Across the nation, myself and thousands of college students are planning their spring breaks. Some will be staying at school for spring sports, others picking up a few extra hours at work, and still others are planning a beach trip to Florida or California for some much needed fun and relaxation. These are all wonderful options, but I have one more idea for you: get outside and give back.
There are adventures to be had, trails to be discovered, sunsets to be seen. The wild is waiting for you. That’s not all though. There’s also the opportunity to fight for what you believe in, to make a difference, to stand up for the places you love. The National Parks are calling.
Volunteering in the National Parks
Regardless of your political affiliation, there is one thing I’m fairly certain of: you love the outdoors. As a nature lover, you want to keep it safe, to protect it from the harm of man. And, right now, our parks are under attack.
While I’m going to specifically talk about the National Parks in this article, this really includes our state and local parks, our open spaces, our backyard safe-havens. Currently, our National Parks are facing the possible repeal of rule that would allow drilling to occur in more than 40 National Parks, including my second home, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, a beautiful escape from the bordering cities of Akron and Cleveland. In addition, the National Parks Service (NPS) is losing its freedom of speech. They are no longer allowed to Tweet about environmental issues.
A Few Tips:
Admittedly, this may not be as easy as throwing a few changes of clothes in your car and driving to a park. Some planning may be helpful. Here are a few tips:
1. Pick a Park! My first suggestion here is to actually figure out where you want to explore. Pick a place where you can both volunteer and enjoy your favorite outdoor activities, whether it’s rock climbing or kayaking. Or, what do you want to see? Big mountains, deserts, or forests of trees? Consider the climate too (while remembering conditions are rarely predictable)
2. Find Volunteer Opportunities. The easiest way to do this is probably just doing a quick Google search. Or, you can visit the National Park Service’s website for volunteer opportunities, sorted by park or state: https://www.nps.gov/gettinginvolved/volunteer/opportunities.htm?state=. Some parks will have normal volunteer opportunities, while some have opportunities tailored specifically to college students on spring break. These are great as they will not only help with accommodations and meals, but may also give opportunities to explore different careers within the NPS. (Plus, this will be a great resume builder!)
3. Organize. Will you be going with friends? Carpooling or flying? Where can you get help to pay for travel costs? During my undergrad, I went with a group of about 10 students to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in North Carolina, a twelve-hour drive from our small college in northern Ohio. While we had a place to stay, we needed a way to get there. Not to be deterred, we fundraised for our trip throughout the school, got access to a school van, grabbed a nutty professor (I mean that in the most endearing way possible) to drive, and we were off!
Going solo? No worries! This is still an amazing opportunity to meet other college students who, like you, have a passion for the outdoors.
Still thinking about the sun and beaches? Being a sun and warm-weather lover myself, I can understand that. However, the National Parks need your support NOW. The opportunity to rise above injustice is waiting for you at this very moment.
If you can’t make it to a National Park this spring break, don’t worry. There are still plenty of ways to get outside and make a difference. Besides volunteering at a local park or cleaning up some trash left on trail, one of the best things you can do is a grab a friend or family member and share your love for the outdoors. Take your couch loving dad for a short hike or take your little sister on a nature scavenger hunt. The more people out there who love the outdoors, the more people we have to protect it.
One last thing. Even if you are missing the wild parties on Daytona Beach, you can still go a little rogue. All you have to do is take pictures of you and your friends in the park and TWEET. Add a caption about global warming and Tweet some more.