Spotlight Story

16 February 2022

Oscar Hernandez: A Passion Turned to a Job - Connecting Midwest Latinos with the Outdoors

Category: Spotlight Story

Oscar Hernandez’s fondest memories from his youth are going on trips to the outdoors and having a carne asada with his family. From a young age, he has always loved the outdoors. Growing up in Lakeville, Minnesota, Oscar did not see many people like him and his family enjoying the outdoors. There weren’t many Latinos. Yet, he knew this passion for being outside needed to be a part of his career and he would always strive for more to accomplish his goals. Oscar not only graduated with his Bachelor’s in Animal Biology at the age of 19, but in two short years, he went from being a Community Engagement intern to a permanent employee with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Through the MANO Project, Oscar was able to explore a career path in conservation. Prior to his internship, he worked at a local zoo but realized there was something missing. He needed to integrate the human component to his work. He wanted to educate people about conservation but also share his love for the outdoors with others.

“Before I had my internship with the MANO Project, I had been working in retail spaces and at zoos,” shared Oscar. “While I enjoyed the job, it wasn’t giving me the skills that I needed to get further in my career and develop professionally.”

Oscar first learned about this position thanks to his sister, who forwarded the opportunity to be an intern at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge near his hometown. Of course, in typical college student fashion, he waited until the last minute to apply, thinking to himself, “it doesn’t hurt to apply, what’s the worst that can happen?” The rest was history.

Oscar realized the same pasa tiempos he enjoyed with his family, he could share with Latino Minnesotan families in the Minneapolis area. As an intern at the refuge, he began leading interpretive hikes with children and incorporated Latino Conservation Week, celebrating every year since first starting his internship in 2018. Latino Conservation Week is one of Hispanic Access’ biggest initiatives, celebrated every third week of July to get Latinos outdoors.

“My passion has always lied in being outdoors, working with wildlife and working with people,” said Oscar. “Having this opportunity to work dealing with both has been amazing., I can’t ask for more in a career.”

In addition to being able to make his passion a reality, he has also grown his network with other Latino outdoor enthusiasts. He has been able to collaborate with other FWS-MANO alum like Ashleyann Perez-Rivera and Ivette Lopez to highlight Latino FWS staff for celebrations like Latino Conservation Week.

Now in 2022, he will be supervising new Hispanic Access interns at his refuge and he will be looking to develop partnerships to work with local conservation organizations, like the Latino Outdoors chapter in Minneapolis.

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and supporting local leaders like Oscar Hernandez, who have a stake in their community and have the drive for positive change. To help support and continue this work, please consider making a Charitable Donation


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