College Beat: My Apprenticeship at a UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Yukary Gomez, Senior, University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA)

One of the primary life experiences recommended to me as a freshman in college was doing an internship. Gaining work experience in our chosen career field is supposed to help our resumes stand out and boost our employability. That’s why during my senior year, I chose to apply for an apprenticeship with the National Park Service.

I applied and was accepted to a 24-week internship at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in San Antonio, TX. I was one of three university students—all Latinas—chosen for the cultural landscape apprenticeship program, a collaboration between the National Park Foundation, National Park Service, Mission Heritage Partners, and American YouthWorks’ Texas Conservation Corps, and funded by the National Park Foundation’s Latino Heritage Fund program.

The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is a historic Latino heritage site comprised of five Spanish missions dating back to 1731. The mission system has remained in continuous operation over the last 290 years thanks in large part to the complex acequia system that sustained the surrounding communities.

Our experience at this Latino heritage site involved walking in the footsteps of the Indigenous and Spanish people that built the acequias. We shadowed park rangers and learned about the archeology, architecture, and natural habitat we were helping to preserve. The conservation corps trained us on construction, landscaping, park routes and systems, power tools and maintenance.

My most memorable moment was our Bar-B-Q farewell celebration. We celebrated every one of the team members with a special meal and had a giant farewell group Bar-B-Q with all park and conservation crew members. The highlight of the celebration was having our crew member statistics of all the work we did during our apprenticeship shared in front of everyone and being told that our work set a great precedent for the next crew. We have set the bar high because of our willpower and work ethic. It was a bittersweet ending to a wondrous experience working with the park and landscaping maintenance crew members. I miss the crew members and the natural beauty of the missions.

My 24 weeks at the heritage site helped me gain new trade skills and learn about career opportunities in the federal government. Most importantly, I gained a new sense of professionalism and a clearer view of what it meant to be in the professional world.

So, I would advise everyone to take the opportunity to do an internship with national parks. Even if it is not necessarily in the exact industry that you wish to work in, it is a lifetime experience with much to gain from it on both a professional and personal level.

Yukary Gomez was a 2020-2021 cultural landscape apprentice at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas.
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