19 August 2020

The Evolution of Mentoring

Written by: Allen Cardenas

One of the major aspects of this fellowship has been mentoring. Not only has my official mentor, Susan Rosebrough, been a tremendous influence and provided invaluable guidance, but so have so many others. I have come to realize that even passing conversations with new people have been eye-opening. As I gain this knowledge and experience, I want to give back. Luckily, I recently had a back-to-back opportunity to not only learn, but to teach.

During Latino Conservation Week, I put together a panel in collaboration with Latino Outdoors titled “Latinidad at NPS.” Five Latinx NPS employees shared their experience, wisdom, and career history in a public panel. My goal for this event was to share some of the knowledge I have learned while at NPS. All the panelists provided candid perspectives on what it is like to be a person of color at NPS and in the fields of conservation and outdoor recreation. The event was a success and received a ton of positive feedback.

Just two weeks later, I was lucky enough to be a virtual presenter for the In My Backyard internship program at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, here in Seattle. This NPS unit hosts a multi-week internship program that allows young adults, mostly teenagers, to develop skills, learn about professional development, and network. Each week focuses on a theme; my presentations were during the “Arts” and “Professional Development” weeks.

Being on both sides of the mentor/mentee relationship so close together proved to be a humbling experience yet refreshing reminder. Although I intended the panel to benefit the public, I still learned a great deal of information as I was asking the panel my own questions and ones from the audience. I was humbled to learn that there is still so much more for me to grow.  However, as nervous as I was to impart my own professional development advice onto the In My Backyard interns, I realized I have already learned a great deal as a young professional. I know I am nowhere near done learning, but my professional and personal self has evolved since I was in high school, which is where many of these young people are right now.

One topic that came up in both discussions was the myth of imposter syndrome or not being good enough. As off-putting as it sounds, I have learned to become comfortable with the idea that this feeling may never go away. Some of the people I look up to most admit to still feeling this way and it makes me realize that it isn’t that we are not enough, but rather we want to continue to grow and improve ourselves. Even as I come around to this idea, it is even more important to learn (and remind myself) to take a step back and learn to respect and enjoy my growth. We are enough, have been enough, and will be enough to be where we are.

Agency: National Park Service

Program: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program (COR)

Location: Rivers, Trails Conservation Assistance Program - Seattle Field Office

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