Reflecting during my final weeks – Maya Rodríguez

As my internship nears its end, I’ve been reflecting for these final two weeks. I am so grateful for my wonderful supervisors, Gabrielle Roffe and Brittany Omoleye-Hall, their support in my first internship ever. One of my favorite parts of this internship was the people I worked with this summer. Thanks to them, I will be heading into my senior year at American University with so many tools and skills that I’ve only could’ve gotten through this experience. I got a peek into what my future with the NPS could look like. This summer was not what I expected, with my main views not being the long shores of the bay but rather my own backyard. There were a few days of real field work, but other than that, most of my work happened right on my computer screen. This did simplify many things since meetings were so easy to attend to. It made my day a lot easier to manage but it still lacked the worldly experiences of the outdoors due to the pandemic. Even the August workshop for diversity in conservation was switched to a virtual setting. It was an adjustment, but I understood it was for safety. After all, the pandemic is not over. Regardless of these changes, I still squeezed the benefits out of this internship. I’ve read so much scholarship about the bay, met so many amazing people, and got to connect to our local communities. Now that I’m preparing my presentation for the workshop, I can see how far I’ve come. Conducting surveys to truly hear the voices of our underrepresented stakeholders was an important project. Designing proper questions, choosing locations to hand out our surveys, and finding ways to get more BIPOC participation in our NPS surveys were all different parts of this project. Most of my field work days were to go to parks, make connections with park goers, and seek out perfect places to staple our survey fliers.

Some of these locations were beautiful spots in the summer day and it made me appreciate the natural spaces created by parks. Seneca Creek State Park was one of my favorite moments of this summer by far, with its rich flowers and thick trees offering shade from the sun. The lake here was enormous, with It spanning a mile or two. Gabrielle Roffe, my supervisor, brought along her dog, Ocho, to play in the water and run along the trail path. These are some of the moments that you take away and keep for yourself. I got to see the efforts of these passionate people who care so much for their environments while also taking time to mediate on the flow of their surroundings. This is what this internship represents for me.

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