03 June 2022

Palabras de Despedida

Written by: Amado Castillo

It's time to say goodbye. I was lucky enough to extend my eleven-month position for an additional two months and have celebrated many successes during the last stretch of my fellowship.

While I would have been pleased to finish on my original end date, I am so happy that I had the time to go on several site visits that I would not have had the chance to go on otherwise and got the opportunity to meet new incoming fellows. 

Since my last blog, I have had the luck to go on a site visit with our project partners in Madera, the Department of Public Health, and tour their city parks. Madera was the first city I developed a community profile for, so it meant a lot that I could use the resource I had created and gain a better understanding of the community's needs firsthand. On our return home, we visited Cesar Chavez National Monument in Keene. It was an incredibly transformative experience to see the United Farmer Workers' headquarters and get a personal tour from the interim superintendent. We also took several short day trips, including a group hike overlooking the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest with current project partners and a recent ride-along with law enforcement rangers from Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. 

Last month, I used my professional development funds from the MANO Project to attend CA State Parks' Trails and Greenways Conference, where I heard from park leaders all across the state. It was interesting to see the different approaches community leaders take to solve their communities' unique needs. On our way back, my supervisor Carlos and I were able to visit the town of Huron and tour a potential park project with the city mayor Rey Leon, who recently received attention from the Biden administration for his transformative Green Raiteros program. Huron, a small, rural farmworker community, is precisely the type of place that deserves conservation assistance and more outdoor recreation opportunities. I am excited to see what projects in the Central Vally NPS will support in the future.  

While I will miss all the staff, project partners, and my other MANO Fellows, I know that I deserve a break before the next stage of my life and am ready for my fellowship to be complete. I will be attending one of the top five law schools in the country in August, and I am incredibly grateful to have been surrounded by coworkers and supervisors who have affirmed me every step. 

I could not have had such a wonderful fellowship experience without the support of my supervisor Carlos, the LA staff, Anne and MaLisa, the wonderful staff people in the Pacific West Region, Patrick, Julie, Barbara, Bri, Dan, and Meredith, and fellow fellows Vanessa, Mia, Taylor, and Jade. In addition, I am so thankful to have been paired with my powerful partner-in-crime, Kat Montanez, who will begin and end their fellowship alongside me and who has helped me stay grounded in the community throughout my time in RTCA. I am also incredibly grateful for all the MANO Project folks I have gotten to work with, especially my handlers, Nina Marti and Evelyn Ramirez, who have been amazing mentors, and supporters. I appreciate all of you, and for any current or future fellows who read this, feel free to ask for my contact info if you have any questions about my fellowship experiences or grad school applications.

HAGS everyone!

Agency: National Park Service

Program: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program (COR)

Location: Rivers, Trails Conservation Assistance Program - Southern California Field Office

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