Reaching Out to People
Written by: Yomalis Perozo Sanchez
I have never stepped out of the city life. It has been all I've known since the day I was born. However, I always knew there was something out there, beyond the metropolis, that I could potentially experience someday.
My science classes, as well as the planned hiking trips with a friend, had prepared me for stepping into that world. So, once I received the email about acceptance into the Urban Community Engagement Fellowship with MANO & the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I was floored! I didn't expect for such an opportunity to come so soon for me.
And so, I stand here today at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, with a role I am proud to have: to get to know the refuge― the hikes, the birds, the marshlands, the pitch-black but clear night skies― and reach out to people like me, from the city, so they too can get to know the refuge and make it a part of their community and of their daily lives.
So far I’ve traveled to Atlantic City, a city at the very edge of the East Coast that used to be known as a casino area, and is only half an hour away from the refuge. I have gotten to know several of their neighborhoods (Inlet, Chelsea, and Ducktown), and where the general regions for their wards are (first and sixth wards in particular). The community is led by both the municipality of Atlantic City and the group established by the casinos in the area, CRDA, which stands for Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. Both the municipality of Atlantic City and the casino group seem to work hard to beautify the city with community plantings and overall maintenance. Slowly but surely, I will contribute to this process. Workers of the Fish and Wildlife Service at the wildlife refuge have been reaching out to both of the groups to make their mark in helping and reaching out to the community with pollinator gardens with native plant species, and by attending meetings of several organizations within the community, such as the Gardeners Coalition of Atlantic City and the Hispanic Association of Atlantic City.
With me as a point of contact― and another face to put a name to with business cards and tabling events― I will have the opportunity to bring in people to the wildlife refuge who may have had difficulties with visiting due to a language barrier or because of their lack of knowledge on how close a refuge is to the place they call home. I may also be doing some environmental education for the people who visit. More than anything else, I will proudly play a part in strengthening the bond between Atlantic City and the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.