Lucía's journey began in East San Jose, a historically diverse city where she grew up in challenging circumstances. It wasn't until she attended Community College in Cupertino that she realized the stark contrast between her background and the world beyond her bubble.
“To this day, unfortunately, my community does suffer of being at the bottom of the barrel, I would say.”
Despite the challenges throughout her childhood, Lucía kept a commitment to making a difference in her community and beyond.
During college, Lucía chose to major in environmental studies with a focus on environmental justice and conservation. This emphasis is deeply personal for her because it brings her journey full circle, connecting her community's situation with her passion for environmental justice.
“There's the conservation side, but then there's also the environmental justice side as well. I not only want to bring that to my community, but also raise and amplify voices of other communities within the Bay Area.”
As a trailblazer, she moved mountains to make her dream career a reality and contribute to her community. After a few years working a corporate job, she decided to invest her efforts in the conservation sphere. She found out about an opportunity with Hispanic Access Foundation’s MANO Project and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and even though she felt her chances were low, she made it into a one-year fellowship at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
“Before going into this internship, I always knew that I wanted to be in the environmental field, but I just didn't know how to get there. I think a lot of the barriers within the government made it very difficult and intimidating for me. Growing up, I didn't have a lot of resources, but I always wanted to be here. I always knew I wanted to be at this spot, but I just didn't think of myself as deserving of it.”
Throughout her fellowship, she made connections all around the Bay Area, which was her focal point when she got onboarded.
“I made connections with local libraries, local nonprofit organizations, and schools in general. We used to do programs once a month and do introductions of who we are, what the refuge is, where it is, and how to utilize your public space, your public lands.”
Lucía's commitment to environmental justice and community engagement shines through her involvement with programs like Latino Conservation Week. She organized an event with a focus on enhancing the Latino community's presence in the outdoors.
“I really made sure that the planning was top tier. The program of Latino Conservation Week is supposed to be something that's going to heighten the Latinos in the outdoors. I just pitched the idea of having a mariachi at the pavilion, and also some refreshments for the guests.”
One of the most inspiring aspects of her work is her dedication to making a difference in the lives of young people. She firmly believes in the power of introducing students to the world of conservation, just as she wishes someone had done for her during her formative years.
“It now gives me great encouragement to be like, ‘at least I'm doing them a service of letting them know that they can do career paths like this’.”
For Lucía, leadership in conservation extends beyond protecting the environment; it's about instilling a sense of responsibility, urgency, and empowerment, especially in the younger generations. Her journey is fueled by passion and a desire to make a difference, regardless of the challenges.
“I have a commitment to conserving spaces like the refugee, leaving them intact while fostering sustainable practices through community outreach, and helping others.”