Mamie Smith '18
Participating in the Knight Internship out in Island Park, ID made my summer 2016 into the summer of a lifetime! It gave me the perfect chance to go out west and explore a part of the nation I had never seen, learn so much in an exciting career field I'm hoping to join, make amazing friends, and relax with the beautiful nature in the Greater Yellowstone region (a perfect chance to let the soul rest and regain strength and direction in such a busy, fast-paced world).
For ten weeks, I stayed in an awesome condo with three fellow Knight interns from W&L. Soon into the summer, we became great friends, and by the end, we made so many great memories together. Each of us worked with environmental organizations in the area, and I got the chance to work with the Friends of Harriman State Park as their first ever intern. The FHSP non-profit started in 2010 to help Harriman State Park when it lost 80% of their funds from the state. Since then, it has been working hard to fundraise and complete projects to enhance and preserve the park and all of its natural and cultural resources.
My main goal as FHSP's intern was to focus on public outreach-letting the community know about their mission, all the cool projects FHSP had already done, and its new ideas for future projects. With the direction of Jodi Stiehl, FHSP president, I worked in the Visitor's Center of Harriman State Park with the friendliest park rangers and seasonal workers. There, I got to see all the "behind the scenes" of what it takes to maintain a state park. Throughout the summer, I learned so much about the animals and plants in the park (moose, trumpeter swans, and elks galore!) and also about the state park's history as a railroad ranch owned by well-known families such as the Harrimans and Guggenheims. Taking it all in made me appreciate the importance of preserving such a special treasure so close to Yellowstone and of helping the public appreciate it, as well.
By the end of the summer, I had designed FHSP business cards and T-shirts, posted on Facebook about updates and events, organized a booth at the Harriman Heritage Days festival, facilitated a survey about the possible replacement of an important dilapidating bridge, written an article about the state park's new Jr. Ranger program, and designed FHSP's second newsletter. I also got to meet and interview members of the FHSP board-such approachable and interesting people! We had the best conversations at the local hub, TroutHunter, and the waitresses always knew that I would order the iced tea. Overall, I made so many meaningful connections while learning about state park systems, park management, graphic design, public outreach, and non-profits.
Not only that, but I got to explore! With my W&L friends and friends from Harriman and Henry's Fork Foundation, I got to hike to beautiful waterfalls and canyons in Yellowstone, see the eruption of Old Faithful, visit grizzly bears and wolves at a local discovery center, watch a rodeo, bike the 30 mile Ashton-Tetonia railroad trail, listen to violin and fiddling concerts outside at Harriman, raft down the Yellowstone River, go out to dinners and potlucks with coworkers, toss Cheetos to cutthroat and rainbow trout, watch fireworks on the 4th of July, take free local Zumba classes, visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, drive up to Mt. Sawtelle and the Continental Divide, and so much more. So wow! It was a summer that both taught and gave me so much-one I will always cherish.