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Pinnacles National Park hosts the Pinnacles Ranger Corps Program

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Not far from Hollister, California, ACE has partnered with Pinnacles National Park to host a “Ranger Corps” Program. The initiative started in 2009 and is one of the few of its kind. Pinnacles National Park currently has four Ranger Corps members, Elijah Valladarez, Alex Diaz, Conner Stephens and Ryan Robledo. All of the members are local youth (ages 18-25) who will complete 300 hours in the park over their weekends assisting park professionals and learning about the National Parks Service.

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“I like that I have been able to work in my community and this experience has taught me to really appreciate the area that I grew up in,” explained Alex Diaz, Soledad resident. The program runs on the weekends and aims to mentor the interns in different directions through working closely with the park’s rangers and other ACE members participating at Pinnacles.

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Elijah Valladaraz is studying criminal justice and explained, “since I am interested in law enforcement the park does its best to get me around the park’s security rangers.” Alex Diaz expressed a similar point, that he was focusing on botany in school and gets to go out and work with the park’s vegetation and restoration team.

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Conner Stephens and Ryan Robledo are both in their senior year of high school. Conner is hoping to study something along the lines of geology in college. “This position has improved my social skills but it has also taught me a lot about basic geology and plants and has improved my overall mood,” explained Conner, “the highlight for me is waking up each morning and being in a National Park and being able to work outside, whether that is assisting the vegetation and condor crews, or just helping park incoming visitors.”

Conner Stephens explains the difference between condors and turkey vultures to the park's visitors while working the nature center desk.

Conner Stephens explains the difference between condors and turkey vultures to the park’s visitors while working the nature center desk.

Paul Mondragon is a part time Park Ranger and runs the program in the park on the weekends. Paul expressed his dedication to the program and stated, “I like seeing the kids grow and become more comfortable talking with the people who come to visit the park.”  Paul has been working with the program for the last five years and works closely with the corps members.

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The Ranger Corps also provides CPR and first aid training in addition to the hands on experience of working in the National Park. The program aims to open doors for the local youth into the world of environmental stewardship.

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ACE starts the New Year with Crew Leader Training in Flagstaff, AZ

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National Restoration Program Manager, Afton McKusick, reviews chainsaw maintenance and troubleshooting.

Starting the week of January 3rd, 2017 ACE staff is hitting the ground running after the holidays and prepping for the upcoming project season. This week at ACE’s national headquarters in Flagstaff, AZ, crew leaders are going through intensive training’s and refresher courses given by ACE trainers and staff.

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Senior ACE Crew Leader, John Donovan has been training up and coming crew leaders for the last 10 plus years. His knowledge and expertise has been invaluable to the organization. Here, John and staff are reviewing and familiarizing themselves with the GPS units.

Crew leaders carry an immense amount of responsibility and are crucial to keeping ACE functioning and completing projects. Crew leaders are not only responsible for the quality and completion of projects but they also train, motivate and keep corp members safe during eight day projects and throughout their terms with ACE. They do this all while making the experience rewarding, educational and fun for corps members.

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Field Operations Manager, Evan Thibodeau, reviews vehicle engine maintenance.

ACE’s trained crew leaders will be reviewing all of the skills required to lead crews safely and effectively in the field. They will be going over safety and physical skills including first aid refresher courses, vehicle maintenance and trails and chainsaw training.

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Kip Valesano, Field Operation Manager from ACE Utah reviews the steps of assessing an injured person during the first aid refresher.

Crew leaders will also be given training in leadership styles, delegation and possible scenarios they might face in the field. Problem solving and leadership skills are paramount to the effectiveness of each and every crew leader.

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Crew leaders practice using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology.

The week long intensive training’s and preparations at the start of the New Year are vital as ACE staff prepares to bring in the newest group of corps members, as well as welcoming back our returning corps members.

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