Students connected to the Honors Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College recently attended the Partners in the Parks Institute at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Students Gage Jones, Bailey Trejo and Katelyn Partin along with program director and assistant professor Melissa Helton attended the event held during May.
The partnership between National Collegiate Honors Council and the U.S. National Parks Service included a week of camping, learning and exploring in the park. The national park, which straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, encompasses 522,419 acres.
The students and faculty came from all across the country, and students hiked eight miles on the Appalachian Trail accompanied by a botanist and geologist. Participants also experienced white-water rafting on the Nantahala River and collected specimens for an oak species study being conducted by Duke University. Students also met with professors, scientists, community educators and park employees whose specialties ranged from fire ecology, to biology, to the local Cherokee community.
Participants completed a service project in the park, rebuilding a hiking trail and visited the Colburn Earth Science Museum in Asheville as well as the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, N.C.