I’m back! I was in Colorado for a little bit with the Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP) Conference, and I’ve returned to the Boston office now due to a three-week extension I received through the awesome partnership of the Hispanic Access Foundation and Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation. I will be here until September 9th, and I am super excited about that! There is A LOT to catch you up on, so I am going to start by going over my time in Colorado. This is also a busy week at the OCLP and with the National Park Service due to the Centennial. Thus, this blog post will cover my time in Colorado and the NPS Centennial. The other activities of this week that I do not cover in this blog post will be featured in next week’s blog post.
My 13-week internship with the OCLP this summer is possible due to the Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP) and Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF). From Wednesday August 10th to Saturday August 13th, I participated in the LHIP conference in Denver, Colorado. The conference included the roughly 50 LHIP interns from the Hispanic Access Foundation and Environment for the Americas that have been working across the country in a variety of National Parks that span from Grand Teton, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Great Smokey Mountains, Everglades, and Charlestown Navy Yard. The interns arrived throughout the morning of Wednesday, and the afternoon featured introductions and a trip to the Denver Art Museum. At the museum, we toured around the pre-Colombian exhibition, discussing the controversy and difficulties of labelling objects as “pre-Colombian,” and we also viewed a variety of other awesome exhibitions. We finished our activities for the day with a talk from Carlos Martinez, the Director of the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado. Carlos’ talk highlighted the importance of recognizing the growth, potential, and power of the Latinx community within the United States. I’ve included an image in this blog post that Carlos featured in his presentation to represent the diversity within the Latinx community itself. I found this speech to be incredibly powerful and foster my sense of making a difference for communities as a whole throughout the United States through our roles.
On Thursday, we spent the day at the NPS Office in Lakewood hearing presentations from various LHIP interns, participating in mock interviews, reviewing the federal application process on USAJobs, and discussing issues of diversity, inclusion, and relevancy within the National Park Service. Understanding the different experiences of the other LHIP interns was eye-opening into the diversity of activities and responsibilities. I also appreciate that LHIP took the initiative to organize multiple sessions to go over the federal hiring process with the interns. It is a complex, time-intensive system and warrants a thorough step-by-step discussion. We concluded the day by having dinner at Red Rocks in Colorado. We did not go to the amphitheater of the Red Rocks concert venue, but we got to hike the surrounding rock structures, which were breathtaking. The following day on Friday, we began the day with more presentations (I was in a group of three to discuss our respective work in architecture and landscape architecture), and two talks by Irela Bagué, of the Bagué group that consults on public infrastructure and water resources in Florida for different sectors of government, and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who is the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Deputy Director of Public Engagement at the White House and the granddaughter of the civil rights activist and labor leader Cesar Chavez. Hearing these two Latinas talk was remarkable, and I believe it is safe to say all the LHIP interns were mesmerized. We ended the trip at the Cal-Wood Education Center in Jamestown, Colorado. At Cal-Wood, we did a brief day hike on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, had an evening discussion on the importance of our roles and how we shape the LHIP experience for next summer’s group of interns, and took a night hike to watch the Perseid meteor shower up on the mountains. Safe to say, the experience of these four days was Colorado was incredible, and I am incredibly grateful to the Latino Heritage Internship Program for organizing the conference. I want to specifically give a shout to and greatly thank Maite Arce (CEO and Founder of the Hispanic Access Foundation), Liz Neuenschwander, (Chief of Operations and IT Officer at HAF), Jessica Loya (my representative at HAF), and Rodrigo Otárola y Bentín (my representative and Environment Program Associate & Wyss Fellow at HAF). Jessica and Rodrigo have been awesome reps all summer long and have diligently worked to create and organize many of the programming elements for the LHIP interns throughout the summer. Maite and Liz deeply care about the interns’ experiences and are willing to helping in any way possible, and it is easy to see that they are deeply committed to make HAF and LHIP the best programs possible for the interns and the entire Latinx communities that they serve. Additionally, Maite and Liz have played an instrumental part through their constant help and communication in making my next NPS internship in San Francisco possible. I will talk about my future plans in my last blog post in two weeks because that is not the main message of this blog post, but simply put, I cannot understate how significant and helpful a role HAF has played for me this summer. The program is really una gran familia of which I am so happy to be a part.
Being back from Colorado now, I am happy to have gotten back to the office this week because yesterday was a HUGE day for the National Park Service. The NPS celebrated its Centennial – that’s right, 100 years! – on August 25th, 2016. You can read up here on a fun CNN article that highlights several superlatives of the National Parks across the United States. Angelina and I arrived to the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation’s tent at Christopher Columbus Park in Boston to talk about our roles and the great work that the OCLP does with parks across the numerous Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. We were at our tent for an hour before the NPS Celebration Kick-off began with numerous speeches. After the speeches, which featured a highly ornate NPS 100 year birthday cake, we took a ferry to Georges Island, an island in the Boston Harbor that has the historic Fort Warren of the Civil War era. We walked around the island in celebration of the NPS Centennial, and we ended our day as the boat ride back rocked us all to sleep, each intern falling asleep on the shoulder of one another. And if you ask me, a group of National Park Service OCLP interns passed out on one another on a Boston Harbor ferry and with temporary golden NPS arrowhead tattoos up and down their arms is the perfect way to complete a Centennial.