Grand Teton National Park Foundation partners with Teton Science Schools (TSS) and Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) to offer meaningful outdoor experiences to local Latino middle and high school students through the Pura Vida program. Teddi Hofmann worked as an instructor for Pura Vida from 2011 to 2014. Here she shares how this experience impacted her own connection to this community and place.
In 2011, I was excited to begin working as an AmeriCorps instructor at TSS. After a two-week intensive AmeriCorps training, I was given my summer program assignment to work as an instructor for Pura Vida. This unique program is specifically designed to engage local Latino youth in GTNP. I was eager to dive into my instructor position, meet my participants, and connect students to the mission of TSS, which is to connect people, nature and place through education, science, and stewardship. What I didn’t realize at the time, however, was the powerful impact this program would have on my personal and professional life.
On the first day of Pura Vida, Vanessa Bergmann (former TSS instructor), Vanessa Torres (formerly of Grand Teton National Park), and I welcomed participants who looked eager for the adventures ahead. Each program day was packed with activities including hiking, canoeing, scavenger hunts, and service projects, along with guest presentations from GTNP staff. While I knew that I always loved instructing, there was something different about my experience with Pura Vida. What I began to realize over the course of the program was that I was experiencing a different type of reward from my work.
Listening to the stories of my participants, I learned about Latino/a identity and the innate connection between their culture and the land. The students were tight-knit, family orientated, devoted and passionate about the natural world. They had the desire to learn and gain new skill sets to practice positive environmental stewardship. Through this interaction, I was overwhelmed with a sense of humility and felt a particular connection to Latino culture.
I recently moved to Laramie to complete my Master’s in Natural Science Education and Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming. I continue to learn best practices in education and my respect for and attraction to Latino culture remains strong. I recently became an Ambassador for Latino Outdoors, a group founded by Jose Gonzalez that aims to promote a network of like-minded professionals, support outdoor leadership, and serve as a storytelling platform for defining the ambicultural identity connecting Latino communities and the outdoors. Through my position, I hope to coordinate partnership programs to expand personal and professional outdoor leadership development opportunities for Latino youth. I am grateful for my experience with Pura Vida and to continue to learn about Latino culture and the deeply rooted connectedness between the people and the land.
For more information about Pura Vida, visit: www.tetonscience.org or www.gtnpf.org, or Latino Outdoors, visit: www.latinooutdoors.org.