As someone who had spent a great majority of the last two years living in the outdoors my first impression of D.C. was that it was too big, overcrowded, and didn’t have the access to the outdoors that I wanted. It was not somewhere I would care to revisit.
Much of my time that week was occupied getting to know the people I would be working with, and trying to digest the many acronyms that exist within the Parks System alone. Luckily I was surrounded by many wonderful people who were willing to share their time and knowledge. One of these such people was Rita Hennessy, Program Lead for the Wild and Scenic Rivers & National Trails Systems. Rita dedicated her time to answering my questions, and introducing me to the various agencies that work with the National Trails System.
One afternoon, after visiting with the Forest Service, Rita offered to take me around the National Mall, an opportunity to stretch my legs and do some sightseeing. As we visited monument after monument I began to contemplate and reflect on the history of the nation and my own, thinking about how I had gotten to the place I am now.
Both of my parents became citizens while I was in elementary school. I still remember my mom studying and learning about our government and nation just as I was beginning to do the same. Being the child of immigrants who opted to stay within a community they were comfortable with, which was other Latinx families, I couldn’t fully grasp the concept of my civic duties, or what being an American meant.
On my walk around the National Mall I visited the Lincoln Memorial, stood on the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech, and observed the names etched in the Vietnam Memorial (Reyes, Morales, Cruz, etc.). Here I was able to reflect on the complex history of the country, acknowledge the diversity of characters that were key to shaping our liberties and rights, and recognize where I fell in all this.
I take pride in the efforts I’ve made to get where I am today, and recognize that this is just the beginning of my journey. I went on my first camping trip when I was 20 years old, and fell in love with the feeling of living outdoors. At that time I would have never believed that I would be given the opportunity to work with the National Parks Service.
My hope in my new position as a marketing and communications fellow is to continue to share my vision and hope for a more welcoming and inclusive nation, by encouraging people of all backgrounds to engage in their communities. Within the Parks Service and working with the National Trails System this looks like finding ways to promote the continual development, conservation, and protection of the outdoor resources of our nation; and to continue to provide knowledge, and accessible recreation opportunities for everyone!
Written by: Crystal Salvador-Zapote, Communications Fellow