After working many years as a professional rigger on Navy ships, the thought of returning to school to find another profession seemed impossible for Roxanne Walkowiak.
An injury prevented her from continuing her career in the shipyard so her family encouraged her to take courses at Alvin Community College. Walkowiak said she almost didn’t make it past the entrance exam.
“That test was brutal,” she said. “I told my daughter if school was anything like that test, I don’t want to go.”
But Walkowiak endured the exam, passed and started attending ACC.
“Once I started coming to school, I fell in love with school,” she said. “I was like wow! I was learning so much.”
Walkowiak had not trouble deciding what she wanted to do. After many years of volunteering at Rosie the Riveter National Park in California and local parks in Brazoria County, she knew she wanted to be an interpretive park ranger.
“I like helping people and talking to people,” Walkowiak said. “So I’m giving back and I’m helping them.”
Interpretive rangers act as guides for park visitors providing information about aspects of the parks including trails, local wildlife, camping, geocaching and more. Walkowiak is also a Master Naturalist through the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.
When she started her classes at the college, Walkowiak paid a visit to the ACC Career Services Department and asked specialist Sarahy Farley how she could accomplish her goal.
“I told her from day one, all I wanted to be was a park ranger,” Walkowiak said.
While she worked on her education and kept volunteering at local parks, Walkowiak also stayed busy on campus, joining the Student Ambassadors program. She also visited regularly with Farley and other ACC staff members.
“This is her dream, to become a park ranger and this internship is a great way to start her career,” Farley said.
Walkowiak began her internship as a ranger this Fall semester and has so far enjoyed her experience working with the Brazoria County Parks Department. The Department has a diverse array of parks 11 outdoor parks, three beaches and more than 20 boat ramps. Her tasks include park maintenance, offering tours, administrative duties and speaking with visitors.
When she finishes her courses at ACC, Walkowiak plans to transfer to a university to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Parks and Recreation Services at either Texas A&M-Galveston or Stephen F. Austin State University.
Walkowiak hopes her story will show other students the benefits of being active on campus and keeping regular contact with college employees.
“Everyone here has been super excited and proud for me,” she said. “This is what I’ve been working for.”
To hear more about Walkowiak’s story, you can listen to the ACC podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon, Spotify and Youtube.