Felicia Probert always knew she wanted to be a park ranger. She worked with the National Park Service while she was still in high school, and worked her way up through the Bureau of Land Management after college. The career was everything she had hoped for: Felicia spent most of it in law enforcement, protecting our nation’s natural resources. She explored ancient cultures. She got to work in some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces on the planet.
Felicia says it’s been a fulfilling job and a good career: “It’s important work, managing and protecting and conserving the nation’s resources across the board. It’s important to balance out our society and it’s more important than ever with the environmental challenges we face.”
Felicia hopes to inspire other students to follow in her footsteps. She’s established a scholarship at Forest Hills High School – her alma mater – to award $1,000 each year to a college-bound senior who plans to major in any field related to the preservation, protection, conservation, or management of parks, forests, wildlife, or the outdoors in general. And because she, herself, was not a straight-A student, the scholarship is available to students whose grades are more average than top-of-class. “I think some of the kids who need the most help financially are maybe not the kids with the best grades,” says Felicia.
The idea came to her when Forest Hills named Felicia a distinguished alumnus in 2011. The award sparked some interest in students about land management, as Felicia shared with them her achievements. Although she no longer lives in this area, she wanted to find a way to give back to the hometown that had fostered her interest in conservation and the great outdoors. Felicia believes people here are connected to natural resources through their love of fishing and hunting. She wants to build on that, helping young people to pursue a career that can sometimes be difficult to navigate.
Nobody sees a lot of promotion for careers in park services, she says. And fewer than that know the best way to get one. The ticket, according to Felicia, is a college degree. Felicia’s father worked at UPJ, which meant she didn’t have to pay for her good education. Felicia knows how lucky she was, and wants to pay it forward.
The Rangers Becoming Rangers Scholarship Award allows for broad areas of study because there are lots of subjects that lead to a successful career in land management. The important thing is to understand the value of what you’re protecting. “You need to be invested in the resources,” says Felicia. “You deal with history and culture. Native American sites and artifacts. People need to come to (land management) with a background that makes them more effective in carrying out the duties when they get there. That could be archaeology, biology, history, ecology.”
Felicia came to the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to give structure to her vision. “It was much easier to go with the CFA. I didn’t know the rules and regulations. They’re administering the scholarship, they handle the tax side, and the money is handled well. I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Mike Kane, CFA Executive Director, says this type of scholarship does’t just help kids financially; it helps them see new possibilities for their futures. “The Rangers Becoming Rangers award could interest a young person in a career that he or she didn’t know existed. This award can broaden young minds, introduce them to a world they hadn’t imagined. We’re excited to be part of that.”
The scholarship is available to college-bound seniors from Forest Hills High School, with a minimum 2.0 GPA. For more details on how to apply or o set up your own scholarship fund, contact Development Associate Katrina Perkosky: [email protected].