans to go to college and major in archeology.

"What I've learned so far today is to go to school for anthropology," she said. "I don't like to work in offices so I think working out in the wilderness would be fun."

Quotskuyva's said her family encourages her to pursue her interest, especially when it comes to preserving ancient cultures and sites.

"They want me to do it because it's something different and it's for myself," she said. "They want me to have fun and not take life for granted."

ETS and GCNP would like to continue career day and hope to offer it again next year. According Pearce, the event was well received and enjoyed by students.

"This event gives high school students a chance to explore the surprisingly varied types of careers in national parks, think about the big picture of their future career paths, and learn what steps they might take to get there," Pearce said. "We are trying to open kids eyes to the possibilities of a career."

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