15 Jul Farewell
My name is Olivia Barragan Velasquez! I am a Visitor Services/Environmental Education intern at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Marion, IL. And I’m here to say farewell.
In my last month working at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, I reflect on my experiences as an intern. In January I was a scared but eager recent graduate with little experience in environmental education. I had worked and interned for the state before going federal but I was unsure how my experiences would help me navigate through the federal workplace. My internship advisor, Katherine Rubiano, assisted me through the initial anxiety of being a new employee. With her help, I was able to plan and coordinate wonderful and successful programs and events such as the Jr. Duck Stamp Contest, wildflower hikes, Girl Scout Badging, kayak tours, archery, refuge cleanups, school field trips, and public programs. As well as my World Migratory Bird Day program.
Coordinating the WMBD program was a growing opportunity for me. I was able to gain experience in volunteer coordinating and marketing that I never had before. Planning and prepping began in March. I reached out to several speakers and volunteers, created an agenda, flyer, and volunteer recruitment flyer and sent them to all of my contacts, gathered and ordered materials, set up for the program, and send out thank you letters to the volunteers. I found that the best way to complete my tasks was to make a list, a deadline, and talk through it out loud. I learned all of this through Katherine Rubiano.
Katherine Rubiano is not only my internship advisor but my mentor. This was the best internship experience I’ve ever had and it was solely because of her. She actually cared about my physical and mental health, she guided me through work stress, and she gave me time that I knew she didn’t have. Katherine prioritizes her interns. But also her schoolwork. She is really impressive. I know the kind of worker I want to be and it’s her. Not only is she patient, thoughtful, and hopeful; but also determined, reliable, and professional. Environment for the Americas picks wonderful people to work for them and that’s something I will never forget. So I am proud and honored to have been chosen to work for Environment for the Americas. As well as the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Another special person who has helped me tremendously is one of our volunteers, and campground hosts, Janie Pettigrew. I envied her determination to complete tasks, and how well she managed the campground, and worked as a team. But I learned from her. And I like to think that because of her I’m a little bit more of a leader than I used to be. Growth has been challenging and uncomfortable but not impossible.
This month I have been training the new intern and am shocked at how much I can do naturally. I passed down the notebook where I wrote directions step by step, my knowledge on the refuge, all of my program files, computer bookmarks that I kept, everything. I wanted to make the move easy and convenient for the next person. There is a lot I’ve learned but there is also a lot more to learn. I plan on learning new things my whole life and am grateful to have gone through this experience.