A new documentary chronicling the park conservation efforts of Student Conservation Association volunteers looks to inspire others to take action.
Looking to tell the story of the work of young conservationists, the Student Conservation Association, along with Reel Work Teen Filmmaking and American Express, teamed up to release the student-directed film National Park Diaries.
Narrated by actor and producer Alessandro Nivola, the documentary follows the experiences of two SCA high school crews who spent three weeks working in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. The six- to eight-member crews were involved in various conservation tasks, including building trails, maintaining campgrounds, and removing invasive species.
“These kids come from all over the country, and they immediately merge into a working team,” said Kevin Hamilton, vice president of communications at SCA. “To see them come in, gel as a team, and grow as individuals is just really extraordinary.”
National Park Diaries premiered August 12 at SCA’s 60th Anniversary Celebration at Olympic National Park, coinciding with the presentation of SCA’s Founder’s Medal. Hamilton said this celebration—the biggest event on SCA’s calendar at the time—was the ideal venue for a premiere.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Hamilton said. “I think the fact that we had many of our former volunteers within that group underscored the importance of getting young people involved in conservation.”
While crews and locations were chosen before filming, the film’s stars—SCA volunteers Taylor Newkirk and Nichlos Gutowski—were not. Hamilton said Newkirk’s commanding stage presence and Gutowski’s veteran SCA volunteer experience allowed them both to emerge as leaders in the film. SCA hopes their passion and dedication will encourage other young people to explore similar volunteer and career opportunities in conservation.
“When SCA looks at young people, we see the ability to make a difference, right here and right now. They just want to go to work,” Hamilton said. “They know they are going to inherit whatever situations will be ahead in our future. They are trying to take steps to create a more sustainable world for all of us.”
National Park Diaries will be screened throughout the year at national parks and festivals nationwide. SCA’s message with this film is that everyone can take small actions, such as recycling more or using fewer resources, to protect the planet.
“You don’t necessarily have to drop everything and join an SCA crew in the wild for three weeks,” Hamilton said. “Everybody is able to a make difference for the planet by adjusting their behaviors and being more circumspect in terms of the way they interact with the environment.”