Interning at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge has been an absolute pleasure and privilege. One of my favorite moments at the refuge was exploring the last mile of undeveloped shoreline on the lower Detroit River and witnessing the marshland and secondary forest come to life after a harsh winter. Humbug Marsh is the refuge unit that contains the last mile; it’s the special place that I wanted the public to explore and fall in love with as much as I and the other interns did. This is why I became extremely excited when we brought a group of high school students to explore the area. The students were on their summer break, but this did not stop them from helping to make their neighborhood park a cleaner place for people to enjoy. As a reward, we invited them to Humbug Marsh where they learned about the beauty of a marshland, the uniqueness of an old growth forest, and the fascinating world of monarch caterpillars. This was also a special day for me because I realized that during that hike, I was accomplishing one of my personal and professional goals: empowering Latinos and specifically students to become stewards of their natural resources and places. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through hands on exploration where students have a chance to feel the cool breeze of a summer day; to hear the calls of distinct birds and be able locate them with a pair of binoculars; where they engage in conversation and in the company of their friends; and where they take in all the smells and sights that nature has to offer. Now more than ever I realize that there is a need for more and similar opportunities for other students in the nearby communities. This is why the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is so uniquely located, providing both a critical habitat for wildlife and fish and a place where people from all backgrounds can come to recreate throughout the year.
Overall, I was very fortunate to be placed in this wonderful urban wildlife refuge because I have truly gained new and expanded current skills across many levels. I’ve also come away with an appreciation for the staff that are committed to the USFWS mission despite past and current obstacles. For this reason and much more, I can’t thank the Hispanic Access Foundation and the USFWS enough for giving me the opportunity to meet a group of staff who have become a great source of personal and professional inspiration and supportive network.