Growing up on St. John helped develop Lila Uzzell’s interest in environmental studies, and a summer internship at the Friends of V.I. National Park gave her an inside look at the industry.
“I didn’t really know how interesting it was,” she said.
She said the internship gave her a look at how non-profits work. However, since the Friend’s purpose is to help the park, it also gave her insight into how government agencies operate.
Uzzell, 20, spent her two months plus on the job assisting at events like the Beach-to-Beach Power Swim, which occurred just after she started.
“I hit the ground running,” she said.
She’s helped with the park’s Learn-to-Swim program and worked on the Friends’ snorkel and boater outreach programs. She also helped with the Friends-sponsored eco-camps held at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station. And she’s put in her time at the Friends office, helping out with myriad tasks. She said she likes the combination of inside and outside work the internship provided.
Uzzell started on the job in late May, wrapping up the internship Aug. 1.
“Lila was a pleasure to work with this summer. She is hard-working, diligent and creative and was a perfect complement to our small team. I thank her for her important contributions to Friends’ work, especially to our summer projects for kids and to our boater and snorkeler awareness projects,” Friends President Joe Kessler said.
Last summer, Uzzell headed on a school trip to Indonesia, where she did coral reef ecology studies. When the school trip wrapped up, she and a girlfriend traveled around the country.
“Diving in Indonesia was one of the highlights of my life,” she said.
After completing her first two years of college at Warren Wilson College, which us outside Asheville, N.C., in Swannanoa, she transferred to the University of Asheville for her final two years of school.
“It’s a big school. I’m a little nervous,” she said.
Uzzell is no stranger to Asheville. Although she attended Pine Peace School and its successor, Gifft Hill School, she moved to Asheville for her senior year of high school, graduating from Asheville High School. She also spent two of her high school semesters at what are called semester schools set up to give students varied experiences in their education.
Her mother, Vicki Uzzell, spent the year in Asheville with her. Her father is Nelson Uzzell, and both live on St. John.
Asheville, which is a small city in the North Carolina mountains, was a good transition from St. John to the mainland, Uzzell said.
“The hiking trails are gorgeous,” she said.
In Asheville, she said she likes going out to listen to music and enjoys the variety of foods, but driving posed some challenges. Uzzell learned to drive on St. John.
“It took me a while to get used to merging on highways,” she said.
It’s chilly in the winter, though, and Uzzell said she has to “hunker down.”
Uzzell, who was born at home on St. John, said she didn’t realize how lucky she was to experience the island’s beach and trails. Her time at Gifft Hill fostered an interested in the environment because the school participates in Earth Day and Coastweeks cleanups.
“And in the ninth grade, I had a really great marine biology teacher,” Uzzell said, recalling her name as Miss Chris.
As for her future, she said she’s like to stay a while on the mainland but eventually return home to St. John.
And for now?
“I’m exploring my options,” she said.