From: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: “Helping People Help the Land” since 1935.
Students Gain Valuable Experience Through Internships
As the old song goes, “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…” especially in Florida, where summers are usually slow paced. Not so for college intern DeAndra Brooks, who is spending the summer working as a soil conservationist at the Crestview office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Brooks, a former student at Georgia Southern and future student at the University of North Georgia, is from Lawrenceville, GA. She applied for the internship through the Pathways Student Intern program and began work as a soil conservationist on June 1, 2015.
With the mission of “Helping People Help the Land”, NRCS works with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment.
The USDA agency in Florida has employed students for several years from many universities around the country. This year they have eight interns, including 3 returning for a second time to learn more about conserving our natural resources. The job includes time in the office doing paperwork and computer work- such as conservation planning, creating maps, assisting with contract development and management of local contracts. She also spent time in the field– learning about implementation of erosion control practices, longleaf pine planting practices, evasive species removal, and a host of other programs.
“There is nothing like getting out in the field for hands-on experience,” said Brooks.
Working alongside NRCS employees, other interns, and Yellow River Soil and Water Conservation District employees, Brooks is supervised by Darryl Williams, the local NRCS district conservationist. Williams, who has 34 years in with NRCS, has been an intern trainer many times in the past and knows they need a wide range of experiences to determine if NRCS is a good fit for them.
“DeAndra will succeed because of the great attitude she has of always wanting to learn more,” said Williams.
Brooks assisted with construction checkout of a corrugated metal pipe installation for grade stabilization in a pasture field. She toured several Emergency Watershed Protection Program project sites in Okaloosa and Escambia counties which are fixing erosion problems and land damaged from the April 2014 storm. She even participated in a NRCS video that is being created about the 1.2 million dollar Gil-Ava street restoration project.
She also spent a day in Gainesville, meeting state office employees, other interns and members of the NRCS Florida leadership team. Each summer intern was required to give a short presentation on their internship and what they had learned and would take away with them from their experiences.
In 2010, Executive Order 13562, Recruiting and Hiring Students and Recent Graduates, established the Pathways Program, which allows federal agencies to recruit and hire students and recent graduates. Through the Pathways Program, USDA Agencies get a chance to recruit, hire, and retain a diverse and talented workforce. Students gain valuable experience and determine if the job is a good fit for them as a career. NRCS is always looking for bright and talented individuals. For more information go to their website at NRCS Careers or www.fl.usda.nrcs.gov.