I moved to Williams, Arizona a month before graduating from college to work in the Williams Visitor Center, on behalf of the Forest Service of the Kaibab National Forest. I had my hesitations and fears, but the excitement I had about this new adventure pushed them in the furthest space of my brain, only to release them a few days prior to moving.
I have never left Southern California for this long. One of my biggest fears of leaving California and heading to Arizona are the social and political differences and tensions our states hold. I have had my fair share of experiences with racism and microaggressions, but for some reason I thought that in Arizona it would be different, or perhaps even heightened, due to my preconceived schemas and stereotypes about Arizona and its people.
It has only been a month and my experience so far has been great. I’m happy to report that so far it has not been what I imagined, it has been quite the opposite actually. Every person I have met through the Forest Service is as kind as they are cool, so are my coworkers at the Visitor’s Center, and the same goes for the locals!
At the Visitor’s Center, I have worked with a crew of strong, independent, and intelligent women. I’m learning how each of them has had their fair share of adverse life-experiences, but they have or are currently growing from them. They also are all amazing mothers that love their children unconditionally, and will fight tooth and nail for them if need be. They remind me of my mom.
On the day of my graduation, because there was not much virtual fanfare, I simply went to work. During my lunch break, I had a virtual graduation celebration for my Leadership Studies minor which I did end up going for the most part. As soon as I was exiting the breakroom, I heard the infamous graduation song Pomp and Circumstance, and I saw my coworkers waiting for me with a balloon and a rose. It is one of the nicest things I’ve ever experienced, and it is certainly not something I’d expect from folks that I have just met.
I’m grateful for this fellowship opportunity in collaboration with HAF, MANO, the Forest Service, the Kaibab National Forest, and the city of Williams, because I have already learned so much in my month here. I now know so much about places I have yet to visit, like the Grand Canyon and the greater Northern Arizona area. I’ve visited Keyhole sink with a group of students and Forest Service employees, and I learned much more about the rich history and culture in this region. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know the community better by getting involved in events like their city-wide clean up event as well as by making conversation with locals in the shops and restaurants. Most importantly, I am most grateful for this experience because it broke down schemas and fears I had prior to arriving. I have regained confidence in exploring the rest of the country, and later the world.
Agency: U.S Forest Service
Program: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program (COR)
Location: Kaibab National Forest