For the past two summers, Cody Stephens has worked at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery as a member of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). The YCC is one of the most recognized summer work programs for students since its beginning in 1970. During the summer, a YCC student works with conservation and environmental specialists on federal lands to preserve the natural land. As a member of the YCC staff at the hatchery, he worked as a part of the fish production team. His time at Wolf Creek NFH led him to enroll at Eastern Kentucky University last fall, where he plans to graduate with a degree in Wildlife Management. This summer, Cody returned to Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, but he is serving in a different role. Cody is currently working in the Student Temporary Employment Program through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This program, commonly referred to as STEP, offers students the opportunity to work for the federal government while combining academic study with on-the-job experience. The program includes various positions within all branches/programs within the Fish and Wildlife Service.
While the employment opportunities through the STEP program do not have to be directly related to the student’s field of study, Cody has decided to further his knowledge and experience in fish and wildlife by continuing to work at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery.
A typical day at the hatchery for Cody involves feeding the rainbow, brown, and brook trout produced at Wolf Creek as well as cleaning the raceways and tanks, performing fish production duties such as grading, inventorying and splitting, loading trucks for distribution, assisting with fish health issues, and often performing maintenance to the hatchery facilities. Also, in accordance with the STEP program, Cody works one day a week in the Visitor/Environmental Education Center at the hatchery. While assisting in the Visitor/EE Center, Cody performs a myriad of duties, including meeting and greeting visitors, assisting with the maintenance and care of both small and large aquariums, attending workshops focused on environmental education, ensuring all indoor and outdoor facilities are clean, stocking brochures and much more.
The STEP program offers numerous benefits to its participants, such as networking and future job aid, possible credit hours, field study, and most importantly, experience. As Cody continues to pursue his degree and career in Wildlife Management, having the STEP program experience will be a great asset to his future.
Photo Credits: Alex Hoover, USFWS