National Forests in North Carolina: I thought I knew it all

During spring 2014, Rachel delivered presentations to dozens of children in the Asheville, N.C., region about bear safety, fire safety and forest management. Here Rachel talks with a group of kids, the next generation of conservationists, about preventing wildfires.

By Rachel Ingram, Volunteer Intern, U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina

I thought I knew it all. Only 22 years old, I had done more than my fair share of backpacking, kayaking, hiking and fishing. So when I, as a junior in the Mass Communications department at UNC Asheville, saw the posting on the internship bulletin board for an opening as a Public Affairs volunteer intern with the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina, I applied immediately. I thought I was ready. I thought I was qualified. In short, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Right off the bat, I was shocked, considering the significant portion of my adolescence that was spent in National Forests, to discover how much I didn’t know about the Forest Service and its mission. When I began my internship, the first task my supervisor gave me was to read what felt like every single pamphlet and fact sheet the Forest Service had ever produced. As a result, I became very well-versed in the goals and methods of the Forest Service, and I was able to share that knowledge with students in multiple classes at four area schools, as well as local scout groups.

In all, I presented information about North Carolina’s National Forests to 12 groups across the Asheville region. Although many of these groups were small and consisted solely of students and two teachers, there were several occasions where I spoke to youth groups, only to scan the back of the room while speaking, startled to realize that the parents of these children were also listening intently. It was during one of these outreach events that the gravity of my responsibility hit me: I wasn’t just speaking to children. I was reaching entire families. I was honored and humbled to be the messenger of such important information.

As the semester wore on, my confidence grew tremendously. My public speaking skills were sharpening, and I had a better grasp on the material I was sharing.

Perhaps most importantly, however, I discovered that knowledge is a two-way street. While I was the one standing in the front of the room with all eyes on me, I learned just as much from these students as I hope they did from me. I hope I taught them what it means to be an intern, the important tasks the Forest Service takes on in day-to-day life, how to react when coming in contact with a black bear in the wild (or how to properly store food while camping in order to prevent such an occurrence), the dangers of wildfire and the importance of prescribed fire, or the process of revising a multi-use forest management plan. By the end of my internship, I had learned every single one of these things and more.



Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.