On July 27th, Appalachian Conservation Corps (ACC) received news that they were recognized by The Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership (V-TOP) as a recipient of the 2023 Top Virginia Employers for Interns Award.
The annual award recognizes Virginia employers who provide high-quality internships to students. To acknowledge the announcement—which aligned with National Intern Day on July 27th—Representatives from the State Council of Higher Education, Virginia Talent and Opportunity Partnership, and the Governor's cabinet gathered with recipients of the award at the Virginia Executive Mansion in Richmond to celebrate.
Maddie and Zach celebrate with Kalen and Caitlin, two interns who will complete their terms later this month.
Appalachian Conservation Corps is a program of Conservation Legacy, a nationwide network of conservation service organizations. Based in Harrisonburg, Virginia, ACC offers a variety of experiential learning opportunities throughout the Mid-Atlantic region for youth, young adults, and veterans—including internships, known as ‘Individual Placement’ positions. Interns work alongside professionals in land management agencies such as the National Park Service (NPS) on projects ranging from cultural resource management to historical research and preservation, education, interpretation, and more. Positions are paid, and participants also earn an ‘education award’ at the culmination of their internship—a sum of money that varies based on the length of the position and can be applied to a variety of education-related expenses including student loans, tuition, and certifications.
Faith Nowak—an alumni of ACC’s Individual Placement Program—was recently hired for a permanent staff position with the National Park Service at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where she completed her internship earlier this summer. Throughout her internship, Nowak created and implemented programming that centered on habitat restoration. She explained that her position allowed her to explore the inner workings of the National Park Service and gain experience that directly led to her securing a permanent position. Permanent jobs with the NPS and other federal land management agencies are highly competitive and notoriously difficult to secure, but Nowak emphasized that her mentors and fellow coworkers at Cuyahoga Valley helped prepare her for the application process and new position. Nowak is just one of ACC’s many interns who have secured full time roles directly after completing their positions, underscoring the success of the program.
The mentorship that ACC’s interns receive from onsite project partners is crucial to their experience during their position and their job prospects after completion, but ACC staff also go above and beyond to ensure that its participants are supported in their career goals. “We always have our feelers out for jobs that might be of interest to our interns,” explained Maddie Interdonato, ACC’s Individual Placements Program Manager. “We really make an effort to get to know the communities that surround the sites our interns are based at, so we can connect them with jobs that are local to them and align with their interests and experience.” ACC’s internship program has seen exponential growth since it launched in 2017, offering two positions. This year there were more than 60 interns in the field, and staff expect this growth to continue—ACC receives far more applicants than they have positions available. This high demand combined with the positive experiences of ACC’s interns stresses the importance of these positions as stepping stones to careers in land management. “These internships are a chance to take skills you’ve learned in school and apply them in the field, with mentors to support you along the way,” said Interdonato. “We have a big emphasis in our program on receiving training from our partners, who are experts in the industry. You don’t have to know everything going into these positions, but you will leave prepared for the next step in your career.”