|LULAC students get a closeup look at sea-turtle eggs with help from a park ranger at Canaveral National Seashore. Photo by Celinda Peña, NPS.
|LULAC students, volunteers, and USFWS and NPS staff members pose for a group photo at Canaveral National Seashore. Photo by Celinda Peña, NPS.|
|Refuge ranger Nancy Corona shows LULAC students an example of wildlife at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Bill Nunn, USFWS volunteer.|
|LULAC students and DOI staff gather for a photo after fire-management presentation at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Bill Nunn, USFWS volunteer.|
Staff members from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management proudly represented the Department of the Interior during the League of United Latin American Citizens' 83rd Annual National Convention and Exposition.
The event, held in Orlando, Fla., from June 25 through June 30, attracted more than 20,000 participants including top leaders from government, business, and the Hispanic community.
LULAC is the nation's oldest and largest Hispanic organization dedicated to issues facing Latino Americans such as education, equal opportunities, civil rights, and economic development. A significant part of their outreach involves youth, and LULAC provided several workshops, panel discussions, career explorations and field trips to Hispanic youth attending the conference.
As part of DOI's diversity and outreach efforts, USFWS and NPS staff and volunteers from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore provided nearly 30 high-school students a firsthand look at conservation-based career opportunities within the department. Students learned about the job responsibilities and educational requirements for careers in fire management, wildlife biology, resource management, law enforcement, and visitor services.
“These field trips are an excellent opportunity for department employees to showcase their important work and engage more students of all backgrounds in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math fields, “said Celinda Peña, senior advisor, NPS, who has been developing this new approach to diversity outreach since 2010.
Myrna Palfrey, Canaveral National Seashore superintendent, shared how she started out as a GS-2 in Puerto Rico and eventually continued her education in order to advance with NPS. Palfrey reiterated the variety of career opportunities that DOI has available and emphasized the importance of an education that would qualify them for our positions. “It's frustrating because we want to reach out to more Hispanics but many are not even applying for our jobs, which limits the opportunity to be among the best qualified candidates for consideration” she said.
During a presentation on law enforcement careers, NPS supervisory park ranger Edwin Correa shared what is required of the job. “As a law enforcement officer, you must also be able to write reports and articulate in court, otherwise, all your hard work in a year-long investigation will be for nothing,” Correa said.
Several staff members explained how they were able to get a “foot in the door” by working as a student intern or in a temporary position. Refuge fire-management team member Joe Sharbaugh told the students that he applied for several jobs on USAJobs.gov, took some temporary positions, and eventually worked his way into a permanent position. All of the DOI employees emphasized the importance of a college education aligned with the requirements of the specific job series, as well as the need to be willing to relocate to improve their career opportunities. “I found a career with FWS by starting in our SCEP Program,” said Merritt Island NWR manager Layne Hamilton.
Despite Tropical Storm Debbie, the field trip continued along Canaveral National Seashore, which includes 24 miles of undeveloped beach on central Florida's east coast. NPS biologist John Stiner talked about sea-turtle conservation. The students looked at sea-turtle eggs, and eight NPS Public Land Corps youth employees demonstrated how to install caging above sea-turtle nests to protect the eggs from predators. Several of the LULAC youth were surprised to learn of the variety of careers available at our national parks and wildlife refuges, along with the associated educational requirements.
DOI also participated in the LULAC career fair and Federal Training Institute. DOI employees at the conference took advantage of the FTI classes such as Introduction to the Senior Executive Service, Becoming a Trusted Leader, and Leading Change and Achieving Results. In addition, Peña was a panelist on the Latinos Living Healthy Town Hall, where she discussed the America's Great Outdoors, Let's Move Outside, and Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiatives.
The LULAC Conference provided DOI with a wide-range of opportunities to connect with Latinos and share our commitment to creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce.
By: Shari Brewer, diversity outreach specialist, Southeast Region, USFWS