Cunningham is president of the Trust for the National Mall. The trust is looking for applicants for its Volunteers-in-Parks program, which educates visitors on the Mall. Applicants should be at least 21 years old, available for a minimum of two days per month in whole- or half-day increments and interested in a long-term commitment.
What is the VIP program?
The Volunteers-in-Parks is a National Park Service program ... and the Trust for the National Mall has been working with the Park Service to expand the number of volunteers we have on the National Mall. So we've added a component called the Roving Docent program to get people out on National Mall answering questions. We have 35 people deployed [from our first class from February 2012], and this is the second class we're inaugurating.
Do VIPs fight over where to get stationed?
In the first class we were fairly specific about supporting the park between 15th and Third streets down by the Capitol. There aren't a lot of monuments there and there's not a lot of rangers walking around, so we wanted to make sure there was coverage there. Our volunteers have been great about engaging the public -- there's a lot people kind of stopping and looking around at maps in that area.
How are VIPs trained?
They spend four Saturdays, eight hours in the classroom where they learn about the park, the history of park, the monuments and memorials, get Red Cross training and security and customer service training.
Is having docent experience and/or American history knowledge a requirement?
We prefer that they have a lot of interest in history, but they don't necessarily have to know National Mall history because we cover that in training. We would like them to have experience in dealing with the public and have experience in public speaking.
- Liz Farmer