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Working for WTA

Posted by Jake Strickland at Aug 11, 2011 04:35 PM |

Development Intern, Jake Stickland, reflects on working the past four months for WTA.

I first found WTA by a friend’s recommendation. Not even high school freshmen
yet, we pulled up our britches and worked on the ever-popular Wallace Falls trail for a week. It was long, smelly, and we had to deal with the most uncooperative super-stump I’ve ever met.

Two years later, I did another weeklong with my dad, fulfilling my school’s community service requirements and blowing up a boulder in the process. The year after that, I did another volunteer vacation, just for the heck of it. This year, I’ve taken a thoroughly different approach to supporting WTA and our trails – volunteering in the office.

Of course, being a naïve (and previously unemployed) youth, I had no idea what
an actual business was like – and that scared me. Would my school live up to its mission of “preparing students for college and life”? Now, having worked at WTA, I feel more confident in my ability to handle pressure in a less forgiving environment than a high school. The real world experience I gained here was
worth every minute.

So, what exactly did I do? For the most part, I entered payments into the WTA
database. Thousands of names and tens of thousands of dollars have passed through my hands. I’ve signed, sealed, and sent several thousand letters. If you’ve received an email asking about your address, that was probably me. I’ve designed handouts, written for the website and magazine, and shamelessly plugged WTA to my friends and family.

Of course, the project was intended as a learning experience. I learned about the business world, and how many different moving parts make up the business machine. I also learned about my own shortcomings. I’ve always had trouble asking questions or initiating contact – and those problems don’t fly in the office. Attention to detail is also vital; seeing a small correction written in red pen by one’s teacher is completely different from seeing mistakes arise in a trial-by-fire work environment.

It’s true that the experience hasn’t been a constant roller coaster of excitement. No job is, not even that of a roller coaster technician. However, I have gained respect for the people who do this kind of work for a living. They work in an office downtown to help the beautiful trails miles away. Of course, you may not need me to tell you that they’re great people – perhaps you’ve already met them on the trail.

I close with thanks. Thanks to everyone in the office for welcoming and abiding
me while I learned the ropes. Thanks to my teachers, who successfully prepared me for the work environment. And thanks to you, supporters of WTA, for helping us protect and maintain our hiking trails. It’s been a pleasure serving you.

Jake Strickland has been WTA's Development Intern for the past four months. He will be attending Reed College in the fall.