Spotlight Story

06 April 2022

Ximena Diaz-Velasco: MANO Intern Prepares for Career in Landscape Architecture

Category: Spotlight Story

Amid the pandemic, Ximena Diaz-Velasco partnered with local artists and a group of friends to create a mutual aid fund to support excluded workers including undocumented and immigrant communities ineligible to receive aid under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Diaz-Velasco redistributed $50,000 to communities in need.

Her acts of service and leadership define her work and dedication not only to the community, but the environment as well.

Ximena Diaz-Velasco immigrated to the United States when she was 5 years old from Pachuca, Hidalgo. Though her family established in Pennsylvania because of her father’s employment, she moved to Washington, DC to pursue a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from George Washington University.

“I have gotten a lot of opportunities in DC,” said Diaz-Velasco. “I was involved with the Mexican Student Association and one of the presidents was a good friend of mine, Evelyn.”

During her junior year, Diaz-Velasco’s career goals changed, so she began working for public libraries. She interned for Urban Libraries Council: A non-profit organization that partners with urban libraries to promote social equity and digital literacy. With the support of her mentor, Diaz-Velasco implemented innovative programs that changed how communities interacted with public spaces. In 2021, after a trip cross-country visiting national parks, Diaz-Velasco fell in love with natural spaces.

Her friend Evelyn saw her newfound passion and encouraged her to apply for a National Park Service (NPS) fellowship through Hispanic Access Foundation’s MANO Project. Now, Diaz-Velasco is a fellow for the Office of Outdoor Recreation that provides outdoor recreational opportunities, manages new policies or laws pertaining to outdoor recreation access. This experience and opportunity was new for Diaz-Velasco, but it broadened her ideas and introduced her to career opportunities that exist to reduce and resolve social and environmental issues.

“Before I came on board to this office, it was just my boss, so we worked on a strategy to create a community in outdoor recreation,” said Diaz-Velasco. “We created a monthly webinar series where we invite experts and practitioners to talk about outdoor recreation topics.”

As a fellow, Diaz-Velasco learned about the value of creating space for discussion and gained more knowledge about different career paths. Her interactions with other National Park Service leaders sparked her interest in landscape architecture.

“The people that work on the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program are landscape architects, so I started talking to the people that interviewed me for this position, and I would ask them questions because I had never heard about it.”

Diaz-Velasco is moving to New York City to pursue a master’s in landscape architecture. Her experience working for NPS has helped her grow professionally and helped prepare her for graduate school. As a Latina, she hopes to inspire and encourage others in her community to gain experience in their chosen fields and develop a growth mindset.

“The ability to think about what you did and could have done better is so important because even if something unexpected happens, you move forward with lessons learned.”

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and supporting local leaders like Ximena Diaz-Velasco, 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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Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

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