It is rewarding to be able to connect with people on the ground on the status of a project and report back to the Washington, DC office to identify key storylines and successes on project developments and completions. Moreover, working in a highly collaborative environment has taught me how to learn and adapt quickly, especially in these times of uncertainty in public health. By communicating with staff, I have come to understand the reach of the National Park Service and convey this breadth to the general public. Some taking several years to come to fruition, sharing the impact that these assistance projects have had on the quality of life for many people is an honor.
So far, an aspect of the fellowship that has been close to my heart is the work we do to shed light on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) in the National Park Service. Specifically, in outdoor recreation, highlighting projects that make outdoor recreation inclusive to everyone everywhere has been exciting. In practice, this means creating and sustaining opportunities for folks from all walks of life to recreate outdoors. This includes those with different abilities, historically underrepresented minorities in the Park Service, and folks from all socioeconomic backgrounds. On the administrative side, this includes the Hispanic Access Foundation fellows at the National Park Service who are becoming Emerging Leaders in the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program. I believe efforts to promote JEDI in the workplace bring diversity in thought and freshness in strategy to teams across the country.
Now in my fifth year in Washington, DC, I am glad to have been able to accept a fellowship in the city where I became an adult. In the city of my alma mater, American University, I appreciate being able to remain where my academic and professional career flourished in. Originally from the Midwest, I come from a very humble background. I am a river girl at heart. I grew up by the Iowa River and left my family by the Calumet River. I see my personal and professional life as tributaries and distributaries that flow in and out of the main stream that has guided me throughout the way – the Mississippi. The river that starts small, builds momentum, and finally resonates at the mouth where it expels itself into the ocean. I hope to return someday and impart some of the knowledge I have learned around here, traversing the roads and trails in and around Rock Creek, the Potomac and the Anacostia River.
Written by Erica Ramirez, Communications Fellow, in Washington DC.