Tag Archives: youth employment

Bienvenidos a McKinney NWR

Ivette first joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Yale graduate and a summer intern through our Hispanic Access Foundation partnership. She’s now joined the team full time at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, and is making great strides in connecting with the local Hispanic community in New Haven, CT.

The transition from my summer internship to working full-time at McKinney has been great. I am thankful for the supportive staff who constantly check-in with me and provide me with the necessary resources and guidance to succeed. As the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Coordinator, my responsibilities include collaborating with partners such as Yale Peabody Museum and New Haven Parks, providing environmental education at local New Haven schools, establishing new connections with community organizations, and engaging underrepresented audiences. I love working primarily on the urban wildlife refuge partnership because every day I get to do something new. One day I’m helping cleanup an island, the next I’m attending a conference, and then I get to lead activities in Spanish at the Peabody. I am also very excited because McKinney has recently gone bilingual on Facebook. Check us out!

Earlier this fall, Ivette represented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at ¡Fiesta Latina!, an annual event at the Yale Peabody Museum that celebrates Hispanic culture. The Museum has been an integral participant of the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, established to connect urban communities with the National Wildlife Refuge System and nature. The event, held on October 8th, featured family activities, crafts and live music, and was attended by more than 2,250 visitors!


Ivette manned an interactive and informative station featuring pelts and bilingual information about Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mission.

The visitors loved learning about the animal pelts, tracks, and scat. It was a rare opportunity for many of them to feel the pelts of local CT wildlife. They also enjoyed learning the Spanish name of each animal (beaver-castor, fox-zorro, coyote-coyote, skunk-zorrillo, and raccoon-mapache). My favorite part was when a visitor refused to touch any of the pelts because she had a slight fear of the animals, but after chatting about the importance of protecting wildlife she felt comfortable enough to touch the pelts.


The majority of visitors at the event were unaware of the USFWS and the National Wildlife Refuge System, but once they heard about all the opportunities refuges have to offer they were very excited to learn about their local refuge. A lot of them brought home maps of the refuge and couldn’t believe they didn’t know about this hidden gem in their backyard. A lot of visitors mentioned that they were looking forward to bringing their families to view the salt marsh at Stewart B. McKinney.

¡Fiesta Latina! served as a great opportunity for Ivette and other Service employees to share our mission and invite Latino families to visit their local refuge. Since the event, Ivette and other members of McKinney NWR staff have participated in a number of community service events and received a number of inquiries about how the Service can tie in to events at local community and school organizations. Most recently, McKinney NWR hosted a Fall Foliage walk, and Ivetta assisted Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity with a cleanup event at Norwalk Shea Island.

Check back soon for an update from Michael Bonilla, another Hispanic Access Foundation superstar whose work has expanded at at Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership.

Celebrating a Legacy: Maine & Youth Conservation Corps

By: Kimberly Snyder, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge



Kim Snyder is a writer by trade and a biologist at heart. She is currently working as an intern at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

On August 19th, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge celebrated its 50th Anniversary with an open house; showcasing our history, conservation work, and future plans for the refuge. The event was well attended, with over 200 people stopping by our tables, talking with our biologists or enjoying a guided trail walk.

One of the most pleasing encounters for our visitors though, was the Conservation Corps table. There, they were greeted by three generations of service members: our current Youth Conservation Corps members who had put in eight weeks of conservation and maintenance work for the refuge, our Maine Conservation Corps members who were serving 11 month terms in educational and biological capacities for us, and Ralph Bonville a 97-year old gentleman who had served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 building fire roads near Princeton, Maine. They made quite a team!

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Ralph (center), joined by MCC alum Elizabeth Deletsky (right) and 2016 YCC service member Jackson (left). 

[As a former member of MCC], it was really cool to see where it all started…and how it evolved.

– Elizabeth Deletesky, MCC service member alumni

Ralph joined the Corps in his late teens, using the New Deal opportunity for paid maintenance work to gain experience working on public lands. He found himself in the back of a pick-up truck, shoveling gravel for roads with four other young men. The work was physically demanding but he gained a lot from those long hours. Like so many other young men of his time, Ralph joined the military after working for the Corps. He worked as a naval switchboard operator until an injury gained him an honorable discharge. His journey then took him, oddly enough, to the Timber Point Peninsula in Biddeford, ME, and the estate owned by Charles Ewing. Mr. Ewing hired Ralph as a groundskeeper and he spent much of the rest of his career working for the family. Ralph often had to complete his work on a shoestring budget, doing his work as efficiently and economically as possible. In the 1940s, Ralph painted the entire exterior of the family’s home on the island. Now 80 years later, he met the kids who were repainting it — our YCC crew!

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YCC and MCC service members of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

This crew of five high school students and their supervisor spent many hours at that house this summer; clearing out invasive species, rebuilding paths, and repainting the house — all on a modest budget. They became as familiar with the grounds as Ralph had and they were delighted to meet him in the flesh after hearing so many stories about him.

For both YCC and MCC, Ralph’s stories and experience was a reaffirmation of everything they had done during their service. He represented the path forward from their employment here as well as perspective on what their service would mean to service members and citizens of the future.

Just like Ralph, our MCC and YCC members are thankful for the skills they have learned during their service. Maybe in another 80 years, one of our YCC members will speak to a visitor about the summer they spent cutting invasive pepperweed and painting the old house on Timber Point.


“I’m a HAF intern but I learned a whole lot”

Our Urban Program stems from the important need to understand what factors may facilitate or inhibit people in urban settings from connecting with wildlife and nature. Our interns this summer through Hispanic Access Foundation have been instrumental in helping us connect with Latino communities across the region from Eastern Massachusetts to Baltimore. They’ve been to city parks, neighborhoods, community gardens and meetings, schools and summer camps helping urban residents find, appreciate and care for nature in their cities, neighborhoods and beyond.

Thanks & congratulations to our 2016 cohort of interns for all their hard work and dedication. You’ll be a tough act to follow!

We recently gathered the interns, their supervisors, and leadership from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Hispanic Access Foundation for a final close-out to the summer.


We were hosted by Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and their great team of staff and volunteers

Each intern gave a brief presentation on their summer experiences and provided feedback for all parties who mentored and supervised them.


Michael Bonilla provided weekly environmental education programs on wildlife found in vernal pools,  or as he calls them, “wicked big puddles” at the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. He seamlessly connected with members of the Providence Latino community and provided a warm welcome to folks new or unaware of the National Wildlife Refuge System.


Amber Betances took a trolley and two buses —  a 90 minute commute to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge each morning. She connected with Philadelphia residents at community meetings and has shed some light on barriers to visiting the refuge, such as transportation. Her experience this summer will undoubtedly contribute to her budding career as a landscape architect.


Sabrina held her first bird, gave her first trolley tour, caught her first fish and kissed a lot of unsuspecting animals at Paxutent Research Refuge. More seriously though, she may have experienced the most professional and personal growth in the whole group and took all of those “firsts” completely in stride.

I had the opportunity to lead my own program called Flutter by, Butterfly for children ages five to seven. I focused on the basics of the butterfly — what/how they eat, their life cycle, and we also went on a short butterfly walk. Overall, running programs at the visitor center has been a great experience and I would definitely do it again!


Ariel provided some much appreciated environmental education for youth in Springfield at Forest Park. She joined ReGreen Springfield with a Skulls & Pelts program that allowed kids to explore native wildlife like bears and bobcats (and imaginary bob-bears and beaver-cats and whatever else they came up with).

If I had to choose one thing that empowered me the most during my internship, it would be the outreach and education work I did. I was able to connect with kids, younger and older, and get them excited, involved and talking about nature. I wanted the kids to see someone like me doing this kind of work and realize that it’s possible.


Wilson shared his love for birds with the general public and led a bunker tour in Spanish for a Latino family at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. As a key member of the Visitor Services team, he welcomed new and recurring visitors to the Refuge and contributed to maintenance and field work whenever possible.


Ivette connected with a broad base of New Haven residents at the Yale Peabody Museum, and made guest appearances with Boy Scout and summer camp groups. She also put together a great event for Latino Conservation Week on behalf of Stewart B. McKinney NWR.


As a final project, the interns were tasked with the responsibility of assessing a potential “kayak trail” for visitors to Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. They also accompanied Refuge staff for an afternoon kestrel release and some bog turtle tracking.

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The interns participated in a kestrel release at Great Swamp NWR

Thanks & congrats again to our interns for a job well done. We can’t wait to see what you do next!