Goodbyes and Gratitude: Reflections On A Summer Well-Spent – Karla Bonilla Portillo

Hello everyone! I’m sorry to say it, but this is my final blog post detailing my internship experience. This summer has truly flown by, and I can’t believe I’ll be saying farewell to my two sites so soon. Although I am going to miss my sites, park staff, and fellow interns, I want my final post to express the joy and gratitude I feel for getting to take part in this experience.

Some of my most treasured memories include:

  • Meeting and living with my fellow interns
    • I was lucky enough to be placed in a house with 4 other interns (3 of them from LHIP). Living with Daniella, Brian, Tahmoor, and Carlton (an HBCU intern) has been a blast! On the weekends, we often went sight-seeing together. We went to Portland, Maine; Concord, Massachusetts; Newburyport, Massachusetts, and more together. And we often went to Boston, even enjoying a Red Sox game on a Monday after work! Living with fellow interns made every single day of this experience entertaining. I loved sharing laughs and inside jokes with all of them.

  • Arriving to my two sites for the first time
    • My initial impression of both Salem Maritime and Saugus Ironworks NHS was just complete awe! Both sites harbor truly spectacular views (Saugus of the peaceful tranquility on the banks of its river and Salem Maritime of the stunning view of the sea from Derby Wharf). As I learned more about the history of my two sites, my appreciation for their scenic qualities and structures only grew. I loved picturing the sites as they were in their glory days, with Saugus Iron Works as the birthplace of the American iron and steel industry, and Salem Maritime NHS as a bustling center of global commerce.

  • Interacting with Park staff
    • The staff at both sites welcomed me so warmly that I felt comfortable right away! My mentor at Salem Maritime, Catie Murphy Saraceno, is hilarious and getting to interact with visitors with her was a real highlight. Last Sunday, Catie taught me how to swear in Junior Rangers and I loved seeing how excited they were to get their badges! I also had lots of stimulating conversations and funny moments with my supervisor Earl Perez-Foust and others including the ParkEd team (Nora Halloran and Maryann Zujewski). 
Park Guide Catie Murphy Saraceno, myself, Tahmoor Chadury, and Park Ranger Earl Perez-Foust on board the Friendship of Salem
  • Collaborating with NSCDC
    • Working with a local non-profit, the North Shore Community Development Coalition (NSCDC) has deeply enriched my experience. I describe the nonprofit and our collaborative project more in my previous blogs, so in this one I just want to express my gratitude for the organization and its powerful and inspiring mission. NSCDC seeks to foster neighborhood pride, advocate for the predominantly low-income Latinx residents they serve, provide affordable housing and more. I am so proud to have collaborated with this organization (with a very special thanks to Yuko and Yinette) on the Faceless Dolls project!

  • Learning more about the NPS
    • This internship has taught me so much about the National Park Service that has deepened my perspective on its past, present, and future. Furthermore, hearing about all of the exciting projects that my fellow LHIP interns are working on has given me a greater understanding of just how much the NPS does in sites across the country. In particular, I appreciate that I have been informed about the NPS in a nuanced way. For example, during my internship experience I’ve gotten to hear all about how the NPS is a wonderful place to work; but also about the times when the agency failed its mission, as was the case in the events that transpired at Effigy Mounds National Monument. The honesty I was given when learning about NPS history (and current triumphs and challenges) is refreshing, and added depth to my experience.

  • Interacting with visitors
    • I also enjoyed interacting with visitors at the Salem Visitor Center and on the Friendship of Salem ship. After a year of online school and minimal interactions with strangers, engaging with park visitors felt surreal. I enjoyed telling families all about the site’s history and listing possible places for them to visit while in Salem. 

On many days, this internship did not feel like work at all, that’s how much I enjoyed what I was doing. There are so many beautiful memories I will treasure from this experience. Thank you to anyone and everyone who has kept up with these blogs and/or interacted with me at Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works NHS!

-Signing off,

Karla Bonilla

Signing off…
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