Most people who go to Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., stay only for a short time, for vacation.
But for 23-year-old Corry native Diana Downey, the world’s first national park has become a temporary home away from home.
Downey is serving an internship with Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) at Yellowstone National Park in order to fulfill a requirement for her degree in parks and recreation management at Frostburg State University in Maryland.
“This was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up,” Downey said.
She found the internship through the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a nonprofit, nationwide conservation force of college- and high-school-aged members who serve America’s parks, forests, refuges, seashores and communities. The SCA, based in Charlestown, N.H., also has regional offices in Washington, D.C., Oakland, Calif., Pittsburgh and Seattle, Wash.
Downey applied for about 50 internships through the SCA’s Web site, www.thesca.org, and, after paying a $25 entry fee, eventually was accepted to the YCC internship at Yellowstone.
After graduating from Frostburg in the spring of 2011 with her degree in parks and recreation management, Downey hopes to find full-time work in one of the country’s national parks.
“I would prefer to work at Shenandoah National Park (Va.) because it’s closer to home,” Downey said.
But her internship at Yellowstone has offered her invaluable experiences — professionally and recreationally.
“I wanted to get a feel for working in the national parks,” Downey said.
Her 450-hour internship includes assisting with recreational activities and park work projects for youth ages 15 through 18. By working with the SCA, Downey is honing her conservation ethic, which she hopes to pass on to the youth she works with.
“I am having the experience of a lifetime … helping them (the youth) to grow into young adults who are now more environmentally aware,” Downey said.
Although the internship entails hard work, Downey still has time for fun. The internship helps with this, as it allows her to live at Yellowstone for free, and she also gets travel reimbursement.
Downey said that one of her favorite experiences so far was a trip to Grand Teton National Park, Wyo., over the Fourth of July weekend, where she participated in an 8-mile hike that reached an elevation of 10,000 feet.
“We got to see fireworks from two different places, on different sides of the mountain,” Downey said.
But above all, Downey appreciates her internship for its opportunities.
“Our world is crumbling beneath us,” Downey said. “This experience will carry me far and will hopefully lead to more opportunities in preserving and protecting America’s treasures.”