Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 - Corps Engaging a More Diverse Generation in Conservation/Community Leadership

The United States is increasingly diverse, but the population participating in outdoor recreation and working in environmental conservation is still overwhelmingly white. In order to ensure the future protection of our public lands and waters, it’s imperative that we make environmental issues and outdoor activities more relevant and accessible to all Americans.

Estimates show that white people of non-Hispanic origin comprise 68 percent of those participating in outdoor recreation. People of Hispanic origin, who comprise some 17 percent of the total U.S. population, make up only 8 percent of those getting outside to recreate.

However, this does not necessarily reflect how people feel about the outdoors. A survey conducted of Latinos in Colorado and New Mexico showed that 78 percent of respondents felt it is “very important” that government preserve and protect public lands. Another survey conducted by The New York Times showed that 57 percent of Latino respondents see climate change as “extremely or very important,” compared to just 37 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

There are a range of reasons why people of color are underrepresented in the outdoors. Lack of proximity to safe, nearby public lands is part of the problem, but a deeper issue to address is that not everyone feels particularly welcome or represented in our parks. For example, about 80 percent of National Park Rangers are white.

A big part of making public lands more accessible is increasing the diversity of those working to protect them. In 2015, some 19 percent of young people enrolled in member programs of The Corps Network identified as Hispanic. This is representative of America’s demographic breakdown. Through Corps, these young adults gain the experience and hard skills to succeed in community and resource management positions.

Today’s Corpsmembers are tomorrow’s more diverse generation of conservation and civic leaders. In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, here are just a few stories submitted by member Corps about young people of Hispanic heritage serving their communities and the environment.


Eriberto Diaz Rocha

LA Conservation Corps

When I first stepped outside the work truck and onto our worksite in the mountains, there were mountaintops as far as the eye could see. I’ve never seen them this close before and I was scared – mostly because I am afraid of heights! But once I got past my initial fears, I thought the view was so nice!

After that first day, I remember telling my friends and family that I felt like I was on top of the world. I went from not ever giving the mountains a second thought because I just didn’t think they were something I would ever be able to experience, to being high above the city and seeing hiking trails, plants and trees. This made me think of how beautiful life is. It made me want to give more color to my life instead of living in black and white; that adventures like this can lead to experiences that will make my life more interesting. I can’t wait to bring my family and friends on a hike in the mountains so that I can share this beautiful place with them, too.

This experience has affected me in many wonderful ways. Not only has it provided me with a steady job that enables me to help my family, but it has encouraged me to think bigger about my place in the world. Everything I do has an effect. I might not see it right away, but one day I can come back to this space and see the benefits of the work that I’m doing right now.

Working in the mountains with the Corps has also instilled a sense of excitement about being able to pass this experience onto other young people who want to change their life. This is important because my work here has also granted me with an opportunity to forget about my past, learn to make better choices in life, and look forward to a brighter future.

It makes me feel good knowing that I am doing something to make a difference in and for the community.



Assisting the Hungry to Grow their Own Vegetables

¡YouthWorks! Santa Fe Youth Corps

Early one morning in July 2016, through the efforts of ¡YouthWorks! Santa Fe Youth Corps – a corps comprised of 90% Hispanic members from the northern New Mexico region – 50 individuals and/or families in-need each received a hand-built take-home Vegetable Garden Box, designed and planted with love by youth and young adults from ¡YouthWorks! Santa Fe Youth Corps.

This project was made possible by a unique grant awarded to nonprofits with the best projects for community and neighborhood revitalization, corridor improvements, green space creation or the creation of meaningful public spaces. The funds allowed ¡YouthWorks! Santa Fe Youth Corps members to hand-build and distribute garden boxes filled with vegetable starts for Santa Fe’s most in-need.

Developed as a concept to assist low-income members of community by giving them the ability to grow their own vegetables, ¡YouthWorks!’ take-home Vegetable Garden Box project has also functioned as a job-skills training and community service project for Corpsmembers of ¡YouthWorks! Santa Fe Youth Corps. Lead by a retired war-veteran, professional trainer and master carpenter, participating Corpsmembers learned carpentry skills, design, construction and small project management.

¡YouthWorks! is a nonprofit organization that offers alternative education and GED preparation, job and life skills training, hands-on work and service opportunities combined with job placement services for youth and young adults who are seeking to better their lives.



Alejandra Perez

Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps (LCC)

Hello, my name is Alejandra Perez and I am 25 years old.  I have two wonderful boys and a husband.

I struggled with finding a program that would help me finish getting my high school diploma as well as work-experience.  Every time I enrolled into a different school I felt like I wasn’t getting the help I needed or wasn’t really learning anything. But in the winter of 2015 I heard about Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps Program. I decide to attend their work-experience and school orientations and give it a chance.

I made a great decision. I have made it my goal to finish my high school diploma and to learn as much as I can in the work- experience program. So far I’ve been here for a year, started out with 50 credits and know I’m sixty-four credits away from graduating in March of 2017. Another decision I made was to do a dual enrollment class through Fresno City College.

I have accomplished a number of things since I started at the Corps in September 2015, but the most important thing for me is to volunteer and give back to the community. I have volunteered at the monthly Fresno EOC food distributions. When I see the longs line it just makes me work harder and give back as much as I can to the community.

During October 2015, and this October, I volunteer for Cancer Awareness and encourage students and Corpsmembers to come volunteer and bring awareness to school and the LCC campus. I encourage them to participate in the annual walk, get screened, and also encourage their friends and family members to get checked. 

Throughout the year I have volunteered in various events, including at Make a Difference Day back in October 2015, and through a recycling program for Global Youth Service Day. I was a presenter at the Corps Open House in December 2015, participated in April 2016 with YouthBuild Charter School at a Community Action Project for Green Is Good, and also volunteered to share my story on the Corpsmember panel during the LCC Mental Toughness Orientation. I have earned thirteen awards in Citizenship, the Student of the Trimester award, Perfect Attendance, Student of the Month and the Whatever It Takes Award-Field Crew. I am certified in First Aid/CPR and Forklift operation.