Born in Puerto Rico, Ashleyann Perez-Rivera moved from New York to Massachusetts and dreamt of becoming an architect. After her first semester of architecture, she reflected upon the gentrification of space and switched her major to historic preservation, to increase latino visibility in the outdoors. Though the change seemed abrupt, Perez-Rivera was already learning how historic discrimination has driven communities away from the outdoors in one of her architecture classes.
“I became interested in sustainability because of a professor that talked about it from the perspective of equity,” said Perez-Rivera. “I started to think about my perception of space, and I started unpacking a lot.”
Learning about the accessibility of nature, and the importance of implementing diversity and inclusion programs led her to a National Park Service internship in 2016, where she learned more about how the parks operate, and the work that Hispanic Access was doing to welcome the Latino community to the outdoors. During the internship, Perez-Rivera began to connect what she was learning about in college, to her life and work as an advocate for the preservation of cultural and historical sites.
“This opportunity taught me that historic preservation can be related to who I am, my community and the places that matter to me,” said Perez-Rivera. “I was enthralled with that space, and what it means to be connected to green spaces.”
In 2017, Perez-Rivera became an Urban Wildlife Conservation Fellow for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and assisted with research and program development. The fellowship offered her an opportunity to create communication plans and support Hispanic Access Foundation’s Latino Conservation Week in 2018. Her passion for integrating justice, equity, diversity and inclusion frameworks helped her co author Place, Story and Culture: An Inclusive Approach to Protecting Latino Heritage Sites. Perez-Rivera communicated a call-to-action to protect these spaces, combat gentrification, and open doors in the field of historic preservation for the Latino community.
“Place, Story and Culture really highlights the ways in which the system of placemaking doesn't always protect our communities and who we are collectively.”
Perez-Rivera honors her community’s voice through her role as a Digital Media Ranger for USFWS where she embeds equity, diversity and inclusion into every task. The ability to listen to her community’s needs is something that helps her make a difference and represent those that might not be at the table yet.
“In everything I do, I have to make sure I am listening and most importantly, taking care of the community that I am a part of.”
Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and supporting local leaders like Ashleyann Perez-Rivera, 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