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Pathways Program Brings Intern to Texas to Work and Study

ArcGIS storymap, photos and articles compiled by Quenna Terry, NRCS Texas

Pathways Program Brings Intern to Texas to Work and Study (Open ArcGIS storymap with latest version of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari or Microsoft Edge)

The Pathways Programs offer clear paths to opportunities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)‚Äč for students from high school through post-graduate school. One of the options for students through The Pathways Program, is the People standing outsideInternship Program targeted at current students and individuals accepted for enrollment in a qualifying educational program. This program provides students enrolled in a variety of educational institutions, with paid opportunities to work in agencies and explore Federal careers while still in school. Additional options consist of the Recent Graduates Program, and the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program.


Melaina “Laney” Wientjes is serving a second year as a Pathway’s intern for NRCS in the Canyon Field office in Canyon, Texas. Laney, a native of Eagle Butte, South Dakota, said she came to Texas by chance after applying for a Pathway’s position available in multiple locations across the U.S. The first reply she received was from Texas.

“I jumped on it,” she said.

After spending one summer in the High Plains region in 2021, she decided to leave San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico, and transfer to West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) in Canyon, Texas.Lady standing outside

“The NRCS Pathway’s internship is what brought me to WTAMU to finish up my bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science,” Laney said.

Her favorite part of the internship in Canyon is the time she spends in the field with NRCS employees from her office. She said it’s beneficial going with them to the field and having them guide her along the way.   

“I’m so fortunate to be working with them and getting to know producers and understanding their needs.” she said, “I can tell they like their job; they like what they do, and they are good at it.”

Laney became interested in working for USDA-NRCS through her background in ranching and agriculture. Laney has a rich culture growing up on the reservation of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe where her family’s ranch is located 25 miles east of town.

As a Native American, Laney explained some family traditions she learned while growing up and working on the land.

“We respect the land and what it gives to us, and in turn, we need to give back to the land,” Laney said. “I try to be respectful to my family who came before me, my family who are here now and the land going into the next life. I think that it is important to know about yourself and where you come from so that you can keep it (the land) alive. Learning my culture from my family has always been a big influence for me.”

Laney said she wants to pursue employment as a soil conservationist with NRCS when she finishes college. She is slated to graduate from WTAMU in December 2022. Ultimately, her goal is to become a district conservationist.

Outside of work, Laney enjoys spending time at home with her daughter, and helping with her family’s business of raising horses.