A Summer of Everlasting Experiences

The summer of ’16 has been filled with everlasting experiences and memories. I began my first internship with the National Park Service and continued to work for the organization that allowed me to open multiple doors of opportunity: Groundwork Jacksonville.   Groundwork Jacksonville is a non-profit organization that seeks to restore Hogans creek and other waterways, as well as to create green space from contaminated lands. This summer, I worked with 9 other youth from the neighborhood to build a 6,000 sq. ft. bioswale, which will help filter contaminants from runoff along the urban bike trail called the S-Line. As we load our tools and put on our helmets, we soon bike our way to our worksite in a typical, hot and humid day in the city. The work was labor-intensive, the heat was excruciating, but that did not stop us from finishing that bioswale. Our bioswale, made of soil, plants, sweat and hard work will be the beacon of hope in the Springfield/Eastside neighborhoods. Community residence will soon learn that a group of teens worked in the peak of the summer heat to create a culture of union and biodiversity. The work of the Green Team is not only a beacon of hope, but a structure of environmental health. Springfield and Eastside are the two most contaminated neighborhoods in Jacksonville, that is why Groundwork Jacksonville has taken initiative` to change that. Our bioswale, although small compared to the area these two neighborhoods encompass, will do enormous work to create a more clean and sustainable community environment. The work of Groundwork Jacksonville, however, has a long way to go.   My summer with the National Park Service was a challenging job working under the arms of the Urban Fellow. The task required me to think outside the box in abstract and radical ways, resembling a skunkworks. The team has done so much over the summer to create a relevant Timucuan Preserve. One of our most successful events geared towards community relevancy was Dare to Explore/ Atrévete a Explorar. The amount of outreach Natalia (Centennial Volunteer Ambassador) and I conducted at 8 different churches, multiple Latino/Hispanic oriented community organization and local radio stations paid off when we received roughly 355 visitors for Dare to Explore! Many visitors said “this is my first time out here!” which is what we love to hear. The work of the Urban Agenda truly is a beauty. It warms my heart to see new audience be actively and happily engage in their National Park. It is almost as if they step into  a whole new world filled with natural and historical mysteries. The Urban Agenda is the NPS’s key to engaging communities of all ages, race and ethnicity around the U.S. in an effort to explore, learn and protect “America’s greatest storytellers.” However, the most important lesson I have learned while working with these two organizations was that the future of environmental advocates lies within the hands of the common people. That is why the NPS has implemented their Urban Agenda initiative, why Groundwork Jacksonville has their vision of the Emerald Necklace.; they see potential, even in areas that have been environmentally devastated. Relevancy is what they strive for; to engage any community, you must make your issue their issue. The knowledge an individual can acquire is essentially the milestone these organizations seek to accomplish. Impacting an individual’s life through relevancy and environmental empathy open pathways for the common people to engage in parks, the community, and the environment.The future of our world is in the power of the people. Groundwork Jacksonville and the NPS have not only challenged me to grow as an individual, but they also challenged me to develop leadership and team-building skills. Both Groundwork Jacksonville and the NPS have shaped me into the individual I am today. I am environmentally conscious, and a strong work-oriented individual that will stop at nothing to protect and preserve the historical and natural wonders of our world. The work that these two conduct are interdisciplinary focused, making everything a learning opportunity- from economics, to environmental science and even sociology. Most importantly, these two entities have laid a foundation of environmental advocacy that will live with me forever, and hopefully in future generations, too.    

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