For Joseph Williams and Aaron Thomas, the experience couldn’t have been better.
“I’m from Tuskegee University in Alabama, and I never thought I’d experience all four seasons in one day,” notes Aaron, a student intern with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) program.
Aaron is explaining his recent weekend trip to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. Starting in Fort Collins, Aaron traveled from the state’s sunny, hot plains up to the cold, windy tundra at 11,796 feet above sea level.
Aaron and Joseph Williams ─ another intern attending North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, NC─were able to experience the diverse habitats and stunning views of Colorado while serving a 10-week internship at the National Wildlife Research Center, part of the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services program.
Based in Fort Collins, CO, the NWRC provides scientific expertise to address human-wildlife conflicts. Employees at the NWRC hosted Aaron and Joseph as part of the TMCF program providing them with hands-on experience on issues related to pesticide registration, security procedures, occupational health and safety, and records management.
“The most rewarding part of my internship was the diversity of tasks and responsibilities I was able to experience while at the NWRC,” states Joseph Williams. “I hope to pursue a career in psychology and criminal justice, and I was able to work with my NWRC mentors on tasks such as processing security clearance requests, finger-printing new employees, and developing continuity of operations plans (COOP).”
With a major in chemical engineering and mathematics, Aaron worked with experts on regulatory issues related to pesticide registrations and helped standardize the NWRC chemical inventory system, identify chemical hazards, and inventory chemicals for disposal.
Both Aaron and Joseph agree that visiting Colorado and working with the experts at the NWRC provided them with lifelong memories and experiences to help further their careers.
The TMCF provides summer internships to minority students as part of an effort to help government agencies and businesses recruit talented students for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs upon graduation. In 2012, APHIS awarded TMCF nearly $400,000.00 to fund the 10-week summer internship program that introduced 37 STEM students, such as Aaron and Joseph, to the USDA and APHIS.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is named for the U.S. Supreme Court's first African-American Justice. Established in 1987, TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students attending its 47 member-schools that include public Historically Black Colleges and Universities, medical schools and law schools. Through its scholarships and programs, TMCF plays a key role in preparing the leaders of tomorrow. For more information about TMCF and its initiatives, visit: www.ThurgoodMarshallCollegeFund.org.