Daniel Boyce is a firm believer in the importance of the nation's park system. He has dedicated his life and career to protecting them and the people that visit these cherished locations year after year.
"The importance of national parks lies in the sites themselves. They are icons, they are historical, foundational pieces of the country and these locations are completely irreplaceable," said Boyce, a Temple University Criminal Justice graduating senior who is also completing the ProRanger Philadelphia program, a partnership between Temple University and the National Park Service to train law enforcement rangers. "I've always wanted to be involved in the emergency services field — I was dialed in on police, fire and EMS. With a Criminal Justice degree and my experiences with the ProRanger program I know I have the capabilities to be involved in all aspects of the field while helping to preserve the country's national treasures."
The ProRanger Philadelphia program is offered through Temple's University College. University College also offers the Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy (PRLEA) in partnership with Criminal Justice Training Programs (CJTP) at Temple University Ambler, a key component of ProRanger Philadelphia.
"I'm from New Jersey originally and as a senior in high school, I was looking for careers in the state parks, possible state park police. I wanted to do something outdoors," Boyce said. "I came across the blogs about Temple's ProRanger program and I saw that the program had the option to explore police, fire and EMS as well as learning to become a law enforcement park ranger — I knew it was the perfect fit. My expectations going into the program was gaining the skills necessary to build the foundation for my career and becoming the best ranger that I could be."
Temple University Ambler is one of only seven institutions in the country to offer the Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy while Temple is the only site to offer the ProRanger program. In addition to coursework, students complete summer internships at national park locations throughout the country, leadership training camp, a variety of weekend training programs and activities and PRLEA training, the final leg of their journey, which Boyce recently completed.
"I was originally going to head to Lake Mead for my internship but then COVID struck," said Boyce. "Instead, I stayed in my home state and went to Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook Unit, in New Jersey."
Spanning 27,000 acres from Sandy Hook in New Jersey to Breezy Point in New York City, the park, according to the National Park Service, is both the gateway from the ocean into New York Harbor and the gateway to the National Park Service for millions of visitors every year.
"It's a lot of hands-on work. It gave me the opportunity to see firsthand what the job would be like with visitor contacts, visitor assists and some medical calls along the way," he said. "For a park ranger, this hands-on experience is invaluable. The job is all about interacting with people. It's a field that's really like no other; getting that exposure and being able to determine if it's really the right career choice is a great benefit of the program."
Throughout the school year, Boyce said, ProRanger training sessions are held at least once a month, "which is similar to a police explorer program — career skills development, finding out first and foremost if this is for you."
"That something that is stressed throughout the program — is this the fit for you. Being a law enforcement ranger is an intense, essential role within the National Park Service — it's something that you need to be thoroughly prepared for," he said. "You are developing skills so that you are ready to get to work from day one when you start the (PRLEA) academy — traffic management, officer safety and wellness, control skills, physical training sessions. Once a year, we would take part in leadership camp; going out to a national park for a week and putting all of the skills we have learned to the test."
The Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy, Boyce said, is a full-time, 19-week program held at Temple Ambler, "which is the culmination of the ProRanger Program — Temple Ambler provides a valuable, realistic training environment for us to practice what we are learning."
According to Criminal Justice Training Programs, the academy consists of more than 700 hours of professional instruction designed to prepare and enable students to obtain employment with the National Park Service as a seasonal law enforcement ranger. The curriculum places particular emphasis on visitor and resource protection, federal law and procedure, authority and jurisdiction, natural and cultural resource management, officer safety and survival skills, and physical conditioning.
"The academy is your last step before going out into the real world and becoming a ranger. I think our program is unique in that you can leave it completely ready to join the National Park Service as a law enforcement ranger," said Boyce. "Being a law enforcement ranger presents unique challenges — every park offers a different set of circumstances. As a ranger, you develop a comprehensive set of skills — law enforcement, medical response, fire safety, education — that ensures that you are capable of serving the public."
After graduation, Boyce will be doing just that having accepted a position at Colonial National Historical Park in York County, Virginia, which includes the site of the Jamestown Colony, the first permanent English settlement in North America; the Yorktown Battlefield, site of the last major battle in the American Revolution; and the scenic, 23-mile Colonial Parkway.
"My criminal justice degree in combination with the ProRanger program has helped me gain the knowledge I'll need about effective policing and policing today. I've also gained an understanding of how law enforcement within the national park service differs from other places," he said. "With law enforcement in the National Park Service, there's a sense of stewardship — everything you are protecting has archeological or historical value. You are out there and you might be the only face that the visitor will see. There's a lot of pride that goes into what you are protecting and a sense of responsibility to the parks' visitors and the environment."
A transfer student from Brookdale Community College where he earned his associate's degree in Criminal Justice, Boyce said the transition to Temple was smooth academically — almost all of his credits from Brookdale transferred to Temple — while discovering the ProRanger program provided welcome social connections.
"The transition — finding a new friend group — was initially a little tough socially. Being a ProRanger was a big help and getting involved in clubs; I joined Adventure Bound, an outdoors club at Temple, which helped me get out with friends and explore," he said. "It's been a great experience living in North Philadelphia while learning to be a park ranger. That's a diverse set of experiences, which is what's available for students at Temple."
Everyone has the capacity to realize their dreams and affect positive change on the world in ways both large and small, said Boyce. It all makes a difference.
"Perseverance conquers. No matter what field you're pursuing, it might seem like a long road ahead," he said. "It's going to take a lot of work, but it's worth it. Make good choices now. Do something to stand out in a positive way and enjoy the trail ahead."