Sarah Toole

Describe the steps you took to obtain your opportunity. 

Understanding the value of connections and the importance of reaching out for what you want is critical information to possess. I have been a volunteer with the Springs since I was eight, so I have an excellent rapport and working relationship with park staff. I communicated my desire to serve at the Springs in conjunction with the Experience Recognition Program and after a month went by, I was beginning my summer experience. After supervising my service over the summer, my supervisor and park volunteer coordinator were happy to have me back for the fall!

How far in advance did you prepare and begin applying for your experiential learning opportunity?

I became aware of both the Experience Recognition Program and the summer opportunity to serve at the Springs in April of 2022. One behavior I have picked up from working with professionals is that it is critical to be efficient in replying to messages and finishing tasks. Through quick replies and follow-ups, I was able to start my service within less than a month of mid-April. I renewed my service for the fall in early August and was fully approved before the start of classes on the 22nd. 

If you used any Career Center services, resources, or events to obtain your internship, what were they? How did they support your application process?

Through the online course opportunity, I was offered resume review and mentoring services through The Career Center, which have helped me appear professional and network with professionals. 

Describe some of your responsibilities or duties during your experiential learning opportunity. 

My responsibilities and duties as a Waterfront Support Volunteer are to answer park visitor questions and check them in for their boat tours. I am also responsible for daily paperwork and water samples, both of which entail a venture out of the Boat Ticket Office and into nature. 

What was a typical day like "on the job?"

A typical day "on the job" includes much interaction with the public, as well as park staff. I arrive to the park around 9:15 a.m. and am down at waterfront by 9:25 a.m., after grabbing a 9:40 a.m. boat passenger manifest from the Lodge front desk. I begin the daily paperwork and take a water sample, waiting for the science team to return with the water level and clarity. Throughout the day, I am grabbing passenger manifests, checking in passengers, and answering visitor questions. I am accompanied in the Boat Ticket Office by two park rangers and often see the upper park staff when they walk down from their administration building to check on us. 

What are some major takeaways from your experience? How will these help prepare you for the next step after graduation?

An even wider perspective on professionalism (through watching park staff and rangers), as well as understanding what it's like to "wear the uniform" and the responsibility of representing the State of Florida through all my actions. These are helping to prepare me for the next step after graduation as in professional spaces; the good manners of professionalism are expected to be upheld, in the workspace and outside of it. 

Did this experience help to clarify your career path? If yes, how so?

This experience helped clarify my career path in the sense that it feels good to help people. Seeing the satisfaction on a park visitor's face when they are able to book a boat ticket or receive clarification on where something is is gratifying to park staff and volunteers. I am not necessarily moving down the path of environmental science and biology, but I do know I will volunteer at the Springs for the rest of my life. 

Sarah Toole

"Understanding the value of connections and the importance of reaching out for what you want is critical information to possess."

Major: Public Health
Experiential Learning Opportunity: Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park