This week, we caught up with Tania Romero, the Fund II Foundation Apprentice here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park to talk about the Fund II Apprenticeship, her upcoming projects, and of course birds. Tania was born and raised in LA, her passion for birds lead her to the Audubon Society.
Tania enjoys nature and the outdoors and believes they can be found everywhere, even in urban settings. She is passionate about birds and providing nature connections to urban communities as well as social justice in the conservation field. Her early career has consisted mostly of field work ranging from point count surveys, bird banding, and habitat restoration throughout the Los Angeles area. She hopes to show that the conservation field is for everyone. Tania’s favorite bird is a turkey vulture.
To help build a sustainable conservation movement for all people and communities in the U.S., the National Audubon Society is partnering with the Fund II Foundation to hire and train 7 early career professionals as apprentices, primarily from African-American, Hispanic, and Latino backgrounds, for careers in environmental education, conservation, Policy, and science. This Apprenticeship program has a one year term. Each apprentice works under an Audubon staff member, who serves as their mentor throughout the term – together they come up with a set of goals, projects, and deliverables that work with the apprentice’s skills.
Our Center Director, Marcos Trinidad was chosen to mentor Tania. Together, each apprentice and their mentor work on career goals and relevant projects. Tania and Marcos decided to focus on 4 conservation priorities, from which Tania draw inspiration for the projects she hopes to complete: conservation, community engagement, policy, and fundraising. This ensures that Tania will leave Audubon with a holistic knowledge on the different areas of working within a non-profit and with skills to continue their work in conservation. We are proud to have Tania on our team working on conservation at the Audubon Center at Debs Park.
Opportunities like these are important for people of color working within the conservation field. Audubon is proud to be working towards increasing the representation of people of color within conservation through opportunities like the Fund II Apprenticeship. When speaking to Tania, she pointed out that “Having to choose between getting paid and doing what you are passionate about is difficult for people of color. When we talk about providing access to folks, we need to take into consideration that often that means taking financial wellbeing into account.” The Fund II Apprenticeship’s living wage provides a financially sustainable opportunity to ensure people of color will show up to the conservation field.
The apprentices are stationed throughout the United States, providing a great opportunity for network building around the country. At the beginning of the term, apprentices came together for a training in New York City and were encouraged to connect and use each other as a resource throughout their tenure. This provides an opportunity for resource sharing, networking, and building strong connections nationwide within the conservation field.
I got a chance to speak to Tania about her four projects, what she expects from them, what she’s excited for, and what she wants to learn more about:
- Conservation: Native Plants for Birds
Tania is working on a partnership with Sotomayor Learning Academy’s Urban Agriculture program to educate 70 students on native plants and their connection to local birds.Tania is working with these students to create a native plant habitat within their school grounds.These students will expand their native plant nursery, maintain the plants, and work to plant them in their communities and green spaces.This project benefits an underprivileged community – 75% of these students identify as Latino and they will be serving the Glassell Park, Cypress Park and the Elysian Valley neighborhoods. This project will also provide opportunities for students to become directly involved with revitalizing the Los Angeles River by growing native plants that will be planted in pocket parks nearby their school.
- Community engagement: Audubon Center at Debs Park’s Educational Program
Tania has been working with schools within our community to re-establish and expand our Center’s field trip program. Along with our Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, Mika Perron, Tania has begun our Community Education Volunteer program. Her goal with this program is to establish a core group of volunteers to teach local schools and groups on fieldtrips. She wants “the community to teach each other about Debs Park, birds, and the wildlife available here.” Anyone 18 or over is invited to participate in these trainings.
Tania is also in charge of our An Arroyo Adventure Summer Camp program running for 2, week-long sessions starting on June 10. During An Arroyo Adventure Summer Camp, children ages 7-12 will explore within the 282 acres of grasslands, woodlands, and coastal sage scrub that make up Ernest E. Debs Park. Tania has been working tirelessly to ensure that the program is a success!
- Policy + Advocacy: Advocacy Day
Tania will be spearheading our drive to ensure that local youth will be able to see California’s political process in action. Audubon Center at Debs Park and 10 students will be going up to Sacramento to voice themselves on community issues and to expose youth to what policy and advocacy look like.
Tania sees advocacy as her biggest challenge. To supplement her policy knowledge, Tania has been participating in Nature for All’s Leadership Academy –a five-month training program of Nature For All that focuses on developing organizing and advocacy skills, civic engagement, and local community action.
As part of her apprenticeship, Tania will work alongside our Communications & Development Associate, Estefania Palacio to fund the programs she will be spearheading.Tania will learn to raise funds for these programs through grants, program revenue, and donations.She will be writing grants and sponsorship letters, as well as working with local organizations and retailers to create strategic partnerships that will ensure funding for programs such as summer camp, advocacy day, and the native plants for birds program at Sotomayor Learning Academy.
Tania is most excited to work with Community Engagement Volunteers to educate youth on the importance of native plants, birds, and protecting greenspaces in their communities – “Seeing youth playing around the park reminds me of myself when I was younger.” She sees her biggest challenge as being Advocacy Day, but is excited to educate young people on the political process and have them voice issues relevant to their communities.
When I asked her what she thought of working in her community, she said, “It’s easy. I love knowing that the work you put in has a direct impact on where you live.”
We are so excited to have Tania be part of our team and to see her career grow! Have any questions about Fund II Foundation Apprenticeship or any of the programs at our Center? Reach out to us, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org!