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Underrepresented youth experience barriers prior to field experiences

Cite this dataset

Bonfield, Susan; Dorta, Dalia; Vargas-Barriga, Jorge (2021). Underrepresented youth experience barriers prior to field experiences [Dataset]. Dryad.


Environment for the Americas has developed a model internship program that helps to recruit diverse youth for internship positions on federal lands and with non-governmental organizations. To improve the program, we have conducted almost a decade of surveys to examine the barriers diverse youth may face when applying for these positions and working at sites where staff, visitors, and other interns may be predominantly White. Our model has been very successful in addressing barriers, including those presented by Bowser and Sid. Survey responses show that issues of connection, confidence, comfort, and capability can be addressed through considerations of culture, staff awareness of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, training, communication, and mentorship.


Environment for the Americas surveyed interns from three different programs: Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP), America’s Great Outdoors/Celebrate Birds/Celebra Las Aves Internship Program (AGO), and the Mosaics in Science Internship Program (MIS). LHIP and AGO are both programs for students of Hispanic or Latino descent. MIS is a STEM program for students of diverse races and ethnicities. Interns in each program are surveyed three times; before commencing their internships, at the midpoint of their internships, and upon completion of the programs. The analyses in this report include data from 2013 up to pre-internship surveys in 2020; 578 total responses were collected.

The surveys include both quantitative and qualitative responses designed to assess participant satisfaction with the programs at each point in time, including career goals, awareness of federal jobs before and after the internships, barriers to participating, and other topics. Quantitative questions were asked as “Yes/No/Maybe” or on a Likert scale, where 1 is “Strongly Disagree” and 5 is “Strongly Agree”. Open-ended questions provide additional data, which were categorized for analysis. Though questions were mostly uniform, there is some variation depending on year and program.

Usage notes

Some inhomogeneities include variations in survey administration each year. For example, mid-internship surveys were not developed until 2016. Furthermore, diversity internship programs with the National Park Service (LHIP and MIS), began in 2015 and 2016 respectively, while Celebrate Birds was launched in 2012. Data from each program depend on its start date and the number of participants.