Belen Coronado graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a degree in Environmental Studies. As someone who grew up going on camping trips with her family, Coronado desired a career path surrounded by greenery, pines, and breathtaking sights.
“After I graduated, it was difficult to find a job in Santa Barbara because there were a lot of college students looking for the same jobs,” said Coronado. “So, I went back to my hometown in Palmdale, California, and started volunteering at the local state parks.”
While volunteering, a park ranger told Coronado about Hispanic Access Foundation’s MANO Project, and she quickly applied to as many opportunities as possible and landed a sustainable recreation internship with Kaibab National Forest in Northern Arizona. As a volunteer and event coordinator, Coronado created opportunities for people to engage with nature at a deeper level.
“Two of the events we did were Latino Conservation Week (LCW) and National Public Lands Day. For LCW, we did a cleanup, then for the event in Northern Arizona, I partnered with a retired forest service archaeologist, and he did an interpretive hike for the community.”
Immersive experiences such as interpretive hikes, serve to guide and educate groups about native land, plants, historical sites, and landscape that illustrates the story of an important landmark. Even though these events were open to the public, Coronado noticed the Latino community participated less in outdoor recreation activities compared to their White counterparts.
“It’s hard to get people to come. A lot of people are unaware of the location of the forest, they’re like ‘where is this?’,” said Coronado. “They have no idea these resources are around.”
To increase Latino participation in outdoor programs, Coronado used her education and experience from the MANO Project to make programs accessible to the Latino community. Her work embodies the importance of cultural representation and building strong communities where people of color can prosper through learning.
“One of my missions is to give people access to these resources,” said Coronado. “I think just seeing representation is so important. My parents always said, ‘even if you see people that don’t look like you’ it’s going to be ok. It might be a bit daunting, but we belong everywhere.”
Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and supporting local leaders like Belen Coronado, 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