Few experiences can rival spending a summer working on a national wildlife refuge. In partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation, the Connecting Latinos to Natural Resource Conservation program has provided this experience through a highly competitive application process. Last summer, 11 college students participated in 12-week internships to help connect them to work in conservation. The interns were introduced to careers in natural resources at seven wildlife refuges and participated in training that included real-world public education, interpretation, communications, conservation, and wildlife rehabilitation.
Meet the interns!
Ingrid Chavez, 23 – San Francisco, CA
Interests: Hiking, traveling, Bay Area sports, animals, Latin American news
Dream Job: Working in conservation
“…We take for granted all that our natural environment does for us. We need to protect our natural resources for future generations, especially for communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental injustices… The HAF internship has taught me to be flexible and open to new experiences. I have worked on a variety of projects from environmental education to water chestnut picking to working with endangered Puritan tiger beetles.”
Daniel Correa, 24 – Old Bridge, NJ/ Medellin, Colombia
Interests: Hiking, traveling and exploring new places domestically and abroad, learning about international news and developments
Dream Job: Work as a state or federal official that focuses on environmental restoration and mapping
“…I believe that protecting natural resources is connected with the well-being of communities. We can ensuring that communities throughout our country have good living conditions, and are be able to enjoy the outdoors by protecting our natural resources and promoting good sustainable ideas… The HAF Internship has taught me about the importance of becoming part of the community in which you would like to support and connect. Putting time and effort into that community carries a lot of importance and outreach is key to connecting with that community.”
Oscar Hernandez, 18 – Lakeville, MN
Interests: Wildlife and family
Dream Job: Urban outreach specialist
“…Being in nature is a great place to just be in and explore. Nature is beautiful and I want other people to enjoy it for a long time. The HAF internship taught me to reinforce my belief that the work that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is important and that conservation is a widespread issue; it impacts the quality of everyone living on this Earth.”
Cindy Garcia, 22 – New Haven, CT
Interests: Environmental humanities, especially political geography and indigenous ecological knowledge
Dream Job: Professor of non-western environmental history
“…It’s about fostering profound experiences with nature on a societal level. I believe that they make a difference in our environmental ethics and stewardship, which is critical in this day in age. As an environmental educator, I do my best to have kids explore their local environment through a variety of sensory activities. This approach can help minimize the fear of dirt, the disgust of insects, and the rejection of unappealing objects. While it’s hard to quantify how much my work positively influences these children, personally it’s the amount of effort that matters… The HAF internship has taught me the importance of building relationships in order to accomplish a common goal. I believe relationships are meant to foster creativity and intersect ideas that would facilitate that process of accomplishing it. For instance, Providence Playcorps staff and I shared an interest in using play as a means to activate Providence’s neighborhoods. They relied on me teach groups of children about nature, while I relied on them to send me to different local parks. While the process of meeting and coordinating was not easy, at the end of the day the people who benefit most are the children.”
Jorge Abraham Lopez Trejo, 26 – Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico
Refuge: Patuxent Research Refuge
Interests: Environmental education, environmental justice, Latino empowerment, urban planning. sustainable development. I love plants and history too.
Dream Job: Working with communities to develop green sustainable spaces that fulfills the community needs.
“I want to make sure that future generations have a planet to enjoy, clean air to breathe, fresh water to drink, wildlife to be amazed, and nature to be inspired. Environmental conservation with education are our biggest allies in this battle for our planet… The HAF internship has taught me to never give up! Perseverance and flexibility were major key players during my internship. Speak your truth, tell your story, connect with people and listen. It only takes one action, little or big to inspire a change; be the change, be the answer, be the solution.”
Gabriel Jimenez, 31 – Saginaw, MI
Interests: Community service, mentoring youth, fishing, hunting, any outdoor related activity
Dream Job: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer
“It is bigger than who I am. What I do now though, matters. I do this for my children’s children and do it for their best interest. We must all decide what is best for the environment and continue to keep protecting our natural resources… The HAF internship has taught me additional knowledge of the many different career paths within the FWS and networked with many FWS professionals. I believe it’s one of my biggest things I value most from this internship.”
Kelly Vera, 22 – Toms River, NJ
Interests: Reading, writing, hiking, and thrifting
Dream Job: A writer for National Geographic
“If there is one thing I love to quote it’s “If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while you count your money.” The earth and it’s endless giving of supplies is what gives us life everyday… No matter how tired I am or how overwhelmed I may feel from the work, I never quit because this is my passion. It is much greater than myself and the work could never keep me from conservation and environmental work.”
Gabrielle Perez, 19 – New York, NY
Interests: Environmental policy, conservation, environmental education, women’s empowerment
Dream Job: Being the head of the EPA!
“…I know that without a healthy natural environment, every single living thing is at risk of having having seriously damaging health issues. Our well-being depends on the well-being of the planet more than many people realize and I just want to help people become more aware of not only their connection to, but there dependence on nature!.. The HAF internship taught me that it is important to help people love and appreciate nature before hitting them with the hard and scary facts about what’s going on with the planet.”
Stephanie Melara, 22 – Elizabeth, NJ
Refuge: Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge
Interests: Animation, marine biology, wood working
Dream Job: Researcher studying deep sea hydrothermal vents
“…it is simply a responsibility. As an adult it is my responsibility to care of the place I call home and to make sure I am leaving a suitable, beautiful environment for all the other adults who will come after me… The HAF internship taught me that everything you get out of a job, a hobby or a passion is highly dependent on what you put in. This means that anyone and everyone can make a difference, if they are willing to put in the effort.”