CEDAR CITY — For 10 years university students have been engaged in service with the National Park Service through a national program that started at Southern Utah University: “Partners in the Parks.” The program fosters lifelong stewardship, responsibility and resilience in the students consistent with the Park Service’s Centennial goal of creating the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates.
“This program is all about helping the youth of America appreciate the value of the national parks,” Paul Roelandt, superintendent of Cedar Breaks National Monument, said.
In 2006, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Southern Utah University’s Honors Program partnered to author and successfully apply for the Centennial grant through the efforts of Roelandt, Honors Program Director Matt Nickerson and the university’s Edge Program Director Todd Peterson.
Over the next few years, the team worked with colleagues from the Park Service and the National Collegiate Honors Council to build “Partners in the Parks.”
The program offers an outdoor-centric weeklong immersive and academic experience for select honors students from different colleges and universities across the country.
“For students, this experience provides a great vehicle for exploring the country,” Honors Program Associate Director Jayci Bash said. “We should be tourists in our own country before we visit other places. To see our nation’s most treasured places is a huge benefit for these undergrads.”
The projects the students engage in develop their own stewardship of the park as they help administrators with behind-the-scenes tasks of running operations. They are also taught how to recreate responsibly and experience the park through hikes, climbs and tours.
“The next generation of stewards are the ones who have the power to protect these pieces of natural wonderlands,” Roelandt said. “Through ‘Partners in the Parks’ we will continue to offer academic adventures to students and are hopefully starting a new phase of internship opportunities.”
Since its inception, “Partners in the Parks” has engaged more than 500 collegiate honors students in 37 national parks, monuments and recreation areas. Through it, college students gain problem-solving skills, are given opportunities to think critically and enhance their ability to be resilient.