Introduce yourself! What should the world know about you?
I am a second-generation Mexican-American from the Lower Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Community, family, and nature are at the center of my life. Currently, I am a first-year master’s student at the Bren School for Environmental Science and Management at the University of California Santa Barbara. For the past four years, I have been volunteering as a college advisor to first-generation students and recently joined Latino Outdoors as an outings leader. I enjoy taking photos of insects and I plan to work in pollinator conservation after graduating.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about diversifying the environmental sector and making the outdoor narrative/space more inclusive for people of color. I have practiced this by connecting people with nature through shared outdoor experiences and I look forward to developing my storytelling abilities to connect people across greater scales. Throughout my academic and professional career, I will challenge the long-standing underrepresentation in the environmental space through accessible communication, data reporting, inclusive work practices, and by elevating the mission of Rethink Outside. I am also passionate about protecting the environment and promoting college access.
What drives you as a person, a leader, and a storyteller? What or who shapes you?
Storytelling, for me, began as a form of resistance. My grandparents immigrated to a country rooted in discrimination and I feel the weight of their assimilation in the subtle erasure of my family’s past and culture. I struggle to find the word for “sunrise” in Spanish, but I hold a college degree. I was afraid of losing my roots, so I began collecting and transcribing my grandparents’ stories. The need to find myself and heal my family’s trauma through remembrance and acknowledgment is what motivates me as a storyteller. I am also driven to honor their sacrifices by working hard to help those being exploited, especially the environment.
Why did you apply to the Rethink Outside™ Fellowship? What are you hoping to learn from this experience?
I applied to the Rethink Outside fellowship because I believe that a shared narrative is the backbone of a movement. Access to the outdoors should not be thought of as a privilege, but as a basic human right I believe that diversifying the environmental sector and changing the narrative of outdoor access are essential to creating systemic change. Through this fellowship, I am hoping to connect with collaborators and mentors. I am excited about co-creating with people passionate about outdoor access and environmental justice. I will also use this fellowship to develop myself as a storyteller.
How will the Rethink Outside™ Fellowship experience help you address the systemic barriers for access to, and representation / leadership of Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the movement to connect people and nature?
The Rethink Outside Fellowship will help me develop my leadership and storytelling skills to be a better advocate for access and representation. I will connect students, professionals, and communities through accessible communication targeted at reshaping the narrative of what it means to be an “environmentalist”. I believe that ethnic representation in the field and outdoor spaces is instrumental to implementing equitable environmental practices. Just as I connect with professionals through the fellowship, I will create mentorship opportunities for students of color interested in the field to receive guidance from professionals that they can relate to. Exposure and mentorship are especially important for high school students, so I will advocate for access to higher education alongside environmental protection.
What is your favorite activity / place which connects you to nature and the outdoors?
I feel most connected to nature when I photograph insects and garden.