After taking finals and beginning my amazing summer job, Ranger Babe is back in the Blog-osphere. My posts this time of year will be a little different, though. This summer, my goal is to share my different programming experiences and lessons I try to teach with them. Sometimes these lessons pertain to nature or wildlife...but sometimes, it is more along the lines of life lessons.

First, though, I want to give a little background on my job. In case you haven't seen some of my past articles, I am a Seasonal Interpretive Ranger for Tennessee State Parks. It's a mouthful, so I typically tell people I am a Seasonal Ranger. When kids ask what I do, I tell them, "I play with critters, hike, and teach about nature and history."

Of course, there is paperwork here and there. Sometimes we have crazy schedules and want to pull our hair out. Honestly, though, I would never change my summer job choice. Most of the time, I feel like I am literally being paid to have fun and be a kid. My main objective is to perform educational programs for the public, park visitors, and campers. If I can think of it, I can program it (with permission, of course).

This week, I was able to go to the high school that I graduated from in 2015 to do Birds of Prey Programs for sophomore students in Biology. I took Lizzie the Barred Owl (AKA "The Diva") and Milo the Screech Owl (AKA "My Baby"). I was at the school from 8:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon. Naturally, I also had to visit former teachers with Milo when I had free time.

They all seemed so happy to see me; some of them were even bragging on how good of a student I was. Of course, they were also pretty stoked to see an owl that only weighed four ounces. I also had an entourage of students following me and asking questions about Milo, which I happily answered. However, it wasn't answering questions about owls and other birds of prey that I felt was the most valuable information I gave students. There were a few things that I discussed that I wished that someone had told me when I was in high school and thinking about college.

People often ask how I got started out at the park. As it turns out, it was thanks to a high school club. Interact Club was an organization that I joined initially because being in clubs looks great on a college application. This club required students of have about 10 hours of community service per semester.

At the time, I felt it was a burden to do this, especially with my busy not-so-social life. It was through this club that I first volunteered at the park and saw how much it really has to offer. At the time, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I had no interest in being a park ranger, but my, how things have changed. If it had not been for that one experience, I am almost positive that I would not be where I am at today. It sort of goes to show how high school involvement can get you pointed in the right direction if you take advantage of opportunities.

A question that I wish I got more often but I still talk about has to deal with college choice. When I was in high school, transferring was not mentioned very often. It was an option that was sort of brushed over. When I began attending Sewanee and realized it was not the right choice for me, I was ashamed. I had no clue that students often have to transfer schools or start out small and work their way up. After I left Sewanee and took the rest of the semester off, I started at the local community college. I was able to get my Associate's Degree for free before transferring to Tennessee Tech University. Looking back, I am so glad that I made the decisions that I did. Staying at my first college choice would have left me miserable, and a degree from a prestigious university is not worth compromising your happiness.

The last question involves college majors. When I was getting ready to apply to colleges, I was told by many that I had to know what degree I wanted as soon as I applied. The truth? You should know a general direction, but you can comfortably wait until your sophomore year of college before you really pick. Switching majors after that point is still completely doable, it just might cost you another semester or two. This gives students enough time to test the waters and see what really captivates them. It might be something high-paying like a doctor or lawyer. Sometimes, though, what makes you happy earns you just enough to comfortably support yourself. And you know what? That's perfectly fine, too.

So while I talked to these high school students about birds of prey, how amazing they are, and their importance to the environment, I was also able to tell them how it's good to start volunteering early, that it's okay if their first college choice doesn't end up being the best, and how it's okay to not know what they want to do for the rest of their lives at 18. It was a lot of information, a mouthful even, but in the end it was all worth it. I don't typically say that giving advice is in my job description, but who knows, I might just start.

Wander on,

Ranger Babe