Engaging More People with the Outdoors
Conserving Carolina Intern to Lead Walks, Translate Signs, and Create Videos
When Alexla Perez-Sanchez was a child, she and her mother couldn’t do much hiking. One time, they went to a hiking area, but they couldn’t read the signs in English. They didn’t know where to go, so just they sat in the car. Now, as a summer intern at Conserving Carolina, Alexla is helping to make the outdoors more inviting and accessible to more people.
This summer, she will lead a series of bilingual walks, translate materials into Spanish, create youth-oriented social media content, and produce videos that engage people with conservation and wildlife.
Alexla is a rising senior at UNC-Asheville and a two-time alumna of Conserving Carolina’s Summer of Service. Summer of Service is a local AmeriCorps program for young people between the ages of 17 and 19. Alexla says that her experience in Summer of Service was life-changing, even “soul changing.” For the first time, she was able to discover her deep connection to the natural world—and give back.
Last year, Alexla also made a trip to her native Mexico where she traveled with her cousins to see the monarch sanctuaries in the mountains. That journey helped her connect to her homeland as she followed the route of the butterflies who, like her, migrate across North America.
Hear from Alexla in both Spanish and English
Alexla is a graduate of Henderson County Early College. She is a political science major at UNC-Asheville. And next year, she is headed to England to earn a Masters in International Human Rights Law at the University of Essex. She is interning with Conserving Carolina for 19 weeks between late May and September, before leaving to study abroad.
Alexla says, “I recognize that this internship is an opportunity that will help many people in the community feel included and represented. Being a part of a community comes with many benefits, but it also comes with challenges. We all hold the same amount of responsibility in making sure that our mountains, rivers, wildlife, and community members are thriving.
In my first Summer of Service, we were told by the group leader Tony Beurskens to see the ‘beauty in our differences’ and to appreciate the ‘comfort where we overlap.’ Until we begin to recognize the strengths that lie within our individuality, we will not fully appreciate the Land and all that it has to offer. Once we acknowledge our individual importance, we will recognize the value of the Land. Or maybe we will be able to look towards the Land to find the significance of ourselves.
Because at the end of the day: We come from the Land; the Land is Life.”
Alexla will be guiding a series of four bilingual walks, which will take place at DuPont State Recreational Forest, the Park at Flat Rock, Vaughn Creek Greenway, and the Brevard Greenway. The walks all take place on public lands that Conserving Carolina has helped to create, and will feature waterfalls, birdwatching, and a non-native invasive species scavenger hunt.
Alexla is also translating materials at Conserving Carolina’s trailheads, as well as parts of the website into Spanish. She will be producing a series of short social media videos intended to engage young people. And she will produce a series of videos that will help educate people about wildlife and conservation. Topics may include gardening for butterflies, the NC Bird Atlas, community partnerships, and the role of conservation in climate solutions.
She says, “Conserving Carolina has done significant work, but there are people in our community who have not been able to appreciate it completely. I promise to try my best to help many feel included, recognized, represented, and essential.
“Not only do we deserve to enjoy our environment, but it is our responsibility to make sure that younger and future generations enjoy this, too. To the readers of this article, I hope that after I finish my internship, more People of Color, LGBTQ2S+ individuals and many more folks can fall in love with our home just as I have. And maybe one of you can take my place in continuing this work of natural inclusion.”
This internship is made possible by a generous gift from Dale Weiler and Loti Woods, wildlife advocates and philanthropists who have played a key role in the protection of a mountain bog in Flat Rock and Kings Bridge on the French Broad River. Dale is a renowned wildlife sculptor, and he and Loti are the founders of Weiler Woods for Wildlife.
Dale and Loti say, “We are passionate believers in the power of education. With Alexla’s help, Conserving Carolina will be able to reach a younger and more diverse generation. It will be exciting to see Alexla developing tools for members of the Latinx community and other minorities to become more aware of and connected with nature.”
Rose Lane, the communications director at Conserving Carolina, says, “We face such major challenges in conservation today—from climate change, to our growing population, to invasive plants like kudzu. There are also great opportunities to protect our natural world, restore wild habitat that we’ve lost, and turn things around on climate change.
But to rise to these challenges, we need a groundswell of energy and support. We need people of all ages and all backgrounds to be involved. We are thrilled to have someone as talented and passionate as Alexla helping to light that spark for people.”
Conserving Carolina is a local land trust with a mission to protect, restore and inspire appreciation of the natural world. You can get involved by volunteering, becoming a member, or exploring protected lands. Learn more at conservingcarolina.org.