Spotlight Story

21 September 2022

Kelly Vera: From an Internship to a Passion for Conservation



Category: Spotlight Story

Born and raised in Toms River, New Jersey, Kelly Vera is proud to be both Ecuadorian and a New Jerseyan. Coming from a family of environmental scientists where both her father and sister majored in environmental science, she felt the need to also major in environmental science.

Yet, Kelly’s dream had always been to travel the world and write stories for a publication like the National Geographic or something similar. While at William Paterson University, she first heard about Hispanic Access Foundation through the Educational Opportunity Fund program. She decided to apply for a three-month long internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Great Swamp National Wildlife Service through the MANO Project.

During the summer in 2017 of her internship, her perspective drastically changed on environmental science and education. She felt she finally understood the passion behind the career and her role within the conservation world. Her favorite moments ranged from being able to do hands-on refuge management work, working in the field, tagging animals ranging from bats to a bear for the state of New Jersey.

“I felt like this was finally it, I want to do this for the rest of my life,'' Kelly shared. This love for combining scientific work with nature and educating people instilled in her a need to continue.

She was offered a year long extension but could not take it on because it was her last year of college.

“I nearly cried when I gave up my work boots, I just felt a need to continue working in the field.”

She came back for another summer in 2018, hoping that she could be extended for a year-long position but funding was cut. This meant she had to form another path and began serving as an Americorp fellow. However this did not cut her passion short, it only grew.

Kelly took a gap year and decided to pursue a master’s degree in Environmental Science at Montclair State University.

Now, as a newly graduated young professional with a masters in environmental science, she hopes to get back into field work.

“I want to get back into the field and continue this work that inspires me.”

Currently, Kelly is a fellow with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, receiving mentorship and advice to get a full-time opportunity in conservation. In the meantime, she is a resource teacher for a school in Newark and works part-time for the New Jersey Tree Foundation planting trees on the weekends.

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and working with leaders like Kelly Vera, who have a stake in their community and have the drive for positive change. To help support and continue this work, please consider making a Charitable Donation

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Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

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