“I was very interested in history and how to carry on the puertorriqueñidad and Hispanic experience in the diaspora.”
Throughout her experience in academia, she had a lot of exposure to texts that needed translators, and that work made her realize how language influences the privilege of people in different geographical contexts in both Latin America and the United States.
“This is also applicable to other bilingual contexts, and this realization brought me to the field of Information and Library Sciences to study how the lack of access to technical help and technology skills leads to fewer opportunities.”
She learned about Hispanic Access Foundation while working on her capstone project at the Library of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Experienced in map inventory, she was working on gathering information that would connect available maps with the Institute’s history. By analyzing technical reports, she was able to collaborate on an exhibition for the USDA Forest Service’s Library Week.
After being connected with the available opportunities through Hispanic Access, she started her internship experience as a Resource Assistants Program (RAP) fellow in February 2023. The program targets individuals interested in conservation, natural and cultural resources, research and development, and similar careers. Fellows are placed depending on the needs of the project within the agency and location.
Her work as a RAP fellow includes working with the Service’s Urban and Community Forestry unit and the Technology and Science Delivery team to develop a bilingual section inclusive of the Spanish language at the Vibrant Cities Lab program’s website. This is an informational hub on urban and community forestry, established in collaboration with the nonprofit American Forests. She has overseen the development of the Spanish page and updates it regularly. Her main goal for her fellowship is to successfully translate the information and develop a maintenance plan for the website.
“I am also helping the Urban Restoration program with some of the webinars they have organized. Within this project, I have contacted people who work in urban forestry in the territories of the United States, so that they can tell their stories firsthand.”
During the program, Jo Ann attended RAP’s annual meeting in Georgia, where she met Yashira, her mentor, and other coordinators.
“Hispanic Access has allowed me to pave my way for formal job opportunities. At IITF I have felt welcomed, and they have introduced me to other experiences and collaboration opportunities. Although what I am doing now is different from my capstone project, it touches on aspects of organizational issues, taking inventory and making information available and equitable for the public.”
Raised by her grandparents in a literature-fostering household, Jo Ann describes her upbringing as privileged, since her community growing up promoted literacy in English as a second language. However, when looking around into other communities she noticed how important it was to guarantee access to information in Spanish as well.
“We take for granted that everyone knows about our culture and that using English is the only way to progress, but when we talk about access, we have to take the language into account, and that relevant information within communities should also be promoted in Spanish”.
This perspective of understanding access to information is what motivates her to be vocal when explaining that other realities coexist within bilingual communities.
“Vulnerable communities are the ones who lead the management in times of crisis, and in our context, the way to provide opportunities is to give communities the tools to keep moving forward and have access to information about green spaces and recreation in the language they understand.”