provided to The Santiva Chronicle
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island welcomed two new interns this month to assist with its WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) mobile classroom program for the 2023-2024 school year. Ashley McGovern and Frank Tumminello will work with Urban Education Leader Melissa Maher teaching Title-1 students on visits to the Tice community and greater Lehigh Acres area within the Lee County School District.
A native of Johnston, Iowa, and a recent graduate from Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo., McGovern majored in marine biology with minors in environmental science and criminal justice. She last worked with Wallace Elementary School students in Johnston one-on-one as a substitute associate for students with disabilities or in need of special accommodations.
“I am most looking forward to working with local students and getting them excited about science,” McGovern said. “I am really enjoying getting to know all the people who work and volunteer at the refuge and the society.”
McGovern enjoys spending time at the beach and exploring Southwest Florida’s parks and other attractions.
Tumminello, from Cape Coral, grew up on Sanibel Island. He graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) with a degree in biology and environmental studies, and previously interned with FGCU’s Wings of Hope program.
“The refuge is just as I remember it as a kid growing up here on Sanibel,” he said. “I am excited to be a part of something that was a significant part of my childhood and to introduce kids and adults to the WoW’s cool learning tools.
In his spare time, Tumminello likes to read, draw and animation, and play video games.
The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) provides housing, living stipends, and other benefits for six to eight interns each year. Since Hurricane Ian destroyed onsite intern housing last year, DDWS has procured temporary housing on and off island until the refuge is able to design and build replacement accommodations, expected by 2025.
“We welcome Ashley’s and Frank’s energy and enthusiasm,” said Maher. “WoW has become one of the refuge’s most robust teaching tools, and it takes the input of our interns to keep the curriculum and student interaction relevant and fresh.”
For information about refuge internship programs and supporting them, contact Ann-Marie Wildman, DDWS associate director, at 239-789-8991.