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Johnathan Roberts brings history to life at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (HCNHP) in Chillicothe, Ohio, draws visitors eager to learn about its ancient mounds and earthen enclosures, now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

For Ohio University Chillicothe senior Johnathan Roberts, the park is more than an archaeological site; it's a dynamic classroom where he brings history to life through his internship.

Roberts, a history major passionate about service and cultural heritage, eagerly seized the opportunity to intern at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. He learned about the Lombardo Internship from OHIO Chillicothe Director of Student Services Dr. Ashlee Tatman, and Associate Professor of History Dr. John O’Keefe encouraged him to apply.

“I've always been fascinated by the intricate stories buried in our past,” Roberts said. “This internship allows me to contribute to preserving and sharing the history of the Hopewell culture."

The Lombardo Internship is designed to be dynamic, catering to interns' interests while addressing the park's diverse needs. Ohio University Chillicothe, in partnership with the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, launched the Bruce Lombardo Internship in 2022 to honor Bruce Lombardo (1956-2017), a retired teacher, published author, conservationist, and biologist who worked at the park and other cultural sites in the area.

“We encourage our interns to explore various facets of park operations," said HCNHP Director of Interpretation and Education Susan Knisley. “From assisting with educational programs and engaging in youth outreach to developing communication strategies and supporting our rangers, there are many opportunities. Jonathan’s eagerness to engage with our visitors makes him an asset.”

Roberts enjoys the variety each day brings at HCNHP.

“One highlight has been working on educational programs,” he shared, recalling a recent session where he helped local schoolchildren uncover the mysteries of the mounds. “Seeing their eyes light up as they connect with history is incredibly rewarding.”

The internship also emphasizes building community connections. O’Keefe recommended Roberts for the Lombardo Internship because of his strong interest in history and archaeology, along with his active engagement in class discussions.

“I was happy to recommend him. This internship will provide valuable experience and knowledge about career opportunities in history,” O’Keefe said.

The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.

As he learns his role and builds his interpretation skills, Roberts reflects on how his experience at the park is already shaping his future aspirations.

“I've always dreamed of working in cultural preservation,” he said. “This internship has shown me that it's a tangible goal."

Roberts, who moved to Chillicothe from Vero Beach, Florida, in 2019, served as the Campus Compact AmeriCorps Student Resource Coordinator (SRC) at OHIO Chillicothe last year. He supports the development and growth of the Student Resource Center, designed to provide much-needed resources to students facing barriers to academic success. He will return to his position as SRC coordinator at OHIO Chillicothe in the fall and plans to graduate in December 2024.

“The Student Resource Center helps me make a difference for my fellow students and take an active role in improving the community,” he said.

For now he is focused on making the most of his summer at the park, savoring each learning opportunity.

“This internship has opened my eyes to the rich history of this area,” he said. “I'm grateful to be part of preserving it for future generations."

Roberta Milliken, dean of campus and community relations at Ohio University Chillicothe, praised Roberts for impressing the Lombardo Internship selection committee.

“His commitment to serving others, professional comportment, and sincere interest in history made him a perfect fit for the internship,” Milliken said.

Roberts encourages others to visit Hopewell Culture National Historical Park to learn more about the history of the area and the Moundbuilders who called it home.

“Here in Ohio, learning about the Moundbuilders is part of the fourth-grade curriculum,” Roberts said. “I didn’t grow up in Ohio, so this is my intensive Ohio history class.”

Roberts is passionate about history, conservation, and justice. He hopes to use his degree in history (pre-law) to conserve the rich educational and natural resources of North America.

“I am fascinated by all aspects of history, especially the landscape and biodiversity of historical North America and how it has affected the people living here,” he said.

“I am excited about the opportunity this internship provides me to grow as a historian, local guide, and writer, and to gain valuable experience working at a federal level with the National Parks,” he said. “I hope to give something of value back to the park and the community through my work there this summer.”

July 9, 2024
Staff reports