It’s 9:00 am and Bleu Waters is putting on her heavy nomex pants.
Despite the weather forecast of 90 degrees plus humidity, Bleu is suiting up with a smile on her face.
It will be her first time working as a wildland firefighter on a prescribed burn in EvergladesNational Park.
She is nervous, excited, and most of all, proud.
Eighteen months ago she had no idea that she would be a National Park Service Ranger at the third largest National Park in the lower 48 states in America.
In December 2012, Waters joined the EvergladesNational Park team as a Greening Youth Foundation Intern.
Her new internship involved staffing a visitor center and leading a variety of guided educational programs throughout the Park.
While Bleu had lived in south Florida for several years she had never considered a long term career with the National Park Service.
Fate can bend a student’s path in interesting and unforeseen ways!
In Bleu’s case, upon graduating from FloridaInternationalUniversity’s Environmental Science program, she found herself pondering what next and happened across an announcement for an internship at the park.
Not sure what to expect, but not having other plans, she gave it a shot and applied.
She was selected for the position, and now eighteen months later, has gone from intern to seasonal interpretive park ranger and earned her Red Card certification, which qualifiers her to safely assist with wildland fire management in the park.
Whether Bleu continues to pursue a career as a park ranger or some other field, her time in the park has clearly inspired her to be part of the next generation of public land stewards.
“While completing my internship at Everglades I quickly realized that my long time passion for preserving the world that we live in and inspiring others to do the same was exactly aligned with the mission of the National Park Service” said Bleu.
During her time in the park Bleu was able to learn about the Everglades and the vast and varied experiences that go into running a park that covers nearly 2,400 square miles.
The internship afforded her opportunities to experience a broad range of work environments that go into park operations including science and research, community outreach, administration, and fire.
Over the last eighteen months, Ranger Bleu led groups of visitors on guided walks, talks, bike hikes, and wet walks!
She’s heard Barred Owl hooting to each other and Alligators bellowing along the Anhinga Trail.
Yet some of her fondest memories thus far include how special it felt to her when she was able to connect local youth to the beautiful resources of the park.
“Bleu Waters exemplifies why it is so important to recruit local youth to participate in various park programs,” said Alan Scott, Chief of Interpretation at EvergladesNational Park.
“Through the Greening Youth Foundation internship program we have gained a wonderful new ranger who will also be a steward of the park in our community.”
When asked what advice she would give to other local youth who might be interested in a career with the National Park Service, Waters replied “Becoming a park ranger was the biggest triumph in my new career. It showed me that hard work, dedication, and most importantly, believing in myself, could lead to this experience of a lifetime!”