Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
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SPOUT | Rant, React, Chat, Blather

Kokei Otosi, super intern. | Photo by Jacqueline Ostfeld

We get it. You're having fun.

Our newest intern is annoying. Most of us hardworking protectors of the planet enjoy our jobs. But we don't go bounding around the Sierra Club's San Francisco headquarters windmilling our arms, laughing loudly, glowing with unsuppressed joie de vivre. Kokei Otosi does.

So, on a hot summer afternoon, I call her into my airless office to address the threat she poses to staff morale. As low person on the organizational totem pole, this 19-year-old soon-to-be college sophomore should be cursing the copy machine and whining about gofer boredom to friends back at NYU. Instead, she plops into a chair, grinning and chattering about her most recent "working" weekend.

In her first few days at the Club, Kokei marched in New York City's Puerto Rican Day Parade and scrambled up a rock wall on the White House lawn with Club volunteers involved in Michelle Obama's program for military families. But that's all so five days ago. Now she wants to talk about the American River, where she crashed through waves with high school students from Oakland, California:

"One of the girls was telling me she'd never been rafting before. She was really nervous! As a kid, she'd been afraid of water. I told her that after the first rapid she'd be sold! I watched her the whole time! She was screaming! Laughing! It was hot. Really hot. Very high water. A third of the way through the trip, she was the one who volunteered to jump in. No wetsuit. The water was cold! Freezing. At the end of the day, the seniors were in charge of dinner. It was the most delicious chicken stir-fry I've ever had in my whole life!"

As a manager charged with maximizing the ROI of the communications team's human capital, I should have recognized the risk when we announced our second annual Best Internship on Earth program and once again received hundreds of video applications. I certainly should have been alerted by the infectious exuberance Kokei displayed in her submission.

Now, at a moment when Sierra editors are already seething with envy as they pore over Cool Schools stories about students living in yurts in the Adirondacks and pizza-gardening in Indonesia, it's only natural—if a touch unprofessional—for so many to be greeting this intern in the hallway with a dreamy "I want your job."

What can I do about Kokei's disruptive bliss? Not much. Except, I guess, hope that everyone is working so hard that they don't have time to watch the videos she's posting as the Sierra Club's youth ambassador at —Bob Sipchen, editor in chief

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