Spotlight Story

27 July 2022

JESSICA GODINEZ: Rekindling The Latino Community’s Connection With Nature



Category: Spotlight Story

Jessica Godinez grew up in Richmond, Virginia where afternoons in her mother’s garden became some of her most beloved memories. Her mother encouraged her family to spend time outside, and nature became home for Godinez and her family. Even though Godinez spent most of her childhood playing in the backyard and at local neighborhood parks, she didn’t realize how many barriers of access to conservation and outdoor recreation existed for her community until she took an internship with the United States Forest Service in 2018.

“I grew up in a low income household, so a lot of our family time was spent outside,” said Godinez. “Humans have an inherent connection to the Earth, and through my current role, it’s important for me to help community members remember and rekindle that relationship they have with the natural world, especially those who grew up not having access to it.”

As a first generation Mexican American, it’s important for Godinez to advocate for the Latino community, and make outdoor spaces accessible to them. During her internship, she was able to work on community engagement projects, event coordination, and served as an interpretive field guide to deliver information in Spanish during hikes and other activities around the park. As her internship was coming to an end, Hispanic Access Foundation announced a position that was similar to the work she was doing as an intern, opening the doors to many more opportunities in the conservation field. As Hispanic Access Foundation’s Conservation Program Manager, Godinez has experienced a period of growth and transition that has helped her contribute to the organization’s mission.

“Going from an intern to an employee made me realize just how much work goes into every program,” said Godinez. “When I got hired, the team was fairly small, and my main focus was Latino Conservation Week and partner engagement; now, we’ve expanded the ways we engage our networks via councils, engage in more advocacy campaigns and efforts, and projects such as Latino Advocacy Week, and our virtual film week, “Our Heritage, Our Planet”.

Working for Hispanic Access has taught Godinez how to become a liaison for the Latino community, and a resource for other organizations that want to support this population and increase their participation in the outdoors. One of the challenges Godinez has faced is having to create space for Latino voices in predominantly white spaces in conservation efforts; however, running into these roadblocks has helped Godinez gain confidence to stand up for her community, and provide them with resources to help them grow and strengthen their relationship with nature.

“The most rewarding thing about this job is being able to empower my community,” said Godinez. “My time with Hispanic Access has grown my confidence as a leader, and being part of their interconnected network is truly a privilege.”

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and working with leaders like Jessica Godinez, 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

About Us

Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

Phone: (202) 640-4342

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