How did you hear about the Leadership Academy and what inspired you to apply for the program?
I found out about the Leadership Academy when I first began volunteering with Latino Outdoors in Los Angeles. I went to a mixer in Pasadena and met some amazing folks from SGMF who were doing great things for the San Gabriel National Monument and furthering the expansion of the National Monument. I was inspired to apply to learn more about community engagement and seeking better recreation and access for underserved communities in Los Angeles.
What is your project?
The Abilities Project is a civic outdoor education access project though the Leadership Academy — connecting individuals with disabilities to green and open spaces and providing an interactive and educational hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. Disabled people will learn about the history, wildlife, environmental justice, and the importance of civic engagement in protecting access to the San Gabriel Mountain National Monument for their community and beyond.
The first event will take place during the month of October during Disability Awareness Month. October is also the same month that President Obama designated the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument. I wanted to make this first event important and memorable. There’s still as lot of work to be done.
The Abilities Project’s long term goal is to develop and launch a website and app to help Disabled People connect to green and open spaces in the city or outdoors and to connect to programs and organizations that provide resources and services. The app will create a platform for Disabled People, families, service workers/providers, and transform the way communities come together and advocate for access and recreation through technology.
What’s the best thing you learned?
While in the Leadership Academy, I learned many things. I can’t really pin point the best thing I learned because every class was different and in my opinion very important. I highly recommend applying to the SGMF Leadership Academy. It will change your life.
What surprised you about the program or your work on the project?
I was surprised about how much I had to learn about community engagement, fundraising, and storytelling. It made an impact on my life in a short amount of time. It helped nurture a passion of mine that was kept in my head for such a long time. And now I am slowly but surely working on making it a reality.
Describe what being in the great outdoors means to you.
Being in the great outdoors is a way to connect and heal with oneself. To breathe in fresh air. To get lost in the sounds, smells, vibrations mother nature gives. For me it’s about hitting the trail or rock climbing. It’s about protecting the wildlife that call the great outdoors their home. I find peace when I enter this space and I want others to experience it in their own way.
What’s your favorite way to spend your day in the San Gabriel Mountains?
I have so much to learn about the National Monument and its different terrain. I will say my favorite is rock climbing at Horse Flats Campground. I just started trial running again and I am looking forward to running on trails in the San Gabriel Mountains.
What has post-academy life been like?
It has been exciting and exceptionally busy! Doors are opening for the right reasons. I’ve got a world to change and it’s very humbling and exciting process! My role in Latino Outdoors is changing and there’s room for opportunity if anyone in the Los Angeles area is interested. I recently was picked to be a part of the SHIFTjh Emerging Leaders Program and slowly making moves for the Abilities Project. While at the 2017 Summer Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, UT, I marched on behalf of protecting public lands. I support and help in any way I can to provide volunteer time for organizations like Access Fund, Wilderness Society, and SGMF who are doing great work to get the word out to their communities on how important our National Monuments are to all of us. I hope that more people join the movement and become lifelong constituents. Being pulled in many directions is hard, but at the same time I’m hoping that the long hours and dedication pays off.