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A Unique Summer Job

Written by Urban Ecology Center
    Tuesday, 16 August 2016
A Unique Summer Job

I have said many times before that the Outdoor Leader Program is by far the best first job I could have gotten. Unlike many other jobs, I was not given one-day training and thrown into my work; I was given several weeks to learn. All of the staff that volunteered to train, teach, and work with us were patient and did the best that they could to take care of us and our needs. In the weeks that I was given I created unbreakable bonds and friendships with my coworkers as well as experiences that I never would have gotten anywhere else.

At the beginning of the program, we were eased into our new job. Our days consisted of scavenger hunts, building tours, and different branch trainings. However, after our camping trip each day became a new adventure that consisted of rock climbing, training in animal care, a hike, or even a game with a deeper meaning. Each week of training was a new experience, a new face, and a new journey.


The High School Outdoor Leadership Program at the Urban Ecology Center is an entry point for teenagers with a passion for their community and an interest in environmental issues. The program is a unique, two-year paid internship that helps students build a wide range of skills including leadership, mentoring, rock climbing, kayaking, scientific research, public speaking and many other life skills. Through a multi-disciplinary approach that includes civic engagement, history, social sciences, service learning and anthropology, the program enables high school students to examine and explore our local environment.

A new cohort of Outdoor Leaders started this June and Celie Koneazny provides this reflection of her summer experience with the Urban Ecology Center. 


Our camping trip was one of the best experiences I had ever gotten. I was forced out of my comfort zone, but I ended up loving it. We spent a couple days at Camp Manitowish where we had bunks, showers, and freshly prepared food ready for us after days of learning, playing, and reflecting.

The day that we prepared for backpacking was kind of scary and I began to doubt myself and my abilities. I had never gone this "off the grid" before and I was intimidated by the thought of the following days. However, after walking the wrong way for three hours with a heavy backpack and realizing we had to turn around, I was okay. Normally I would have freaked out, but everyone in my group took it with a light and positive attitude which made it better for me. There were other challenges with campsite locations, bodily aches, and exhaustion, but as a group we dealt with them one at a time and I believe that our ability to stay positive and strong as a group was what brought us together. Leaving backpacking was both relieving and upsetting for me. I would no longer get "one-on-one time" with people I was working with, but I was ready for a shower.

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After our camping trip, our days were filled with activities that more specifically targeted our available branches and what it really meant to work. Working with Chad and the summer camp crew was fun and informative, working with Beth was a great educational experience and helpful for me, and talking with Mike confirmed my wish to work in Visitor Services.

This program is exceptional and I hope that it continues for many more years because I have enjoyed being a part of it tremendously. I am currently working 40-hour weeks for the first time and I love it! I am gaining work experience as well as showing off my work ethic to my supervisors and everyone else at the Riverside Park branch of the Urban Ecology Center. I am so thankful that I got the chance to be a part of this program as it has shaped me into a harder worker, a more responsible teenager, a more outgoing introvert, and a stronger and braver person in general.


Thank you to the following contributors who support the
High School Outdoor Leadership Program:

Argosy Foundation, Gene & Ruth Posner Foundation, Inc., Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Inc., Milwaukee Capital, Inc., Park Bank Foundation, The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc., U.S. Forest Service

Urban Ecology Center

Urban Ecology Center

At the Urban Ecology Center, we get people of all ages outside and active every single day!  We foster ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood.  Read more about us here!

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