Kent State Alum is a Natural When it Comes to Parks, Rec and Tourism

For Jessica Clonch, Pymatuning State Park feels like home as she leads moonlit hikes, arts and crafts activities and closeups with possums and eagles in the nest in her role as a naturalist.

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But on April 8, 2024, and the days before, the 2020 Kent State alum, had the opportunity to educate the public about the total solar eclipse, a wondrous event that filled her park with folks from as far away as British Columbia, Canada.

Since childhood Clonch has wanted to combine her love of the outdoors with her career. Now, to her delight, she’s living the dream.

“I loved camping. I loved backpacking. I loved all the outdoor recreation – kayaking, fishing and everything that I could possibly do outside. That's where I wanted to be. I didn't have a lot of knowledge of what jobs there were outdoors. So, the older I got and when I was in college, I saw there's a degree for this.”

Kent State’s Recreation, Park and Tourism Management Program in the College of Education, Health and Human Services gave Clonch the education and practical experiences to live her dreams.

In September 2023, Clonch became a naturalist with Pymatuning State Park, a part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the timing was perfect because it occurred months before the total solar eclipse.

Here is Clonch talking with Kent State Today about all things eclipse and her passion for parks and recreation.

Clonch, a Cortland, Ohio native, began her journey at the Kent State Trumbull campus in 2013 as a Veterinary Technology major before settling on Recreation, Park and Tourism Management.

Her minor in disability studies and community inclusion was dear to her heart because during her childhood many people who were close to her had disabilities.

“I knew in high school that I wanted to help the disability community integrate into outdoor activities because there are some opportunities for them,” Clonch said. “I believe that there are chances for use to bridge the gaps and create more opportunities.”

As a naturalist, a big part of Clonch’s job is planning and running programs and her classes and extracurricular activities at Kent State prepared her for the challenge.

“I miss college, honestly. Kent was wonderful. My professors were amazing. Everyone just felt so full of life and so well rounded and full of knowledge. And I was the kid in the front of the class, always raising my hand, like going back and forth and debating with the professors. I just loved the whole experience in general.”


Alum Jessica Clonch introduces a possum to students.
POSTED: Friday, April 19, 2024 10:11 AM
Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2024 03:01 PM
April McClellan-Copeland
Jessica Clonch