Last week, the National Park Service celebrated its 99th year of existence.

This week, the Centennial Volunteer Ambassador program celebrated its 99th day of existence.

The Centennial Volunteer Ambassador (CVA) program began, for many of us, on May 25th with the first day of orientation at Valley Forge National Historic Park. On this day, half of the soon-to-be Centennial Volunteer Ambassadors arrived in Pennsylvania from all over the country. It was there that we took our first steps towards assuming a role in the National Park Service’s Centennial.

Now entering our fourth month of the twelve month program, we still have a long ways to go. That said, we can begin to reflect on the successes and struggles of 70 Centennial Volunteer Ambassadors once again spread throughout the country. This post is the first in a series of posts that I will be writing to look at the CVA program, what it has done well, what it might be able to do better, and to help nail down its main goals and purpose.

One question keeps popping up though and it seems that not everyone can really agree on an answer.

That question: “What exactly is a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador?”

It seems that a lot of people both within the program and outside of it aren’t entirely sure how to answer that.

The role of a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador is rather straightforward. At least at it’s core.

Why recruit 70 new people to place in a variety of parks from Florida to Alaska? CVAs are placed to aid their park in one way – to help boost their park’s number of volunteers-in-parks or VIPs. The reason the program was started was to help give parks a head start in accomplishing the Department of Interior’s goal of reaching one million volunteers. The National Park service has a large part to play in helping accomplish that goal. I will have more on that number and what it means in my next post.

That is our role. That’s it. We have been placed to help volunteer programs grow and recruit more volunteers. To recruit one million volunteers. Luckily, we do not have to do it alone.

And while that goal is daunting enough, I think there is even more that we are supposed to do.

I see this program as having three mains goals, each of which will be addressed in their own post:

  1. Boost the overall number of volunteers and volunteer hours for our parks. This is to help the DoI reach that goal of 1,000,000 volunteers a year by 2017.
  2. Reach out to under-represented groups and focus on the mission of the Office of Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion. This is to show people that parks are there for all to enjoy.
  3. Foster a culture of stewardship among a new generation of park-goers. This is largely a combination of the first two. It is about tapping into communities and helping them find their park.

All of these goals fall within a broader initiative. I will try and show how our program fits in this bigger picture through the rest of my posts in this series.

More to follow…

Hey look! It’s me at Lake Mead.