Looking back on the program, I, and everyone else, enjoyed it and feel like we have gained a lot by participating. Throughout the PLACE Fellowship I was given the opportunity to try new things, with perspectives I had not learned about before. With these experiences I was able to see paths that I did not think would be attached to the park service but were helping people in new and interesting ways. We explored places for people to work with nature and parks even if they did not think they were fit for the jobs one might think would be related to the National Park Service. Throughout all the different areas of expertise we were able to try, I found volunteering for invasive species removal and forest bathing to be among the most enlightening.
For example, when volunteering, the volunteer coordinator gets to know a group of friendly, enthusiastic people, and those within it can make a part-time commitment to something they care about. Everybody working there seemed to have fun at the sessions and became closer throughout the day. The PLACE Fellows were accepted in an instant and had conversations about almost anything easily. Tired but satisfied by the end as we worked together and bonded with the other volunteers. My hands hurt for days from clipping so many plants, but it was still so much fun and is something I will remember for years to come.
While forest bathing, I realized how one can stay connected to nature through work even if they are not working with the park service directly. Walking through the park on a guided meditative tour was never something I imagined would or could be done as a job. It brought another level of importance to the park and helped me to keep in mind the variety of people who come to experience it all. I had never thought of Boston as being a place where I could get away from the urban landscapes like that, but the experience changed my perspective of my own city. It was not just a place for nature to flourish or history to be preserved, it was also a place to relax and take a real breath for a moment as you step away from the rest of the world.
For me, PLACE will be remembered most for how it consistently pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, to try new things I would have been too afraid to do otherwise. Whether that was discussions about topics I had learned about only recently, or even something as simple as riding a bike, through the PLACE Fellowship and the support of the other fellows and supervisors I was able to accomplish this and more, while enjoying these experiences greatly.
All in all, it was a great experience for me and the others, with growth in understanding, experiences, and skills that have changed my life for the better. Thank you to all my supervisors and the other fellows, and it was wonderful to spend time with each and every one of you.