Grand Teton National Park Foundation Lands $50,000 Grant To Help Connect College Students With National Parks

The Grand Teton National Park Foundation has landed a $50,000 grant to help underwrite its NPS Academy, a program that brings college students into Grand Teton National Park to build advocates for the parks and outdoors in general.

The funding came from the Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities grant program. Provided through the Wells Fargo Foundation and administered by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the grant is part of a new Wells Fargo program aimed at awarding $15 million over the next five years to nonprofits focused on sustainable agriculture and forestry, land conservation and water resources, habitat and urban ecosystem restoration, green infrastructure, and environmental education.

NPS Academy is one of several programs funded by Grand Teton National Park Foundation as part of an effort to promote youth engagement in Grand Teton National Park and build the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and wilderness stewards.

The program, which was conceived in Grand Teton, introduces diverse college students to a range of career paths within the National Park Service through intensive mentorship, seminars, workshops, field trips, and recreational activities. After successful completion of the spring break program, qualified students are placed into 12-week summer internships in national parks across the country. The program entered its third season in summer 2013 and has also expanded to include spring break programming in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Kenai Fjords National Park.

“We are thrilled to have Wells Fargo’s help in funding this program to recruit a younger audience of wilderness enthusiasts and a more diverse workforce for the NPS. This is a fantastic program that will keep Grand Teton relevant to future generations and in pristine condition for years to come,” says Leslie Mattson, president of Grand Teton National Park Foundation.

The Foundation’s request was selected from among 500 proposals submitted by local Wells Fargo team members and nonprofits. In April 2012, Wells Fargo released a set of environmental commitments to be achieved by 2020, including reducing the company’s environmental impact, financing the transition to a greener economy, and encouraging stronger and more sustainable communities.

Jim Ryan, market president and head of business banking at Wells Fargo in Jackson, Wyoming, notes how strongly the program resonates with Wells Fargo’s own vision and values.

“The work NPS Academy is doing to promote diversity among park service employees and national park visitors is profound and effective," he said. "We at Wells Fargo are proud to support this quality youth engagement effort in Grand Teton.”

Ten NPS Academy students are currently working in internships in Grand Teton National Park this summer, learning new skills and gaining a better understanding of the NPS through a wide vary of positions: visitor center interpretation; assistant to the volunteer coordinator; safety, risk management, and structural fire; public affairs; trails; and bioscience. Internships will be complete by mid-August.