If you would have asked me this time a year ago about being a National Park Service Volunteer, I would have said “What are you talking about?” Ask me now, and I will tell you it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
My name is Andrew Mizsak, I am a resident of Bedford, Ohio, and I have been a Volunteer here at James A. Garfield NHS for nearly a year. I am involved at the site in historical interpretation, where I give tours of the home of President Garfield, work with Boy Scouts, and give large-scale presentations every few months. As a history and government teacher, I look at what I do here at the Site as not only a way to serve my country, but also as an extension of my teaching.
It is truly a privilege to work with such a great group of individuals who are dedicated to the preservation of our nation’s historical treasures, and honoring the legacy of the Garfield Family. There is an esprit de corps here amongst the Rangers and Volunteers that is contagious, and the overarching values of teamwork and remaining focused on our mission of serving as good stewards of our nation’s history guide all we do.
What I really enjoy about serving as an NPS Volunteer is that this is a position where you can really make it your own. Your level of involvement is completely up to you. I am fortunate where I can spend many of my Saturdays here at the Park, and give a couple of tours, or work whatever special event is going on. The staff here at JAGA is very supportive of the research I have conducted for the programming I have presented, and have been very generous with their support and assistance.
During my time at JAGA, I have been able to conduct research about James A. Garfield and how the Constitution of the United States affected aspects of his life, as well as research into his tenure as an Ohio State Senator from 1859-61. During my research on Garfield and the Constitution, I found that President Garfield in January, 1865, as a Member of the US House of Representatives from Ohio, had a significant role in the debate in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the 13th Amendment – that was the debate that served as the plot of the movie “Lincoln.” However in the movie, there is not a single mention of him.
I also learned, during my research into Garfield’s time as a State Senator, that he and his roommate, Jacob Dolson Cox, who would also serve as a Civil War General and later as an Ohio Governor, would practice military drill on the front lawn of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus after Senate Session. Garfield would then go home and read the works of Napoleon Bonaparte, whom Garfield would come to revere, and claim that he learned how to be an officer by studying Napoleon. For those of you who have been on the House Tour, you know that there are portraits of Napoleon on either side of the fireplace in the Reception Hall, as well as one in the Memorial Library between the portraits of General William Tecumseh Sherman and Otto Von Bismarck.
Being a National Park Service Volunteer at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, or at any other National Park, is something I recommend if you are interested in helping to preserve our nation’s historical, natural, or cultural treasures, and like to tell their story. In my short time here at JAGA, I have made some wonderful friends, been able to really get back into what I love doing, and contribute to a cause that I believe in.
If this sounds like something that is a good fit for you, then come join our ranks. I would be more than happy to talk to you about serving as a NPS Volunteer.
-Andrew Mizsak, Volunteer