Have you hugged your ranger today? Our park’s staff seem to slip under the radar these days. You may see an occasional glimpse of forest green camouflaged in the midst of our lush green forests, but by and large, they are not cruising around town in uniform introducing themselves. Instead, the staff of 32 lead by Superintendent Steve Black is hard at work preparing for the new season ahead. Regular activities like School Kids in the Park, Reef Bay and L’Esperance Hikes, and the Folklife Festival are making their way on to the Friends of the Park calendar and we could not be more pleased for the return to the familiar favorites!
In an effort to get to know our park better, we are going to start with the people that make up our park staff! Then perhaps, uniform or not, next time you see one of our park staff walking down the street, you can say, “Thank you for all that you do for our park!” or give them a hug!
Have you ever been to one of the Folklife Festivals out at Annaberg? The festival is usually a 2-3 day event towards the end of February for Black History Month. It includes dancing, storytelling, and demonstrations of traditional crafts. The Friends have funded the festival for the past 28 years. There are displays from local artisans and culture bearers, Moko Jumbies, steel pan, Bamboula dancers, bakers, and charcoal demonstration. For the past 6 years, the event has been organized (with the help of her colleagues) by one park employee in the Interpretative division of the park, Ms. Golda Hermon. Golda does not give a speech at the event, nor is her name on the poster or banners. Yet, she is working behind the scenes, keeping history alive!
The Friends asked Golda a few questions about herself and how she began to work for the Virgin Islands National Park.
What is your full name?
My name is Golda Hermon.
Do you have a nickname?
Yes, people call me ‘Goldie’.
May I ask how old you are?
When did you start working for the park?
Right after high school. It was a temporary position. I worked at the front desk in Red Hook. I wore a beige and white dress to work. One of my fellow classmates and co-workers had told me about the job.
Did you go to college?
Yes, I moved to Manhattan to live with my grandmother and I went to LA Guardia Community College, Stenotyping Institute and Steno Academy.
What did you study?
I studied secretarial science and court stenography. After that, I always had a passion for nursing so I worked for 9 ½ years at Coler Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island. I worked with AIDS patients for four years.
How long did you live in New York?
I lived in New York for 22 ½ years in Manhattan and in the Bronx.
How many children are in your family?
My mom had 9 children.
What number are you?
I am number 6.
Why did you move back to the Virgin Islands?
My father, mother and siblings wanted me to move back.
Do you live on St. John or St. Thomas now?
I live on St. Thomas.
Do you have children?
I have 4 children and 3 grandchildren! They live in New York, Maryland, Florida and Atlanta.
How long have you worked at Virgin Islands National Park?
As of August 6th, I have been working here 19 years!
How many years do you need before you can retire?
Not really sure.
How many superintendents have you worked with?
Too many, they come for a short time and leave.
Who inspired you to join the Park Service?
Chief Enforcement Officer Schuler Brown gave me incentive and motivated me to keep trying to get hired until I was.
What jobs have you had here at the park?
First I was a park ranger, then it was changed to park guide.
What about your job do you enjoy the most?
I like the cultural sites in the park, Francis and Annaberg, and how we use them to bring back our culture and history. I organized the Seniors’ Day at Annaberg because I feel that the culture is being lost. So the seniors get to interact with the visitors and we can learn from their stories and crafts. I took them on a shore walk at Leinster 2 or 3 months ago too. They enjoyed it and they want to go back.
What would you like to do more of in the park?
I would like to do more cultural demonstrations at Annaberg. For instance, baking, basket weaving. Storytelling, music, and charcoal demonstration. This would help keep the culture going.
What advice would you give to a young Virgin Islander considering a career in the park service? It is a long process to get in, all I could tell them is to just keep trying. Whatever you are interested in, and if the park service has that opportunity, you need to have some kind of experience before you can get hired. So you should do research so you can know what experience you need for the job you are interested in applying for with the park. We need more cultural people. Learn the history of the islands! You have to know your island, the marine life, the biology of our animals. And whatever it is, if you start out believing in yourself, then go from there!
In partnership with Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, St. John Tradewinds has started a new monthly feature, “Preserve Paradise.” Content will focus on the FVINP’s mission to “protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources of Virgin Islands National Park and promote the responsible enjoyment of this unique national treasure while educating and inspiring adults and children to be stewards of the environment.”