Connections, Diversity, Legacy: A Peer Mentor Perspective on NPS Academy
Written by: Linda Garcia (2023 Peer Mentor)
As a proud alum of the 2022 NPS/A program, I was thrilled to be invited back as a peer mentor to experience the magic of the program for a second time. Having been in the participants’ shoes a year prior, it was incredibly rewarding to be able to share my experiences and play a part in supporting the 2023 cohort for success in their new summer roles.
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming served as the backdrop for the 2023 Academy Cohort, who came together from all over the country to spend a week in community embodying the NPS/A themes of Connection, Diversity, and Legacy. Now, imagine the Snake River in the Grand Tetons National Park. It starts off as a bunch of little streams and creeks, but eventually, they all come together to form one big river. That’s what the 2023 Academy Cohort was like! We had 19 participants from all over the country who came together for a week of living in community and learning from one another and building meaningful relationships along the way.
One of the most powerful aspects of the Academy is the theme of Connection. While it can be intimidating to step out of your comfort zone and connect with strangers, we soon realized that we are all connected by our love for public lands and preserving them for generations to come. Grand Teton National Park, with its stunning landscape, provides the perfect backdrop for this connection to take place.
The theme of diversity is also integral to the NPS/A program. A tenet of Academy is to bring a more diverse workforce that resembles the various identities that we all have. We all come from different walks of life and have unique perspectives. Learning from each other and gaining new insights was one of the highlights of my week at Academy. As we discussed the idea of diversity and what it meant to each and every one of us, we soon found that it brings richness and adds to our lives.
Finally, the theme of Legacy is at the heart of the Academy. The National Park Service has been around for over a century, and we can play a part in keeping that legacy going. That’s why it’s so important to bring new perspectives and ideas to the table. We are all stewards of our public lands, and it’s up to us to preserve and protect them for future generations. We were lucky enough to meet former National Park Service Director Robert G. Stanton, a true legend in the National Park Service. He began his career in Grand Teton National Park in 1962 and went on to become the first African-American Director of the National Park Service. His passion for increasing diversity in park visitors and staff is truly inspiring and left a lasting impact on the agency.
Another NPS Academy Spring Experience has come and gone, but the magic from the week still lives on through the mentorship, guidance, and community that was built over the course of the week. I am forever grateful for this program and looking forward to seeing how it will continue to grow and inspire the next generation of leaders.