During the week of May 4-8, 2015, I was honored to lead 2 workshops for high school students. These workshops were part of an ongoing effort from the Holyoke Adolescent Sexual Health and Pregnancy Prevention Accountability Committee (HASHPPAC). HASHPPAC’s mission is to develop community-based, multifaceted approaches to decrease teen pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in Holyoke, Massachusetts. For their ongoing campaign called “You Have Choices”, HASHPPAC decided to introduce workshops for the teens teaching them how to get involved in their community. The workshops were facilitated by organizations, the community, and Latino Outdoors was fortunate enough to participate!
It was extremely exciting to be asked to facilitate a workshop related to the environment. The first workshop took place at Holyoke High School. I had an amazing experience with 2 teens, Carmen and Tatyana.
The first question I asked them was, “How do you define nature?”
“Nature for me, is something beautiful, brings me peace, I listen to ocean waves before I go to sleep because it’s boring.” -Tatyana said
“haha. I love listening to the waves too! How is it boring? Maybe you mean you get so relaxed that it may feel boring?” – I asked
“YES! That is what I mean, it is relaxing. I can forget about the world and just be relaxed and in peace” -Tatyana added.
“Cynthia, can I say it in Spanish”- Carmen asked
“Por favor!” -Cynthia said
“La naturaleza es algo increíble, es bello y la necesitamos. Muchos no la aprecian y les estan haciendo daño. Tenemos que ayudarla.”- Carmen added
My heart was so happy to hear these answers, not because they were connected to nature in their own different, beautiful ways, but how I saw a reflection of me in these two powerful girls.
We proceeded to complete a Nature Scavenger Hunt that I adapted from the High Trails Outdoors Educational Center. One of the list items was to look for evidence of animals. We came across this tree, and saw ants and talked about how scary they look once you get close to them, yet how cool they are. Then we saw this “No Parking Any Time” sign being ‘eaten’ by this tree.
“Isn’t this incredible ladies?”- I asked
“Yeah, nature takes over.”-Carmen
“You can’t even see the sign anymore”-Tatyana
After the incredible conversation, discovery, and fun, we walked back to the cafeteria to hydrate ourselves and give ourselves props for completing the scavenger hunt! Later, we ended our time together talking about how challenging it is to be a Latina and how many expectations are made by society of what we should look, be and act like. What was wonderful was me being able to see myself years back with the same frustrations as a young Latina and I was able to give Tatyana and Carmen the space to express themselves, be themselves, and cherish their grace as amazing young, powerful, Latina girls.
Those moments that are not accounted for in my curriculum design, are the ones that I find most precious, life changing, and incredible. This experience speaks to what Jose Gonzalez, founder of Latino Outdoors, mentioned “this is our voice, this is our heritage, these are our connections to these outdoors spaces” and by Tatyana and Carmen having a connection to the outdoors right at their school, we were all able to connect on a deeper level and empower each other as Latinas.
Que viva el poder.