22 November 2023

Coming to the end

Written by: Jacqueline Dias

Hello blog readers! As I come to the end of my second fellowship with Hispanic Access Foundation and the National Park Service, I wanted to take a bit to reflect on how I got here, where I’m going, and what I’ve learned along the way. I first started with HAF and NPS as a Projects and Communications Fellow with the Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers (PWSR) program based in Springfield, Massachusetts. Besides becoming acquainted with PWSR during my fellowship, I also learned a lot about the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program. I quickly realized that working with both programs was my dream job – one in which I’d be able to support community conservation on the grounds and providing technical assistance. My second term as a fellow with HAF and NPS only reinforced this idea as I was able to take on greater responsibility not only within the PWSR program, but also RTCA.

Prior to my first fellowship I had earned a Master of Science in environmental conservation with a focus on environmental policy and human dimensions. During my graduate school research, I learned that I really did not like research and wanted out of the academic circle as soon as possible. I wanted to work on real world issues facing the communities I cared about most. It was through graduate school, though, where I was able to create a local chapter of Latino Outdoors in Western Massachusetts. Here, I cultivated a local network of conservation stakeholders, community leaders, and folks who were eager to get outside with folks who shared similar backgrounds as them. I continue to work on this local network and pushing forward the mission of Latino Outdoors.

The most impactful piece of advice I received during my fellowship with HAF and NPS was to just talk to as many people as possible. This doesn’t necessarily need to happen during conferences or other in-person gatherings where everyone is exhausted. I was able to set up many opportunities for short ‘informational interviews’ with folks all over NPS, the Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife! While being virtual is often times a negative, it has been really important to my growth as a professional to be able to meet and chat with folks all across the country. Likewise, taking advantage of any and all conferences or opportunities for professional development is huge. Just in my (almost) two years alone, I was able to visit Maine, Texas, Washington State, West Virginia, Colorado, and Florida, all for conferences or other in-person network gatherings! I was able to connect with folks who I wouldn’t normally have been able to meet or cross paths with.

After my current fellowship ends as a River Conservation Fellow, I will take on the new title of Community Planner with the NPS PWSR and RTCA programs! I am insanely grateful to all of the folks who have been supporting me along the way, especially those at HAF. I am looking forward to starting my dream job.

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