August 26, 2011
Matthew Edgar can easily trace his dream of working for the National Park Service to an epic family journey across the United States when he was just 13. Logging 9,800 miles and 40 national parks in 29 days gave him a first-hand, transformative view of the nation’s natural treasures.
“I was working on a school project about U.S. national parks and my dad thought it was be great if the family visited all of the sites I was studying — Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon. We started in Ohio and just kept going,” said Edgar, a Lansdale resident who has served 22 years with the United States Marine Corps, including tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. “After traveling to all of these places I knew it would be great to work for the National Park Service. Now, at 40-years-old, to have it happen is a dream come true.”
Edgar was one of 18 students to complete Temple’s first Seasonal Law Enforcement Professional Development Program offered at the Ambler Campus, an essential step in becoming a National Park Service Park Ranger. He and his fellow students graduated during special ceremonies on Monday, August 15, in the Temple University Ambler Learning Center Auditorium.
Edgar is also one of several students who have already secured Park Ranger positions upon graduation having received an offer of employment from Independence National Park in Philadelphia. Six Temple University students completing the program are also guaranteed permanent employment by the National Park Service as part of the ProRanger Philadelphia Program — Temple University is one of only two institutions that offer the ProRanger program in the nation.
“There are three components to the ProRanger Certificate program. Students begin by taking a series of elective courses that the National Park Service felt were important for individuals working in federal law enforcement,” said Anthony J. Luongo, Course Director for the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy and Director of Temple’s Criminal Justice Training Programs. “In the second component students take at least one summer internship with the National Park Service. This year, 13 students interned in parks in the Northeast region, and 8 interned in the National Capitol region — we added the Capitol region just this year when they recognized the quality of the program.”
The final leg in the students’ journey to receiving the ProRanger Certificate is completing the 13-week Seasonal Law Enforcement Professional Development Program, a training academy designed to “develop and deliver the highest caliber training possible that prepares men and women to be professional first responders so that staff, visitors, and park resources are protected now and in the future,” according to Luongo.
“Our Temple students who complete the program are guaranteed a full-time, year round job, which is one of the reasons the program is so special — the students know they have a job waiting for them when they graduate,” he said. “The Temple students in the ProRanger program come from multiple disciplines and backgrounds — criminal justice, environmental science, anthropology, history, horticulture — which is what the National Park Service wants. Temple’s diversity and the strength of our academic programs, I believe, are the primary reasons the Park Service wanted to partner with us for this program. Our students are culturally aware and interested in working in urban environments and protecting our national treasures.”
Aaron Lyle, 22, who will graduate with a degree in Horticulture after the fall semester in addition to completing the ProRanger Program, said knowing he will leave school with a job waiting for him provides “wonderful piece of mind.”
“I interned last summer at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia. We had the opportunity to work with all aspects of the park service — administrative, maintenance, cultural and natural resources, management, interpretive (providing tours and education programs), and law enforcement,” said Lyle, who was “born into this profession” thanks to an outdoor-oriented family and a childhood of camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting. “It was a great, broad-based experience which the (Seasonal Law Enforcement) academy has continued to build on. You learn respect and integrity — it really changes you and how you want others to see you.”
According to Luongo, the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy is comprised of both ProRanger students and individuals — many of whom are returning military or transitioning to new careers during a difficult economy — who gain a significant advantage in securing National Park Service jobs by completing the training.
Christopher Brooks, 24, of Philadelphia, will soon begin his park ranger career at Independence National Park, where had previously worked as a guard. After four years with the United States Army, including 13 months in Mosul, Iraq, “I didn’t think I could be more prepared for this job but after going through the training academy I realized there was a lot I never knew,” he said.
“The history, the tactical instruction, the training has been outstanding,” he said. “There is a lot of specialized instruction that goes into this program and all of the instructors know exactly what they are talking about.”
Chris Willard, who with Teresa Conley coordinates training for the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy, said program instructors ensure that students are aware of “the awesome authority of enforcement that they have as park rangers, which they must balance with their duty to the community.”
“We emphasize enforcement through education,” said Willard, who spent seven years as the Chief Park Ranger for the Chester County Parks Department. “We want our students to appreciate and take pride in the profession that are entering. We want them to realize the great responsibility they are being charged with as a park ranger. The program has been a terrific partnership — the National Park Service needs highly trained rangers and we are able to provide that training.”
According to Willard the rigorous training program emphasizes several areas of concentration including legal, behavioral science, enforcement operations, patrol procedures, firearms, driving, and physical fitness and techniques. Program instructors include a diverse team comprised of individuals from Temple’s Criminal Justice Training Programs and the National Park Service and other federal agencies, added Conley.
“All of our instructors have been involved in law enforcement in some capacity, be it local, state, or federal. Temple has more than 40 years experience in training law enforcement and the University administration has really been committed to ensuring the success of this new program,” Conley said. “Our instructors mesh exceedingly well with the federal instructors and provide an amazing breadth of knowledge and experience for our students.”
Joan Koob, 22, said the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy provided her with the perfect transition from the interpretive side of park service to law enforcement in the national park system.
“Taking the law classes, learning defensive tactics and firearms, it gives you a different mentality — you perceive everything a bit differently. I even drive differently now,” she said. “I’ve gained a great deal of knowledge about the park service and law enforcement and I know I’m ready for the job.”
For more information on the Seasonal Law Enforcement Professional Development Program or ProRanger Philadelphia, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.temple.edu/cjtp and www.temple.edu/provost/careercenter/proranger/ProrangerPhiladelphia.html.