In the middle of July, a group of local Latino middle school students descended on Grand Teton National Park to participate in Pura Vida—a Foundation-funded program that introduces local Latino middle school students to the national park in their backyard. We caught up with Grand Teton National Park’s Education and Outreach Coordinator Christie Haffner to hear about some of the experiences she had with Pura Vida students that week.
“It’s so funny to look at things through the student’s fresh perspectives,” Christie said while chuckling about a participant’s experience at String Lake. The kids took off their shoes and stood in the water as they waited to leave the lake after a day of canoeing—the first time for many. Once it was time to go, one student was lagging behind. Christie waited until the boy yelled that there was a leach stuck to his foot! She rushed over to him and promptly removed it. Walking back to the bus, the boy looked over at Christie and said, “That was fun,” and proceeded to tell the rest of the students with a grin.
The week reminded Christie that kids don’t have an agenda. Everything is an adventure for them.
Pura Vida students also had the opportunity to meet Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela. David asked them about their dreams. He shared his experiences growing up in Texas and career in the National Park Service, encouraging the students to incorporate who they are into their work and their future dreams.
After David left, a girl asked Christie, “Is he in charge of this building?” Christie responded, “He’s in charge of this whole park.” The student’s jaw-dropped. The realization that this man managed all of Grand Teton National Park was inspiring. Christie reflected that representation matters and that watching these students see themselves in David’s face and in his story was heartwarming.
Pura Vida is in its ninth year and has impacted hundreds of local Latino students and their families. Take a look at this video to learn more about this impactful program.