Temple Magazine

Parks and Education

ProRanger Philadelphia prepares students for careers with the U.S. National Park Service.

Story by Greg Fornia, SCT ’92
Photography by Ryan S. Brandenberg

Say the word “internship” and what comes to mind? Students fetching coffee or making endless copies? Or buried in spreadsheets and word processing? Maybe doing some video editing or website design? For Temple students in the ProRanger Philadelphia program, “internship” can connote clearing an area after a potential bomb threat—an unattended suitcase—is discovered; preventing hunting on public lands; participating in law enforcement tactical training and being hit by more than a few paintballs. And, unlike many other internships, their experience guarantees them a job.

ProRanger Philadelphia, one of just two new programs of its kind in the nation, began in 2010 as a collaborative effort of the National Park Service and Temple’s Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Liberal Arts. Through Temple, the park service recruits rangers by training college students. The other program is coordinated through San Antonio College in Texas.

Parks that participate in Temple’s program include Valley Forge and Independence national historical sites in the Philadelphia area, Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore,
Prince William Forest Park and Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia, Morristown National Historical Park in New Jersey and Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.

Thirteen Temple students who major in criminal justice, geography and urban studies, political science and other related disciplines were selected to be part of the first ProRanger cohort in 2010. The program spans three years and includes a significant law enforcement component. Students will attend the Department of Criminal Justice’s 13-week Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program Academy, which includes natural resource law, defensive tactics, firearms and more. Those who successfully complete the program will be guaranteed full-time jobs as park rangers after graduation.

Temple is well-equipped to conduct such training. Since 1968, the Department of Criminal Justice has provided law enforcement instruction. The criminal justice training unit at Temple educates more than 3,000 law enforcement officers every year, from state constables and deputy sheriffs to parole officers.

Many police departments in Pennsylvania send officers to Temple’s Police Officers’ In-Service Training programs, which are held at Temple University Fort Washington and at a facility in Bucks County, Pa.

“ProRanger is a true partnership between Temple and the Park Service to attract new rangers to urban and other national parks on the East Coast,” says Anthony Luongo III, CLA ’96, ’01, director of the Criminal Justice Training Programs at Temple.

Last summer, Melissa Burch, Class of 2011 (left) and Giancarlo Graziani, Class of 2011, worked with park rangers at Independence National Historial Park.

Seniors Rosalia Fiorello and Keith DiFabio learned about being park rangers at Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania.

He notes that approximately six in 10 law enforcement rangers in the Park Service’s Northeast region will be eligible for retirement over the next five years. “We want to help fill these positions with talented students who represent the nation.”

A Range of Experiences

Giancarlo Graziani, a geography and urban studies major in the Class of 2011, never thought about a career in law enforcement until he heard about ProRanger Philadelphia. “This is a great opportunity to be a part of something important,” Graziani says, “and it is much less stressful to know that I will have a job when I graduate.”

Graziani spent 12 weeks at Independence National Historical Park learning how it operates. He started by taking every tour, then joined the grounds crew and eventually worked with the cultural resources management team, which includes an archaeologist, an historian, a curator and more. For the weeks devoted to law enforcement, he shadowed park rangers and acted as an extra set of eyes and ears. “This program opens up doors to the Park Service and to the federal government,” says Graziani, who would like to work at a national park in the Washington, D.C., area eventually. “It’s a springboard to so many opportunities.”

Rosalia Fiorello, a student in the Class of 2011, was stationed at Valley Forge National Historical Park. She was impressed with how the Park Service operates, but discovered that a career in law enforcement is not for her. The political science major was one of only two of the students enrolled in Pro-Ranger to participate in firearms and tactical training at Fort Dix in New Jersey. But what intrigued her most were the proceedings she observed in the park’s makeshift courtroom, presided over by a local judge.

“I heard cases involving illegal parking and dogs off leashes and land disputes,” Fiorello recalls. “I want to go to law school and possibly study environmental law. That’s one way I can work with the Park Service in the future.”

For Michael Hanna, Class of 2012, ProRanger offers a chance to get out from behind a desk and “work outside helping others.” Hanna, a criminal justice major, grew up on a farm in Syria watching American action movies and the 1980s television show Knight Rider. “I always wanted to save people, solve crimes and be a good citizen.”

Working at Morristown National Historical Park in New Jersey, site of a Continental Army encampment during the American Revolutionary War, Hanna experienced every aspect of park operations. “I learned something new every day,” he says, “from preserving historic documents and understanding federal law to identifying local plants and running a museum.”

“ProRanger provides both comprehensive training and multiple internship experiences, addressing everything students need to prepare for a career with the Park Service,” Luongo says. Going forward, the program will eventually include an academic component, a sequence of one-credit seminars covering the mission, operations and other aspects of the Park Service. Luongo predicts that the number of Temple students enrolled in ProRanger will increase from the current 13 to 48.

“Temple had everything the Park Service was looking for in a partner: a diverse student body, an excellent criminal justice program and a large training capacity,” says Luongo, who envisions similar Temple programs serving the needs of other federal law enforcement divisions in the future. “More importantly, they saw Temple’s leadership in criminal justice and law enforcement training.”

To learn more about the program and to read about students’ experiences, visit the ProRanger Philadelphia blog.

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