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 4 Two Great Years, +3 (Part 1)
Without a doubt, one of the best moves I ever made was choosing my first college, Hocking Tech (now called Hocking College). It was in Southern Ohio in the small town of Nelsonville, best known for the home of Rocky Boots. At the time, the college was actually larger than Lakewood High School, graduating class of 756. I enrolled in a 2 year program to get an Associate Degree in Recreation and Wildlife Management. Because it was such a small school and you chose a certain program, you had all the same people in your classes for 2 straight years.
Almost all our classes were outdoors hands on learning. What a blast learning can be under these circumstances. We had birding classes, forestry classes, fish and pond study classes, wildlife classes and so many other cool things. As part of our studies for a quarter, we also had to go work at an actual park of our choice. You needed to do well at this job in order to pass. I remember the first day of work I burned up the clutch on this big dump truck. I wondered if my 2 year program would turn into a 3 year program, but I ended up passing.
Some of my closest friends came from these 2 great years. We played euchre, a card game, whenever we had spare time and a deck of cards. The second year, I had 3 of my best friends as roommates. What I find really remarkable when I see so many others that change careers, is that we all made it. Besides me, one roommate is a Park Manager for one of our Virginia State Parks, one is a Park Manager for Ohio State Parks and the other went on to get his Masters Degree and does Urban Stream Restoration in the Cleveland area. It is nice to see even in tough times, we never waivered and we achieved our goals.