SCA Alum talks about her journey from the Bronx to Grand Teton NP
As summer winds down, take a weekend to explore some of the hidden gems right outside your backyard. No need to travel abroad to get a taste of the true majesty of nature: America’s National Parks offer some of the best landscapes and outdoor adventures in the world.
In honor of World Ranger Day on July 31, we talked to Millie Jimenez (center), the Diversity Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator at Grand Teton National Park, about Find Your Park — a social movement to reach younger generation of park goers.
“Finding your park is like finding that inspiration,” she told us. “Find the inspiration in the little things to push you to find the other things that are out there.”
Find Your Park helps park goers find their perfect destination, based on location or desired activity. You’ll be sure to find a National Park in your city or nearby.
We chatted with Jimenez to find out how she became a park ranger, what she loves about her job, and to get the details on her travel bucket list:
How did you become a park ranger?
So, I didn’t actually know what a park ranger was until three or four years ago. I’m from the Bronx, New York, so my green space was Central Park. My parents are from Mexico, and they grew up poor. For a lot of my younger years, we didn’t have a lot of money, so it was kind of hard, and I saw their struggle. My thought was when I went to school, I would be a business major: “I’m going to own a company, and rule the world with an iron fist!” I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted them to have money. Then, I went to college, and I realized that wasn’t me at all.
In my second year, my brother’s wife’s best friend from high school — the Northeast recruiter for the Student Conservation Association — came up to me, and said, “Hey, you should apply for this program! It’s called the NPS academy.” I had no idea what I was getting msyelf into. I just knew they would pay for my travels, and give me an internship in the summer.
I got accepted, and in March 2012, I got flown to the Great Smoky Mountains. I absolutely loved it. It completely changed my life. I got to meet people who were super passionate about their jobs. I think that was the first time in my life that I met someone that was so passionate about what they were doing that I could feel it walking into the room.
After that week, I thought to myself, “This is exactly what I want to do with my life.” I want to put on the uniform, and I want to wear the awesome flat hat.
Before you became a park ranger had you visited many national parks?
You know what’s funny? I lived in New York City, and I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but I had no idea they were national parks.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The Pura Vida campaign is near and dear to my heart. We take the Latino community, specifically students, and bring them to the park. For most of them, especially middle schoolers, it’s their first time in the park — even though it’s their backyard.
Bringing them to the park for the first time and showing them how beautiful their backyard is — it’s pretty amazing. Hearing them talk about how they want to come back or how they want to bring their families is the most rewarding thing ever.