The traditional summer college internship evokes images of a confined business office littered with a smattering of suits, neckties and dress shoes.
But for 23-year-old Alex Baker of Downingtown, his summer is being spent in the wide open spaces with former Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
A 2012 graduate of Downingtown West High School, Baker is enjoying an internship at one of the country’s most recognizable national parks, the famous Mount Rushmore located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
“It’s the most satisfying job I could have asked for,” said Baker. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to combine my love of business and the outdoors into one career but the national park system has offered that to me,” he added.
According to Maureen McGee-Ballinger, Chief of Interpretation and Education at Mount Rushmore, the internship program that Baker is participating in covers the cost of his housing in the park and provides a financial stipend, as well as a great experience in a national park.
While a student at Downingtown West, Baker was a member of the club rugby team. He has spent the last three years pursuing his undergraduate degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources Management at West Virginia University with a minor in history.
One previous summer, Baker worked for his father Desi Baker, president of Augers Unlimited in Coatesville.
While he enjoyed the experience and the people he worked with, it cemented Baker’s resolve that a 9-5 factory job surrounded by four walls and a roof wasn’t for him.
In this summer position, Baker is acting as a tour guide and an educational historical interpreter.
“As an intern, my job is to present three talks to the general public. For my first talk I discuss the role of the a Ponderosa Pine in the history and expansion of the park and the area,” he said.
“The second talk, called the Studio Talk, covers the history and the challenges of sculpting the immense granite facade. Every ranger is required to present this talk. The third is called the Student Talk,” Baker said.
It was during one of his Student Talks that Baker found himself up against his biggest challenge — a young boy arguing with his mother that he didn’t want to see the mountain because it “didn’t walk, talk or move.”
Seizing the opportunity, Baker approached the boy and through some gentle coaxing and by encouraging the boys imagination, he helped the young boy understand that the mountain does talk to all who visit it, and that it moves in its own way to reveal its history and the beauty of nature itself.
Baker hopes to turn this internship into a stepping stone that will find him a position where he can continue to share his love of the outdoors with others.
“I love children and I especially love helping them learn about their country and the wonderful natural resources our country has to offer,” Baker said.
Following this summer’s internship, which ends Aug. 12, Baker will return to college where he expects to graduate in December.
But for now he’s got his eyes focused on the large South Dakota skies and is hoping that some of his old Downingtown West classmates can take a trip out and enjoy the world he’s now experiencing and loving.
Sal Foti is a former newspaper reporter and retired public relations officer whose articles and opinion pieces have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Hartford Courant, The Waterbury Republican,The Bristol Press, Arthritis Today, and a myriad of Internet publications covering topics ranging from disabilities, the use of firearms for personal protection and parenting tips for parents with disabilities. In 2014, Foti himself was the subject of an LA Times article dealing with disabilities and gun ownership. Foti resides in Downingtown, Pa with his wife Diane.