A year in the life of an Outdoor Ambassador

A year can go by in the blink of an eye when you are sharing new experiences with people and are reminded that for some, seeing and learning about the ocean is a new and an exciting moment.  This has been true for me as the AmeriCorps Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator, otherwise called Outdoor Ambassador, an internship with the U.S. Forest Service in partnership with Northwest Youth Corps. When I began this internship, I was unsure how I would adapt to moving to a new state and transition from having a predominantly non-profit background to working closely with a Federal agency. My expectations were blown out of the water as I had the pleasure to work with people from different districts across the forest, create public service announcements and share my passion for the outdoors with the community. Most importantly, I had the privilege to be part of the Willamette National Forest’s Public Affairs team where I was given the space to learn, share knowledge and discover my independence in this position.

 

Angelica Muñoz tables as Oregon State Fair

Tabling at the 2019 Oregon State Fair in Salem, Oregon. 

Since 2013, the Outdoor Ambassador Program on the Willamette National Forest has been connecting local youth, families and everyone in between to natural spaces in their communities, while considering cultural or societal differences about alternate relationships with the land. Despite changes and cancelations to spring trips due to COVID-19, I was able to support 19 events that reached 4719 people. Creating memorable outdoor experiences would not have been possible without my collaboration with about 18 local non-profits, schools, and organizations as well as with district staff. These outdoor experiences and activities took place in a variety of settings including the Willamette National Forest, the Oregon State Fair, the Oregon Coast, and State parks. In these beautiful locations we went snowshoeing, hiking, waterfall sightseeing and more while also learning about the ancestral and environmental history of the land.

 

Angelica leads a group

Snowshoeing trip to Salt Creek Falls in the Willamette National Forest, with girls from the non-profit Ophelia’s Place.

 

As I shared these spaces, some lessons I had reinforced through my time were that personal relationships is what changes lives and that every opportunity is a new experience to learn and have fun. This reminds me of how special this program is because Outdoor Ambassadors meet people where they are and value participating in community partner events. This ideology is supported by joining tabling events or informational sessions to connect and engage community members by going beyond outdoor recreation. Joining a in a local university’s information fair is an example of this where I chatted with residents about what I do and sparked their interests in joining me for future trips. The intent was to share and meet potential participants, but it also allowed questions to be asked and aided in removing any discomfort some may have about going into potentially unfamiliar environments.

Now, at the end of my chapter as an Outdoor Ambassador I appreciate and see that I am more inspired to continue being an advocate and partner to groups in my new community. I have learned more about what it means to be a leader, a learner, as well as an ally. We all make a difference in communities for the betterment of humans and the natural world in our own way. For this and so much more, I am grateful. 

--  Angelica Muñoz, 2019-2020 Public Land Corps member

 

Angelica leads a wellness hike
 

Wellness Hike with University of Oregon residents to Elijah Bristow State Park.

 

 

 

 

 





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/willamette/home/?cid=FSEPRD746476