Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) launched its inaugural fellowship training program through its partnership with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in Denver on March 21. This program, which includes support from specialty outdoor retailer REI, is part of a year-long educational and training experience that has placed 12 recent college graduates of Latino backgrounds at USFS sites in Colorado, California, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Washington, DC. The fellows will learn about USFS professional opportunities and build skills and experiences required for success in outdoor-related careers. Participants are deeply committed to the outdoors, environmental stewardship, and community service.
"Our nation's Latino community cares deeply about enjoying and preserving our public lands," said Maite Arce, president and CEO of HAF. "This exciting fellowship program offers a wonderful opportunity for young people to build essential career skills while serving the community and engaging their peers and families in outdoor recreation and stewardship activities."
To kick-off the training experience, instructors from REI Outdoor School led participants in a day-long snowshoeing outing at Copper Mountain in Colorado. For most participants, it was their first time trying snow shoes, and was particularly memorable due to the quick sense of camaraderie that emerged.
"At REI we believe a life outdoors is a life well lived-for all," said Myrian Solis Coronel, manager of next gen marketing at REI. "And it's through cross-sector partnerships that we're able to support innovating programs like this one to engage and inspire people to explore and embrace the outdoors."
The training program included expert speakers from USFS, Denver-area environmental nonprofits, and other public agencies including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service. Fellows will be working at USFS sites to undertake education and outreach activities to engage diverse communities.
"Engaging young people and diverse communities to explore and appreciate the outdoors is important to the long-term future of our nation's forests and other public lands," said Jessica Godinez, who will be serving as the Education & Outreach Coordinator and Interpretative Field Ranger in the Rocky Mountain Regional Office and Mount Evans, both in Colorado. "Our work is about the Next Generation. We need to create experiences and conduct outreach that connects with people today in order to foster passion and stewardship for tomorrow."
The program supports the USFS mission and workforce development goals, develops the next generation of conservation and environmental stewards, and engages diverse communities.