Re:wild’s Conservation Pathways Program is proud to support Groundwork Hudson Valley’s Green Team program, which hires local teenagers enrolled in the Yonkers Public School system for summer environmental jobs – for many, their first real job. The program focuses on leadership, group dynamics, and a variety of conservation and construction skills. This hard work is tempered with amazing adventures, like hiking, camping, and swimming. Meet Roger Osorio, an alum of the Green Team, who now works as a ranger at Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona.
How did Groundwork Hudson Valley help you enter the environmental space?
I started working with Groundwork Hudson Valley in 2008 following a volunteer trip they hosted to Vanderbilt National Historic Site. They helped introduce what the National Park Service was since, at that time when I was 15, I'd never heard of them. As a kid the only Rangers I knew of were the Power Rangers and they didn't have flat hats. Following a few volunteer events and the opportunity to attend the youth summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I was offered a paid internship to work with Groundwork Hudson Valley. I jumped at the opportunity to make money and work with good people and started learning more about what environmentalism and community engagement was and how I, as a teenager, could help shape and better my community while also building experience for a career in the future.
What made you interested in working with the wild/nature?
At first, I had no interest in working outdoors. I recall visiting the Dominican Republic with my mother back in 2001 and when she took me to where she grew up, I was in shock. The roads weren't paved, there were no convenient stores or malls. No streetlights, but plenty of mosquitoes and trees. I remember despising my time there, but again I was 8 years old.
Working in the wild was never part of my plan, but that’s because I was never offered an opportunity to experience it. Summer camps were expensive and being from the Bronx, pavement was all I knew. The most nature I experienced growing up was this patch of grass and a rock between the streets near Yankee stadium my mother would take me to. There wasn't a connection to a career that would be outdoors, until I started working with Groundwork Hudson Valley. We would meet various professionals from all over the east coast and various agencies that showed there were careers in doing this work.
What is your role now?
My role currently is as a maintenance worker at Chiricahua National Monument. I work on various projects spanning from cleaning restrooms to preserving historic structures. Overall I work with the team here to preserve and maintain the park for the people to enjoy, while ensuring our work environment is safe and clean.
What is the most rewarding experience you've had in building biodiversity/protecting the wild?
The most rewarding experience has been and probably will always be working with youth. I loved my time working with the younger generation. Sharing stories from when I was there age and the experiences I've had. Pursuing a career like this is not easy, but can be rewarding. I loved sharing what I've learned and creating opportunities so they can have more than what I got is rewarding in itself. Often I would be the youngest person in the room who is also fluent in a language other than English, so I understood how daunting some events can be. But being that leader or presence they can turn to who is encouraging for their success is a truly amazing feeling. For instance, Kenny Ortega and Rossy Veras were students on the Green Team I helped lead, and years later, they were/are the youth leaders for the next generation. Continuing to empower and share with younger generations is the only way we can truly make the work we do sustainable.
What do you want people to know about rangers?
People should know Rangers come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. Every career you can think of you can do as a Ranger. Whether it be as a teacher, in law enforcement, lawyer, geologist, or community advocate. There are so many career paths one can take as a Ranger, all with a goal of sharing a space with others and allowing everyone to experience a place that may be far from home, but is a home for them to learn, explore, and play in.