Seeing how proud so many of our peers are with recent days of service, volunteer programs, and other activities, I would like to pause for a moment and just consider what a rewarding experience this entire internship has been thus far.

Like any position, there are moments of challenge (like when I’ve sweated through my second shirt of the day and it’s not even lunchtime yet), but each and every day I wake up in the morning looking forward to coming to work in the park. We have worked alongside incredible people, taken part in exciting and/or informative interpretive opportunities, helped introduce more than 1,000 youth to the parks for the first time, and organized days of service. In the woods, or in the urban jungle – we’ve been there. We have worked in the sun, we have worked in the rain. We have worked when the temperature has been in the 90’s, and we have worked on days in the 40’s. When the skies dumped rain overnight and everything is soaking wet, with mud everywhere, and our freshly laundered clothes are filthy within 10 minutes, we are out working with a group or preparing for one to arrive. And you know what? That’s exactly what I want out of this position and my career!

So many people come to the park expecting to enjoy themselves and I love that Liz, myself, and our team welcomes these individuals and helps facilitate fulfilling experiences for everyone who wants one. Many of the 2016-17 CVA’s can relate to urban youth coming to the park unfamiliar with wildlife and being wide-eyed at animals common to us such as deer and squirrels, but summer 2016 has been extra special thanks to the cicadas. If being around deer made kids think they were suddenly thrust into the middle of a movie, cicadas blew their minds. Between the sheer numbers of cicadas, their clumsy flight, LOUD noises, and piles of carcasses, this was all new to so many people and I’m glad I got to witness their first interactions.

Being able to gain valuable experience under an accomplished, respected individual such as our supervisor, Liz and I are fortunate to have landed at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Not only have our supervisors created a thriving and engaging Volunteer Management Office, but the atmosphere around here is such that even in frustrating moments someone is bound to lighten the mood with a ridiculous joke or story. During our orientation in Las Vegas, there were occasional moments of jealousy when someone stated their destination was one of the more popular parks, but I always knew that being able to work in the park the I grew up visiting, alongside people in whom I have complete confidence, would be an experience too good to pass up.

So, in all, I hope that everyone else is having rewarding experiences similar to ours in CVNP. I still can’t believe this is a job! Some random photos of fun moments this summer: