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18 November 2019

The San Juan National Forest - A Journey of Self-Discovery

Written by:

It is such an interesting thing to think that my time with the Forest Service is coming to an end. I look back on these six months and commemorate my experiences and know they were well spent.

I would like to take you on my journey and express truly what these six months has meant to me.

Originally, I did not take this internship for professional growth. I took it solely because I wanted to escape the barren desert of Las Vegas, Nevada, a place I have called home almost my entire life. When the internship first came to my attention in February of 2019, I knew without a doubt I would be moving to Durango, Colorado. I could not tell you how or I could not tell you why it had to be Durango but I knew in my core, there was something special waiting for me there. Six months later, I can say, I was right.

Throughout these six months I have discovered the power of initiative. There are times in the Forest Service, things become quiet and your boss is busy with the two other jobs he has been tasked with and you are left wondering what to do. When you want to work, you will find work, and that is exactly what I did. I actively went talking to my colleagues wondering if they needed assistance. Although I was occasionally met with no, there are times when I was greeted with yes and because of that initiative I was able to coordinate events such as the Annual Tribal Consultation Meeting and develop my communication skills working in Fire Dispatch.

Along the way I made beautiful connections that carried me along my time here because living in a new place can get lonely but one connection in particular that holds a decent amount of weight is that of my boss, who is not my boss, but who I call my boss: Ben Martinez. On my second day at the Forest Service my actual boss introduced me to Ben and this first thing he told me was how his alma mater beat my alma mater in the state basketball championship in 1995.

Naturally, this brought out the competitive side of me and a friendship was born. Little did I know this man would become the greatest professional mentor I would have in my life. No one has ever seen my potential the way Ben has. He has taken the time out of his busy schedule to guide me and force me to look within to see the only thing truly holding me back is myself. The best quality Ben has is his desire to grow, and just as he has helped me, he has allowed me to aid him with his communication skills. Together we have drafted up a communication plan to help the old engineer learn to talk to people effectively. Not many people are dedicated to being lifelong learners, but Ben is a leader and leaders understand the value of improving.

Durango, Colorado is a little bubble in the world. A place far different from any other place. It is not a big city, but it is also not a small town, it is this perfect mix of busy and calm that keeps the mind entertained but the soul at peace. Ben and I would often joke The San Juan National Forest is God's country and the truth is, it is. I would walk into that forest on my field days and could feel the existential beauty that only God could provide. I could not tell you why it had to be Durango, Colorado but after six months I can say it was what my soul needed. This journey was about personal growth, professional growth, and cultural growth and the person I arrived as is not the person I am leaving as. I found self-love on this journey. I found a new place to call home. And most importantly, I discovered the value of change and that is something only the seasons could demonstrate as gracefully as they do. Although it was not always easy it will forever be a place I look fondly on and remember as one of my favorite times of my life. The Forest Service taught me well and all I have for it is gratitude and love because without it, I would not be the person I am right now.

MANO Project
is an initiative of Hispanic 
Access Foundation.

P: (202) 640-4342