The Your Parks, Your Stories series features park users and staff and their personal experiences in Pittsburgh's parks. This Your Parks, Your Stories features three staffers whose paths led them to working in our city's greenspaces. Click here to share your own park story.
When I departed for Allegheny College in 2010, and became a Program Assistant with Creek Connections, I never thought that it would lead me to where I am today. In summer of 2011, I was prompted to apply to be a Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Summer Camp Counselor. I would never have imagined that managing group dynamics of children, building fires, and leading hikes would help me develop critical skills that translate into full time work.
Around the end of my stretch as a counselor, the Parks Conservancy's Director of Education told me to call her when I graduated from college so that we could “make magic happen." I did, and after graduating I began a full-time position as the Homewood Nature Educator. In this role I headed our Buzzword Pittsburgh efforts, blending environmental education, community outreach and engagement, and early childhood literacy in Homewood. I even landed a spot on PAEE’s EE Capacity Leadership Team, a statewide initiative to increase diversity in environmental education.
My work at the Parks Conservancy led me to so many opportunities.
Some of these opportunities have included an Early Learning Policy Fellow position with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning and 1 of 18 educators deemed “Who’s Next: Education.” My career path has also led me to manage school gardens for Grow Pittsburgh, be an Assistant Event Director with TEDxStripDistrict, a Peer Coach for SETPoint, a seat on the Farm to Early Childhood Education Task Force, and now, stepping into leadership at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
Needless to say, my journey has been an amazing, yet rigorous, ride. If it were not for the days that I spent outside with the Parks Conservancy, I would not be where I am today. I was introduced to so many people and opportunities and I am forever thankful. I am so excited to see what the future has in store and am even more excited to take my knowledge and passion for environment and education with me and share it with the world.
Will Tolliver, Manager of Early Childhood Learning at Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. You can keep up with Will on his website.
I graduated from high school in 2014. I had no plan to go to college or anything, so I decided to work until I was able to get my own place or move somewhere.
But that didn't happen. I was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant for my first job. I thought it would be great, but over time I decided that I didn't want to do that because it felt like that would be my life every day.
That's why I took an opportunity to go to CCAC, where I learned a lot about plant care and other things. At the end of the school year, they helped us look for jobs so that we could further our future. A week later, I got an interview at an organization called Landforce. I thought I wasn't going to get the job, and out of nowhere I got it.
Before that, I really never worked outside. I wondered if I would like it, but months went by and I really loved working in nature and with Landforce. The work was only seasonal, so I made connections with people that would help me after Landforce. My coworker Tiffany got me a meeting with Will, who connected me to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. They told me to apply for a summer camp position, but like before I never thought that I would get the job because it's out of my experience lever. I had an interview, but found out that I didn't get the position. I thought I would never do anything big.
A month later, they told me that there was an opening for a job and that I would be great for you it. I said yes because I didn't want to miss this shot in life.
Working at the Parks Conservancy is a dream because I wouldn't have thought that I would have been this far in life. Where I'm from we don't see these opportunities and I felt like all of my hard work paid off. My coworkers are a blessing, they teach and motivate me to be the best person I can and I'm really grateful for them for giving me a shot in life. Now I feel like I can do anything.
So that's my story. I wish I could tell y'all everything but if I tell you everything today I won't have anything to tell you tomorrow!
In high school, I embarked on the path of life sciences through the amazing STEM programs at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy. Through this program, I was introduced to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and their High School Urban EcoStewards program. While I was learning about many environmental issues in class, the Urban EcoStewards program allowed me to get out and experience what I had been learning in our city parks.
Once a month, we would go to Schenley Park and learn about something new; simple things like how to use a sound map or how to identify native and invasive plants. Mid program, Naturalist Educator Taiji talked about a new opportunity being offered over the summer, the Young Naturalist program. He mentioned that it was for those who were driven and passionate about environmental education.
I signed up and was accepted with the help of a teacher’s recommendation and soon after the school year was over, I became one of the very first Young Naturalists.
I absolutely loved the program! For the first week, we stayed at Allegheny College Creek Camp to learn about water and the micro and macro invertebrates that inhabit Pennsylvania watersheds. Then we brought the learning back into Pittsburgh's parks. Every week was a mix of learning about a specific category of wildlife (trees, fungi, birds, etc.) and doing conservation work in the park.
The Young Naturalists program was truly one of my favorite experiences and made me realize how much our city has to offer.
Branching from that, I worked with the Student Conservation Association on their school year program and since then have been studying biology at Robert Morris University. At the end of my first semester of college, I was asked to apply to be a Parks Conservancy summer camp counselor. This opportunity allowed me to work with tons of amazing children and counselors who are also so passionate about what they did. We taught kids of different ages survival skills, how to be nature investigators, and mainly just how to have fun in the parks.
Michael Rogers is a biology major at Robert Morris University.