If you’re a high school student who likes fresh air, scenic vistas, hiking and camping, the US Forest Service or the national parks may have the perfect job for you.
Each January for the past three years the federal agencies host a one-day recruiting fair that teaches high school and college students how to apply for upcoming summer jobs with the government. This year about 30 hopeful candidates filled the small theater at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in downtown Seattle, Wash. Staffers from the National Park Service and Forest Service taught students tips to make a resume shine and how to ace an interview. The agencies will fill approximately 22 temporary seasonal summer positions for a variety jobs in maintenance, recreation, trails and firefighting.
The fair also gave youth an opportunity to develop professional relationships and network with potential employers. “Remember the golden rule, be nice to others and send those thank you cards,” said Aleta Eng, partnership coordinator with the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Past student hires shared their experiences working as park guides, building trails or fighting fires. Nik Vasquez, 21, from Seattle, Wash., talked about working on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for three summers. He started on a trail crew in Skykomish, Wash.
Vasquez worked 10-hour days maintaining hiker and stock trails removing fallen trees, fixing water drainage, repairing trail paths and brushing out shrubs and branches that encroach on the trail. “You quickly learn how to use a Pulaski, shovel and grub hoe to fix the trails,” said Vasquez. His typical work week began by backpacking five to seven miles to the trail, setting up a base camp, accessing damage and clearing away downed trees or branches. “I love being out there. It is the simple things: fresh air, mountain lakes, fishing for dinner, exploring mountain peaks, relaxing by the fire. Working outside is better than a 9-to-5 job,” he said.
The Seattle Parks and Recreation O2 program introduced Vasquez to the outdoors when he was 14. He went hiking, rafting and snowshoeing in the national forest. “If you like the day hike they take it to the next level with a three-day backpacking trip. They give you the resources to reach your potential,” said Vasquez.
During Vasquez’s second year on the trail crew he began training to fight wildfires. The next year he was selected for a position on the Initial Attack Crew in Darrington, Wash. Vasquez most memorable experience was fighting the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs. “We were working at the Flying W Ranch and had to immediately clear out. The winds reversed and blew in over 60 mph. We returned the next day, but over 200 homes were lost,” he said.
The trail crew gave Vasquez the training to use Pulaski’s but didn’t prepare him for the long hours needed to fight fires. “At a fire assignment you work 16-hour days and you can be gone for months,” he said. But one of the bonuses for working on the fire crew is the pay, which he is using to pay for his college tuition. Vasquez is now majoring in engineering and physics at Loyola University in New Orleans, La. This summer he will take a break to return home and hike the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, a trail he learned about from those summer jobs. “There are so many peaks I want to climb along the way,” he said.