With its 438 acres of pristine coastal land between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Worth Lagoon, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park seemed the most logical place for Samantha Grote and Jessica Stuczynski to spend their summer internships.
The 21-year-old college seniors — Grote of Decatur, Ind., is a student at Purdue University, and Stuczynski of Stow, Ohio, attends Kent State University — are biology majors who hope to pursue careers studying and working with exotic animals.
For the past two months, they have participated in turtle nest surveys and excavations, worked with students as part of the park’s Natural Science and Education program and served as counselors in its summer camp, among many other duties.
“We’re doing a little bit of everything,” said Stuczynsk. “Right now we’re mostly dedicated to the summer camp and the kids. Previously we’ve dealt with ranger care, we did animal duty, turtle walks and excavations. They’ve been throwing us in.”
Stuczynski and Grote are among four college students working as park interns this summer — Nick Hines of Palm Beach Atlantic University and Sara Miller of Florida Gulf Coast University are the other two — but they are the only two living at the park during their stay.
Last year, Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park purchased a mobile home for students who needed a place to stay during their internships.
“We thought it was necessary to provide housing for the interns in order to attract quality students from across the country,” said Cheryl Houghtelin, executive director of the Friends organization. “So far we have been very fortunate.”
The park developed its current internship program last year in an effort to provide students the opportunity to acquire skills and in-depth knowledge of their future careers in exchange for an extra set of hands to help with the park’s many programs.
The program also provides the park with the opportunity to build relationships with universities for recruitment, said Susan Kamp, the park’s membership and marketing coordinator.
“We want to recruit people in the future that we feel have gained knowledge in their field,” she said.
Stuczynski and Grote, who began working in May and will continue until early August, say their internships have provided valuable work experience.
“I’ve learned all the different things that need to go together to make the park run,” Grote said. “That’s something that’s definitely going to help me in the future.”
“Through my school I haven’t done a ton of hands-on things,” Stuczynski added. “So this is definitely new for me.”