ACE Alumni Ambassador | Eric Kim

Written By Linnea McCarty

On February 8, 2021
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Alumni Name: Eric Kim
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Dates Served: May 2020 – September 2020
What role was Eric in with ACE: National Park Service Academy – Interpretation Intern
Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Q: What were you doing before ACE?
A: I was serving a four-month SCA position with a prescribed fire crew in Georgia. Our job was to cut down invasive plants with a chainsaw and light them on fire. It was lit! Not only did prescribed burns reduce the amount of fuel in the area, it also cleared the land for fire-dependent plants to flourish. The focus of our projects were mostly in restoring longleaf pine habitats, which many endangered or near-threatened plants and animals depended upon.


Q: How did you hear about ACE?
A: I always wanted to become a park ranger. In my pursuit to build experiences and skills related to this career, I came across ACE and their incredible program called the National Park Service Academy. I immediately applied and had the honor of serving at Grand Teton National Park during the summer of 2020.


Q: Walk me through your time at ACE – What was your favorite aspect of being an NPS Academy ACE Member?
A: NPSA gave me a taste of what it was like working my dream job. I got to work alongside actual park rangers and support park operations behind the scene. Everyday I talked to hundreds of visitors coming from all across the country. I found pleasure in helping visitors plan out an awesome day exploring Grand Teton. I enjoyed inspiring the younger visitors to learn
about the park and rewarding them with junior ranger badges upon completion of their booklets.


Q: What was it like living in your Term Location? Any favorite activities? Hikes? What did you do on your off days?
A: The views from the park housing were phenomenal! I would watch the sunrise light up the Teton mountains with a hot cup of coffee in one hand and a breakfast burrito in the other. Sometimes a pronghorn or mule deer would wander close by and chill in the sagebrush. I also had a yellow-bellied marmot live under my cabin. The neighbors named him Jason.

On my days off, I would ride my bike 16 miles to the town of Jackson to buy groceries. I didn’t have a car, so I biked everyday for both work and exploring the park. My legs were rock solid by the end of the season! I’m certain I biked over 1,500 miles total. Take that fossil fuel and climate change! I also went on hikes to see if there were any cool wildlife nearby or seasonal plants
growing along the trail. These information were handy to let hikers know about the trail conditions and any cool features to keep an eye out for.


Q: Do you have a favorite memory from your time with ACE? Why?
A: One of my favorite memories was the evening I hung around a campfire with several coworkers for a little get together. Everyone was enjoying the potluck food and good vibes while catching up with friends from other park divisions. A projector was set up to play a movie on a barn wall, so we gathered and watched it late into the night. At the end of the movie, someone
turned around and pointed out the comet Neowise flying above the Teton mountains. We were all completely awestruck by the celestial event and continued gazing at the stars. This was the moment that I felt the greatest sense of community.


Q: In what ways did ACE shape your life personally and professionally?
A: ACE and NPSA gave me insight on the importance of communicating with people from diverse backgrounds through tolerance and empathy. With this in mind, I focused on using audience-centered techniques to help people build deeper connections with the world around them. I learned that interpretation was not about spouting a bunch of random facts. It is about getting people engaged in the values of natural resources. To have them ponder about the significance of historical accomplishments and controversial mistakes. To remember their origins and the impacts of culture across many generations. I believe that interpretation is a powerful tool that will connect us all through knowledge and awareness.


Q: How long have you been an ACE Alumni? Where are you now?
A: I finished my service with ACE in September 2020. Since then, I flew down south to Georgia for the winter and stayed warm with another prescribed fire crew. I swear I am not a pyromaniac! Maybe…


Q: What are some of your favorite extracurricular activities?
A: Other than petting puppies and eating a wicked amount of food, I have recently gotten into kicking a hacky sack around. I’m still terrible at it, but one day I will be less terrible at it! Practice makes perfect!


Q: What excites you most about becoming an ACE Alumni Ambassador?

A: Two years ago, I almost gave up applying for my first internship because I had absolutely zero experience outdoors. I’m serious! I never went camping, never swung a hand tool, and never conducted a certain business in the woods involving catholes and a roll of toilet paper. In that moment I pushed all my worries aside and embarked on the greatest chapters of my life. I am excited to push others to start their journey.


Q: If a prospective ACE member were to ask you what the benefits of joining ACE are, what would you say?
A: There’s a ton of benefits that I can list off. You will learn new skills, make a ton of rad friends, develop professional connections, overcome challenges, build confidence, and more. ACE has all the resources and support to make your service successful. All they need are your passion in the work and commitment to the conservation mission. Take the initiative to make the most out of your opportunity.

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