Making an Impact at Fort Larned

Hey y’all. 20160722_093727I’m happy to tell you that in these past two weeks, I have grown very fondly of the National Park Service. Its cause for preservation, its diversity initiative, and the happiness it brings to different people are the reasons I want to be a Park Ranger in the future. My purpose here is to conduct Hispanic outreach, but I’ve experienced the beauty of being a park ranger. As rangers, there has to be constant creativity when educating guest, and you have to figure out different ways to expose the park. I’ve seen park rangers apply for grants that will pay the transportation for school field trips; I joined a ranger when she went to a prison to give a history lesson to inmates; I’ve been able to do artifact inventory with a ranger, which allowed me handle 1850’s army rifle and absorb all of it historical power. All of these aspects has made me decide that the National Park Service is going to be in my future. Other than figuring out that I want to be a park ranger in the future, being a HAF intern has been enlightening. I got internet within these 20160727_134119-1last two weeks, and man, what a powerful tool the internet is (thanks HAF)!!! I’ve been able to contact Hispanic based clubs from local community colleges, and invite them over to tour Fort Larned. I have a goal of cultivating a healthy relationship between the college clubs and Fort Larned so that in the future, this relationship can continue bringing Hispanic people to the Fort. As an intern, I have also been able to start a relationship with an important member of the Hispanic community in Great Bend-a nearby town. Jose Hernandez is the coordinator of Great Bend’s Cinco de Mayo celebration, and he has all the knowledge of which businesses will support my cause, and where are the best places to outreach and share information of Fort Larned. Another great person I have met was Kathy, a middle school English teacher from Great Bend. She came into Fort Larned with her family, and she saw my cool Hispanic Access Foundation shirt and asked what it was about. I told her about the need for diversification in the NPS and how LHIP is a gateway for people like me to gain experience. She was in awe, and she asked me if I can give a motivational talk to her middle schoolers, who are all Hispanic students!!! I was like heck yeah, here’s my information!!! Going into the month of August, I am really looking forward to communicating to all of these people (the clubs, Jose and Kathy) as I believe they are vital to my summer project. Lastly, these two weeks have been increasingly progressive with Fort Larned want for Hispanic inclusion. I want you to keep in mind the demographics of this park’s employment: all white, all have a college degree, 50/50 men and women, and 50+ years old with the exception of one 33 year old and I. So in all honesty I am their token Latina and youth person this summer. I was asked by management to participate in the staff meeting by talking about what is unwelcoming to Latino communities, and what would bring younger populations out to Fort Larned. I was really nervous to answer these questions, so in the staff meeting I prefaced response by saying I don’t want to offend anyone and that I’m going to honest about what I have to say. I told them that as a Latina, one of the biggest unwelcoming actions for any business of organization could do is use condescending behavior towards those whose English isn’t perfect. I opened up about certain experiences involving my mom and people who have a mindset of “this is America, learn English.” I told them that these people cause a bad experience, making my family not want to go back to that business. I also told them that assuming that a brown person doesn’t know English, or assuming that brown person knows Spanish can be offensive. By presenting these problems I offered them solutions such as, please be have patience and listen carefully when there is a language barrier, allow the guest to decide what language they want to communicate in, and make it known that there pamphlets in other languages. 20160729_123641 As a young person I told them that having picture opportunities are key. I told them this because we live in a time when restaurants are becoming popular due to foodie pictures. And because [I feel] we as young people like to exhibit what cool things we are doing. Also, making Fort Larned adopt some recreational park characteristics will make it known that Fort Larned is not a one-time visit. I suggested having picnic tables so people can see that they can eat. Or having a friendly cops vs. park ranger baseball game would be a fun event that connects people to Fort Larned, essentially making Fort Larned “their space/niche/fun.” I feel like they really are taking my comments into consideration, as the next day I was pulled into a superintendent’s office to see the plans for remodeling Fort Larned’s museum. They have asked me to go through the plans and to give my honest input about the designs and new exhibits. The new museum tells a story of Fort Larned, and it’s increasingly representative of the different perspectives in the 1860s. They asked me if I thought if these exhibits were “picture worthy,” and if the “Hispanic community would connect with this museum?” I told them that these plans are super picture worthy and interactive/versatile for the various guests that come in. I used to work with the disabilities community, so having hands-on, 3-dimensional, noise making exhibits is so accessible and up-to-date for the different learning abilities of the different park visitors. The management team and I were able to re-design a museum wall to be more representative of the Hispanic traders from the Satan Fe Trail-which was awesome! The representation of the Santa Fe Trail was really boring, and I told them “I would only spend two minutes looking at this wall.” They took that very seriously, and my comment started a creative conversation between the management team and I that lead to a new design. This new design represents Hispanic traders of the Santa Fe Trail-allowing a connection to the Hispanic communities and Fort Larned- is educational, and awesome to look at. It was a thrill and an honor to be a vital voice in both of those meetings, and I believe that Fort Larned is on the right path of becoming an inclusive, interactive, and a fun park. I am excited to be part of the change, and to see the change in the future. I know next year, I will be coming back to see the end result of the museum!! 20160727_161941

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