DOINews: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and DOI/VISTA Sarah Deleon Recognized for Building Career Pathway Program

Last edited 09/05/2019

DOI/VISTA Sarah Deleon standing beside a student and holding a California Newt at Sequoia National Park.
A Sequoia High School student lets AmeriCorps DOI/VISTA Sarah Deleon hold a California Newt found during a water-quality monitoring project at Sequoia National Park.
Group photo: Visalia Unified School District representatives, park representatives and DOI/VISTA Sarah Deleon
The Visalia Unified School District recognizes Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and DOI/VISTA Sarah Deleon for developing the first model career pathway in the community and parks' 125-year history. (From left, VUSD Board President Juan Guerrero, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Superintendent Woody Smeck, NPS Sequoia-South District Ranger Denise Robertson, Deleon, NPS Education Coordinator Kelly Evans, NPS Volunteer Coordinator Tim Barrett, VUSD Superintendent Craig Wheaton, Sequoia High School Principal Adolfo Reyes, and a Sequoia High School Pathway student.)

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and DOI/VISTA Sarah Deleon were recognized by Visalia Unified School District on Tuesday, March 24, for their exemplary commitment to developing the first model career pathway in the community and parks' 125-year history. The career pathway encompasses courses in forestry, natural-resource management and backpacking and introduces 300 underserved youth to their national park while building a foundation for participants to pursue higher education and environmental careers. Pathway participants build job skills in an experiential learning environment and are encouraged to become active leaders and community stewards.

The pathway utilizes seven community partnerships to offer a California curriculum standards-based elective course in forestry and natural resources, an after-school enrichment course in backcountry skills, and a summer job-shadowing and recreation experience at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Courses are currently being piloted to offer up to eight college credits through Reedley College's Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. This summer, participating students will have the opportunity to receive college credits, at no cost to the student at Sequoia National Park.

A 2014 participating high school student says the pathway changed his life: “It gave me the hands on experience I needed … going out and seeing nature was an amazing escape. ... It helped me feel at peace … it helped me change my attitude and helped me set goals for my future.”

DOI/VISTA Deleon began her service in fall of 2014 and has built the program's capacity by expanding program participation from 15 to 300 students and initiating formal partnerships with community youth-serving nonprofits, ProYouth and Sequoia Field Institute. She has also engaged a regional higher education leader in Forestry and Natural Resource studies, Reedley College, and the Tulare County Office of Education in building the first career technical-education program in forestry and natural-resources pathway for the Visalia Unified School District. The pathway has evolved over the course of three years, having begun with a partnership between Sequoia High School principal Adolfo Reyes and Kings Canyon National Parks' volunteers-in-parks coordinator Tim Barrett in 2013.

Deleon has high hopes for the pathway's impact on students:

“I once had a student ask me while hiking on a field trip, ‘How did you get here, to working in the parks? Did you always know what you wanted to do?' I replied, “One time, my great grandparents brought me here, to Sequoia National Park. I was about 8 years old, and I remember how the Giant Sequoias made me feel so small, yet so alive. It was the first time I had been to a protected area. I never forgot how incredible it was to see the giants. It reminded me of all the beauty nature has to offer. Because of that one visit, when I was 8 years old, I've chosen to dedicate my career to inspiring others to witness it.' The student paused for a minute and then said, ‘I'll never forget this either'.”


April 21, 2015

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