Friday, Jul 20, 2012
The seven-year-old girl pictured here receiving her Junior Ranger badge in Yellowstone in 1995 recently completed an education internship at Black Canyon and Curecanti. Her name is Becca Heymann.
Each summer, rangers at Black Canyon and Curecanti award approximately 4,300 Junior Ranger badges. We usually never know if or how we have affected the young visitors we contact. Yet as some parks are now celebrating 20 years of Junior Ranger programs, we are afforded glimpses of our influence. Some Junior Rangers are returning to the parks they experienced as children to continue their learning and serve in more advanced capacities. During Becca’s 12-week internship, she contacted 1,789 children between the ages of 3 and 13. Her outreach travels brought her from Gunnison to Delta, Marble, Lake City, and all schools in between. She learned 15 different park-relevant lessons, and then improved them. Becca’s indelible mark on the education program reflects her many passions.
Education Specialist Ellen Petrick was working in Yellowstone in 1995, when Becca received her Junior Ranger badge. Ellen could have been the ranger in the photo awarding Becca her badge. In the end, while Ellen regretted missing that opportunity, she received a far greater reward. She got to witness the return of this child to another park, 17 years later. She experienced the distinct privilege of both mentoring this remarkable young woman, and learning from her as they worked side by side. Ellen got to witness a former Junior Ranger inspiring the seven year olds of today.
Becca recently returned to her hometown of Winchester, Massachusetts to begin graduate study at Boston University in occupational therapy. She may or may not return to the park service. Either way, we suspect sharing her passion for parks will forever figure prominently in her life. We are betting the same will prove true for some of the children who got to know her this spring.