Park Ranger Cadet program prepares students for future


Deandra Tristan

City of Austin Park Ranger Matt Rogers visits with Green tech students and teaches them about animal identification. Cadets hope to gain full-time employment when they complete the program.

Sarah Luna, Student Life Editor

For senior Janice Franco, when she learns about aquatic life, her classroom is literally on the river as she sits in a kayak on the Colorado River in downtown Austin.

Franco is one of eight students who are enrolled in the Green Tech Academy’s Park Ranger Cadet program. The program, which started last year at Akins, helps students learn about the environment and wildlife while preparing them to one day work for the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“What we’re trying to do is develop a program where they come into environmental science classes and train them as Park Rangers because they saw our student program growing and wanted to be apart of it,” Green Tech coordinator and Algebra I teacher Kenyata Williams said.

Franco said that a professional environmental scientist lead one of her classes about aquatic life while they were on the river.

“Some of the girls screamed when he handed them spiders he pulled off of the water,” she said.

Students in the program experience a variety of outdoor activities, including, snorkeling, rock climbing and canoeing. Students also have the opportunity to be paid when they are job shadowing city park rangers.

“I really do like the program because it’s fun,” senior Kermeasha Carr said. “It keeps you fit throughout the summer and you can also get all kinds of qualifications and certifications done for free.”

Students start the program during their freshman year and work up to being in a practicum internship class during their senior year. The city pays for the field trips and expenses related to the class because it is sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department.

“I like how much of an experience it is and what it offers for our future,” Carr said. Career and Technology teacher Megan Kay, who leads the Park Ranger practicum, also teaches energy and natural resources and environmental science, which are required courses for the program. The program also has an agricultural component in terms of dealing with wildlife in the parks. Students learn about different kinds of common wildlife while earning their hunter education certification.

“What we do in the practicum is we go hiking, biking, snorkeling and fishing and caving and outdoor activities as such just so that the interns can get a feel of how it really is like to be a park ranger,” Kay said.

The interns work for the city and do lots of community service through the park rangers. They educate people about the park and assist licensed park rangers.

Interns also earn lifeguard , first aid, and biking certifications to help them become employable by the City of Austin.

Next semester the interns plan on going on patrols with park rangers, looking for people engaging in illegal activities or not following park rules.