VetsWork: A Life-changing Internship

by | VetsWork

My experience as an intern working with Mt. Adams Institute has been excellent. The amount of exposure I got working in the Umatilla National Forest was kind of overwhelming…in a great way. There are so many career paths in the Forest Service. I never imagined how many. As an intern I always told my boss that since I’m not technically a real employee I did not have to follow some of the rules that seasonal employees did. For example, no one worried about how many hours I got in a week so I could cross train with different disciplines, really work as many hours as I wanted. That was an advantage given that I felt there was so much to learn in so little time. The freedom that the internship gives you is invaluable, because on the flip side, if I was good on my hours I never had any trouble taking time off.

The position on the Umatilla that I filled was split between working with public education and outreach at the Supervisors Office in Pendleton, OR and working recreation in Ukiah, OR. This set up worked great for me because I really enjoyed both types of work. While it was cold and wet outside I got to work in the office, and during summertime I was out in the sunshine! During the public education and outreach portion, I was able to attend and present at a number of youth events including: outdoor schools, career fairs and school visits. I even was able to don the Smokey suit a few times. This forest is partnered with a land trust and together they present seven youth education events. The program is called Nature Kids. The first half of my internship mostly consisted of preparing for these events. I was involved with things like planning activities, testing out different crafts, learning fun educational games and collecting supplies. In Ukiah, working with the recreation crew, most of my days consisted of clearing trails, taking care of developed recreation sites, working with the pack string, collecting fees, and interacting with the public. Random fun things seemed to happen often. One of the most challenging/fun things I was a part of was the removal of a huge beehive. The hive was in a tree at one of the campgrounds about 30 feet in the air! Yikes! Anyway, I was the safety as one of my co-workers scaled a ladder, duct taped into a bee suit, and looped a plastic bag over the hive. It ended up being pretty non-climatic but the potential for excitement was definitely there. This was just one of the non-traditional tasks that came up during the summer. Needless to say there was never a dull moment.

Some of the side tasks I was able to do where cross training as a collection officer, working at the front desk, and going out on a fire. Both were very great experiences to see more of how the agency works. On the fire I trained as a public information officer and fell in love with it. That experience helped push me in the direction I would like to go in my career. And once again it was the freedom built into the internship that allowed me to explore that career path.

The Mt. Adams side of the internship was great as well. The folks that work there are great. Anytime I had even the smallest issues it was like an all-hands-on-deck kind of response in that they would all try to help me out. In addition, the experiences they offered to us at quarterly trainings were amazing. I mean who gets to go white water rafting for work. I also got to explore a little of the Mt. Adams area which is very nice. I honestly believe that they have everyone’s best interests in mind and will bend over backwards to help you figure out how to accomplish your career goals.

This AmeriCorps internship has been amazing and life changing. The freedom and exposure that is built into the program gives you a boost in getting to know the agency and getting you the experience needed to follow your goals. I would recommend it to anyone interested in working in the natural resources field.