My Summer as a Pathways Intern

By: Alex Carey

August 31, 2022

Category: People of the Parks

This spring, I found out Three Rivers Park District had a Pathways Internship Program that hires high school and college students to work at different locations throughout the park district. I've always had a passion for the outdoors and a desire to share it with others. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for me. I applied for a position in Outdoor Education. After a few emails and an interview, I received the great news that I was accepted to work at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park!

The welcome sign at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park.
The welcome sign at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park.

My Internship Experience

The first week of my internship was spent onboarding, training, and meeting the staff at the park. As an Outdoor Education Intern at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park, my main focus was working with the professional naturalists and helping them lead the educational summer programs in the park. The following week was my first camp of the summer, and it was called "Wildlife Adventures." It was adventurous for sure — from digging for critters to exploring the Mississippi River, there was never a dull moment. It was a great way to kick off my summer intern experience!

A picnic shelter at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park.
The picnic shelter at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park where we did most of the summer camps and programs.

Overall, the summer camps went very well. Summer camps are a blast; you never know what to expect each day, and interacting and playing with the kids is fun. I spent a lot of time playing games and doing activities with the kids. Throughout the summer, I got to work with lots of kids, which I really enjoyed. We participated in many different fun activities, like making fires, birding, archery, catching critters, rafting, and fishing the Mississippi River. I got to know many naturalists and volunteers. In some of the camps, we got to fish the Mississippi River and caught various fish.

The dam on the Mississippi River at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park.
Overlooking the Coon Rapids Dam on the Mississippi River at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park.

I have never been at a summer camp before so seeing not just how it works, but being behind-the-scenes was pretty interesting. A highlight of my internship was that even though I was the intern who was learning, I got to lead a birding activity. I’ve had some experience with birding and thought it would be something I could provide some useful insight. The group spotted a few birds while walking around the park, like bald eagles, ospreys, great blue herons and green herons. I was happy to have shared my knowledge with the kids.

The Pathways Program

One of the Program's goals is for the interns to gain knowledge that can help them make decisions for their futures.

Over the summer, we had development days in which we learned skills like resume writing, networking, and learning from professionals.  Another one of their goals is to show that there are many different jobs and positions in the parks, like outdoor education and recreation, natural resources, maintenance, administrative and more. I have developed valuable experience in these areas, which will serve me well throughout my life.

What I Learned

From my experience as a Pathways intern, I've found there are numerous career paths in the parks. In the outdoor education field, I have learned how the programs run in the parks, as well as skills like resume writing and networking that will help me in the future when I look to get a career or a job. I've had a wonderful time serving alongside the naturalists at the park. This opportunity was the highlight of my summer. I'm thankful for the people that invested in me, and I look forward to continuing to develop my passion for the outdoors and sharing the importance of connecting to our natural resources.

About the Author

Alex, wearing glasses and a navy tee-shirt, stands in the forest in front of trees and branches.

Alejandro (Alex) Carey is a 14-year-old who is an Outdoor Education Intern at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park for the summer of 2022. He is also active with the Best Buy Teen Tech Center where he does coding, graphic design, photography, and 3-D printing. In his free time, he loves the outdoors, fishing, biking and photographing wildlife for his nature blog, Palmer Lake Nature Blog.


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