Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to stay-at-home parents to chief executives. In this installment, we hear from Julie Gonzalez, who works for the National Park Service and recorded a workday in October.

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Name: Julie Gonzalez

Age: 27

Location: Grand Teton National Park in Moose, Wyo.

Job title/current role: Community engagement coordinator

Previous jobs: I’ve worked with the National Park Service for about five years now. I was a seasonal interpretation park ranger for Glacier National Park in Montana, working at the visitor center and giving ranger-guided hikes and talks. I’ve also worked as an education and community engagement ranger for Grand Teton National Park and Mount Rainier National Park, organizing things like school field trips to the park and youth development programs. Most recently, I was with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in San Diego, working as a community engagement ranger.

What led me to my current role: When I was a kid, I didn’t know that being a park ranger was a career opportunity. It wasn’t until college that I learned more about the National Park Service (NPS) and the different career paths available through an internship program called NPS Academy. The program includes a week-long orientation in a national park, where we talk about the NPS mission, careers and create community among the other participants. This internship took me to Glacier National Park for the summer, and I absolutely fell in love. I realized that I wanted to connect people to the outdoors through science. I eventually got into education and community engagement work, where I focused more on youth and their families.

A big part of my role is to engage the historically excluded and marginalized communities with national parks in an equitable and inclusive manner. As a Latina, first-generation Mexican American, I am one of the first people to recognize that national parks aren’t the most welcoming places for everyone, and I want to do my part to change that.

How I spend the majority of my day: My job varies from day-to-day, and season to season, which is what I love about it. No day is the same. During the school year, I work with schools to provide field trips to the park, classroom visits and distance-learning opportunities for their students. In the summer, I work with high-schoolers and young adults to provide internship or job opportunities for them in the park and the community.

Right now, we are in a transition period, so my day entails a lot of time on the computer, planning for students to arrive and meetings. I usually spend the first hour of my day checking emails and returning missed calls. If we have a field trip, I’ll get ready by packing my bag with props like furs and skulls, pictures and art supplies. For field trips, we go on a short hike and do activities to teach students about Grand Teton’s natural and cultural history. Depending on the age group, this means we play a lot of games.

My workday

7 a.m.: Wake up … and hit the snooze button a few times.

7:15 a.m.: Make coffee and lunch, and get ready for the day. I let my Goldendoodle, Wilder, out and feed him.

7:40 a.m.: Drive to work; it takes me 20 minutes to get there. I live in the park, but my office is in a different part. I use this time to call my mom and catch up on her day. She’s on the East Coast and has already been awake for a few hours.

8 a.m.: Arrive at the office. I am still moving into my space, so it looks a little sparse. The coyote and fox came with the space. I’ll spend some time checking my emails and catching up with co-workers.

My workspace. (Courtesy of Julie Gonzalez)
My workspace. (Courtesy of Julie Gonzalez)

9:45 a.m.: I walk across the street to the visitor center. Today, I’m helping the interpretation staff, front-line rangers, staff the front desk. The park has had record high visitation this year, and there are a lot of people coming into the visitor center asking questions about the park and interacting with the exhibits.

10 a.m.: I stand by the giant 3-D map inside the visitor center and wait for visitors to ask me questions. I like using the map to point out specific areas and teach about the landscape.

Visitors look at the 3-D map. (Courtesy of Julie Gonzalez)
Visitors look at the 3-D map. (Courtesy of Julie Gonzalez)

11:30 a.m.: Lunchtime. I eat the ham sandwich I packed with Cheez-Its and a peach. This is also a great time to chat with co-workers and catch up on the latest local news. Also read up on my horoscope, it’s a 4-star day!

12 p.m.: Back at the front desk answering questions and helping people get to where they want to go. One of the biggest attractions to our park is the opportunity to see wildlife. Many people want to know where they can see bears, moose and bison.

2 p.m.: I hop on the phones to help visitors who aren’t in the park yet. Many people call in preparation for their upcoming trip. I had a lot of people asking about backpacking in the park.

4 p.m.: Ranger Talk time — take a walk on the wild side! I give a short 20-minute program on the wildlife that call Grand Teton home and where people might see them based on their habitat. We also talk safety tips, and how to view wildlife respectfully. Remember to always maintain a safe distance between you and a wild animal, no matter how cute!

A selfie with a moose statue. (Courtesy of Julie Gonzalez)
A selfie with a moose statue. (Courtesy of Julie Gonzalez)

5 p.m.: We close the visitor center — and send everyone out to experience the park and prep for the next day. I go outside to take down the flag and see a junior ranger and ask them to give me a hand.

5:42 p.m.: Head home. I like listening to podcasts on my drive. Today it’s “This American Life.”

6:15 p.m.: I’m greeted by the pup and his mess. We take a short walk around the neighborhood while waiting for my fiance to get home.

7:04 p.m.: Start making dinner. Tonight we’re having oven roasted chicken with broccoli, and a tossed salad. We use Alton Brown’s Dutch oven recipe!

8:17 p.m.: Dinner is ready! We don’t really have a great table, so we sit on the couch and watch TV for a bit. Our guilty pleasure, “Grey’s Anatomy.” We’re only on Season 9, so no spoilers please!

9:49 p.m.: Get ready for bed. I lay out my uniform for the next day and let Wilder out one more time. I brush my teeth, change into pajamas and turn off the lights.

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