14 October 2022

Finding Clarity 

Written by: Yessenia Mendez

Saludos! This summer I had been working as an Invasive Species Fellow with American Conservation Experience at John Heinz NWS at Tinicum. This fall, I received the opportunity to extend my stay at John Heinz NWR with Hispanic Access Foundation.

I will start off by saying that I never saw myself doing “carhartt” activities before this summer. I learned how to fish with seine nets, cut an acre of invasive plants down with electric hedge trimmers, drive a UTV and a trailer, spray acres of invasive plants with herbicide, and kayak in the marsh while doing an invasive species survey. I also became a certified level 1 archery instructor. Out of all of the things I’ve accomplished this summer, I think I’m just incredibly impressed with my character development and increased confidence. I’m glad I took the challenge and tried something new.

I graduated in May 2021 with a Conservation Biology and Wildlife Management degree. I had no clue what I was going to do with the degree, but I knew I wanted to do something impactful. Before I started working at Heinz, I was a veterinary technician at an animal clinic, and an Environmental Educator at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC). Nothing felt quite as good as working with Naturalists outside, so I knew I wanted to continue on that path. When I found out about the position at Heinz, I was excited to continue pursuing that interest that had been developing over the past couple of years. 

I think as a college student, it can get hard to remember why we are pursuing something in the first place. I know that was the case for me. Being what felt like drowning in assignments, tests, and getting caught up in the start of a global pandemic, I felt like my own interests didn’t matter anymore. My clarity didn’t finally arrive until this year after starting at John Heinz. 

Working in conservation was my first breath of fresh air in a very long time. Finally, I felt like I belonged. John Heinz impressed me as soon as I walked through the door. They have an incredibly diverse crew, and completely embrace that diversity. It is so amazing to work in a field that I always thought was underrepresented by BIPOC. John Heinz’s emphasis on engaging with the community was so special to see. Anyone who wants to get involved is welcome. 

I’m doing what I love, I feel seen and represented, and have clarity on what I want to pursue for my career. When the refuge mentioned an extension through Hispanic Access Foundation, It couldn’t have been a better fit. Being able to represent my community and heritage has always been super important to me. I want to show the younger, current, and older generations that we can be whoever and whatever we want, with no limitations based on our backgrounds. I mention all of this to say that there are jobs out there that I had never heard of before, and I’m sure you’ve never heard of either. My goal is to share these opportunities with you– sparking an interest that might have you curious enough to try it out!

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Location: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

About Us

Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

Phone: (202) 640-4342

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