By: Óscar Hernández
Thanks to Hispanic Access Foundation, I am able to intern at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, where I focus my work on Urban Outreach. As an Urban Outreach Intern, my goal is connecting communities with the nature that surrounds them. I was given an amazing opportunity with this internship to be able to explore a career path that perfectly fits my education background, my skills, and, most importantly, my interests. It's a job that keeps me excited to come back to the next day and it's one where I really feel like I'm making a difference - not just with the environment, but with the people that I get to work with. So far, I've gotten to work with teenagers from the SEAK (Students Eagerly Acquiring Knowledge) program, kids from the ArtStart Between Water and Sky program, and youth from Urban Ventures. The kids that I've had the pleasure to work with have all been so passionate about the environment and getting to see them get excited about wildlife and nature really makes the work I do worth it.
With the SEAK kids, I was able to be with them for a week while they learned about environmental topics such as water quality, pollinator conservation, and human impact on an ecosystem. It's been very exciting to be able to work with such bright and excited kids and it's great to see just how much they are wanting to learn.
Together we were able to help out the Ecological Services team at the Wildlife Refuge by planting new shrubs and wildflowers near their offices, so that a great pollinator garden will began to grow. It was great to be able to talk with the kids and tell them that human impact on the environment doesn't have to mean that it's a bad thing. When we do restoration projects and continuous conservation, even if it's just in our backyards, we really are making a difference!
Looking to the future with Latino Conservation Week, I am currently planning two camps for Latino youth, one aimed at elementary aged kids and one for high school students. With these camps, my goal is to inspire these kids to take a new look at the nature that's all around them and to really understand that these things have both ecological and cultural value. I want them to know that they can make a difference; that they are that difference.