Student spotlight: Mahali Santa Ana

by Vicki Heisser  |   

Mahali Santa Ana is an outdoor leadership student participating in the NPS Alaskans in Parks Internship Program at Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve this summer. Thanks to a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS) and the Student Conservation Association (SCA), Alaskans can work in summer internships in the National Parks.

To start her internship, Mahali completed a week-long orientation that she found amazing. It was filled with bonding activities, emergency preparedness training, an Indigenous Awareness Workshop, and exploring important legislation such as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA). The Alaska Humanities Forum wrapped up the orientation by emphasizing collaboration and inclusivity. As an Indigenous person, Mahali is grateful for SCA's commitment to collaborating with Indigenous communities. She is excited to make a positive impact and learn alongside her fellow interns.

In her current position, Mahali is developing skills in interpretation, ranger program development, visitor services, and outdoor education. She has created two programs: "Things to Know Before You Go," which focuses on the Leave No Trace principles, and "Journey of the Steamboats," which explores the history of how Steamboats aided in the construction of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway.

Mahali also works at the visitor center, providing visitors with information about the Kennecott area, managing the opening and closing of historic buildings and exhibits, and going on hiking trails every other week to connect with visitors.

Mahali mentioned that one of the best parts of this adventure has been participating in different trainings provided by the NPS. These training courses included presentations on geology and glaciology, operational leadership and search and rescue training. "I am grateful for the opportunity to work in such a beautiful place and gain experience in the NPS field. The McCarthy/Kennecott community holds a special place in my heart. I have grown my outdoor education skills in this position while creating unforgettable memories with amazing people."