Ed Note: Readers you are in for a treat as Tom Cervenak, Visitor Services and Marketing Manager for Virginia State Parks, weaves the story of how he came to work for parks and what his career has been like. This series will run nine chapters, with many of them split into two parts.
Chapter 5 Paying My Dues (Part 1)
I think everyone that goes to college feels like you will graduate and someone is going to just hand you the perfect job in your profession. Well it doesn’t always work that way and I found out I chose a profession that was hard to find a full time job. It’s not like the “park business” is an expanding operation with new factories being built. There are just so many National and State Parks and not too many new ones get added. The Park Rangers at these parks like their jobs so they don’t leave very often. So I found you had to pay your dues and your bills all at the same time. I was able to find seasonal type jobs related to my career for the summers and then in the winter I worked doing absolutely anything to pay off my college loans.
One of my first jobs related to my field was a Camp Counselor at Camp Union Conservation Camp in New Hampshire. It was a great summer to learn and develop interpretive programming skills with inner city Boston children. At the end of the summer, however, I showed up back home with all of $500 and I’m not sure my parents were that impressed with the prospects of a career and doing this type of work.
I then worked for Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge System in Connecticut and Rhode Island as a Youth Conservation Corps Leader. Another great summer working on many outdoor projects with youth. I actually stayed in a small apartment of a very large mansion that I was told Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt used for summer getaways. In the end, once again, somehow I didn’t bankroll a lot of money from the summer.