As a native Houstonian, I have always been comfortable staying away from the draining heat of the summer sun or the humid soupy air by staying indoors and in the air conditioning. When I went outside, it wasn’t for the fun of the outdoors, but rather to do something fun that happened to require me to be outside. I understood the importance of nature and being in nature, but it was more of an objective understanding than a personal understanding.

In a complete 180, I have found myself relishing being on the beach in the early morning, enjoying the early morning breeze around me, despite having to wake up at 4am for it. The hatchlings crawl across the beach and I find it all to be a great escape from the chaos of the world today.

There are many sights at Padre Island, but seeing these baby turtles set out on their journey has to be one of the best of them. Photo by Amani Canada.

Months ago, I applied to this internship as a way to expand my options for summer opportunities. I was a geologist and despite my experience in photography and print and digital publications, I did not think I would receive the position because of my majors. In a turn of events on top of all the other surprises that Spring 2020 brought me, I found myself at Padre Island National Seashore, ready to get work done.

I was focused on the professional benefits of exercising a new skill set and exploring work in the federal government. Despite visiting several national parks, I didn’t really know what employees at the National Park Service did besides from communicating with guests and enforcing park laws. I was excited for the professional opportunities this would bring, but I had no idea about the personal growth this position would grant me.

The land behind the dunes was very different from the beach. This area held many surprises and treasures that were a pleasure to discover. Photo by Amani Canada.

During my first week of being on site, I was speeding down the beach in an UTV with my cares blowing in the cool ocean breeze. Just a week later, I was raving to anyone and everyone about how much fun I was having with creating the beginning ideas of The RidleyTV Show. Anyone passing by my storage room office likely had questions when they could hear me cackling away as I worked on editing and graphic design, but really I was having such a great time I couldn’t care less.

I worked on a lot of creative and technical skills that I’ve always enjoyed and using them in a professional environment gives me hope to incorporate them more in future endeavors. However, one of the biggest confirmations to the kind of work I am interested in was bringing science, conservation, and the majesty of the park to the public, as well as the the intricate park relationships with aquariums, professors, local fishermen, and other connections that brought local relevancy and collaboration that elevated everyone’s efforts to protect our natural world. With this in mind and the exposure to the litany of jobs in the NPS, it was infinitely easier navigating federal job postings and being excited for the future.

Dr. Donna Shaver and Cynthia Rubio, leaders at the Division who have been staples for decades, were huge supporters of my work this summer and were so instrumental in making my internship great. Photo provided by Amani Canada.

If you are interested in this program, or you know someone who would be interested, I really encourage you to apply. If you don’t think you qualify, apply. If you are unsure of what exactly the work would look like, apply. Don’t limit yourself because, in the spirit of 2nd grade classroom decorations, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

This experience has been absolutely wonderful and it has provided me a lot of confidence in exploring new career paths that I had not considered. It has also given me a new appreciation for community collaboration and the outdoors. I can honestly say that this has been a great summer for my personal and professional growth and that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else this summer!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.