On July 21, 2021, I held my first ever community event for Latino Conservation Week as a Hispanic Access Foundation Community Outreach intern. The event was a park clean up in my local park, Phil Rizzuto Park in Elizabeth, NJ. The goal of this cleanup was to allow community members of the Elizabeth to promote conservation, community and encourage coming together to restore important benefits from nature, restructure how the community imagines its green spaces, and even change the perception littering and trash in their environments. Elizabeth, NJ is a vibrant city that is most definitely a melting pot, so this event was perfect to bring Elizabeth’s Latinx community to participate in activities to protect our natural resources. I had over 20 participants and could not be happier with the turn out. We got to clean the park’s nature trail and its creek. Phil Rizzuto Park used to be an auto part junkyard, so there were plenty of car parts and materials we collected from car seats, seatbelts, and even windshield wipers. Even with a thunderstorm interrupting the event halfway through it was still successful and I am so proud.
Holding this event made me realize how passionate I am for community outreach and how much community means to me. Being a part of a community makes me feel like I am a part of something greater than myself. Community allows me opportunities to connect with others and makes me feel safe. Having a sense of community unites people. Since building a sense of community is such an ever-growing passion of mine now, I definitely want a career path which allows me to help communities and connect with different communities. Being able to work with the community during my event left me with such a satisfied and fulfilling feeling which made me so happy. This is a feeling I want to feel again and again throughout my life, and I will definitely cherish it. Helping communities and others brings people together to support each other and that is what we need to help keep our planet healthy for us and future generations. Holding this event and this Community Outreach internship is the jumping off point for many more successful community events in my future.
Finally, holding this event has made me realize that conservation is very important in Latinx communities. As a Hispanic Access Foundation Community Outreach intern conservation is important to the Latinx community because conservation efforts help people feel like they are part of not only the community, but the environment in which they reside in, and conservation give these communities the knowledge and expertise to take action. After my park cleanup event I felt as though the participants felt a sense of pride for their community and their local green spaces. Overall, I am so thankful for all the opportunities this Community Outreach internship has given me from learning something new every day, from being able to connect to my community, to holding the cleanup event. I am incredibly thankful and cannot wait for more to come!
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Location: Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge