Meet the NPF Team: LaTresse Snead
LaTresse Snead distinctly remembers the moment she became a nature lover.
She was in sixth grade on a week-long immersive trip to Sly Park Environmental Education Center, surrounded by different types of trees and so taken with nature’s vibrant colors.
“I want to help more kids experience what I did. I want them to be filled up with awe and wonder, and know the benefits that nature provides to our lives,” says LaTresse.
As chief program officer at the National Park Foundation (NPF), LaTresse brings this heartfelt commitment with her every day as she oversees NPF’s programmatic strategies for protecting parks and their resources, connecting people to the natural and cultural heritage they preserve, and strengthening the extensive national network of nonprofit partners that support the more than 400 national parks across the country.
We hope you will enjoy this glimpse into our conversation with LaTresse and be inspired to reflect on and share your own story with us in the comments below.
What is one of your favorite national park memories?
I grew up in Sacramento, California, and spent a lot of time outside. My parents wouldn’t let my brother and I go to the local park because it was a little too far and not safe. We usually would play on our front lawn or at the graveyard up the street, as we knew it was safe to play there and there were big, beautiful trees to protect us from the hot sun. That was my understanding of the outdoors. Then, in sixth grade, I got the chance to go to a week-long immersive experience at Sly Park Environmental Education Center about an hour outside Sacramento. While it was not a national park, it was life changing. I had never done anything like that before. We learned all about biodiversity and the different types of leaves and trees, and that is the moment when I became a nature lover.
I loved my experience at Sly Park so much that I told my parents about it and they planned a short vacation to Yosemite National Park. This was my very first visit to a national park and I was in awe of the natural beauty, the chance to explore the outdoors, and also the opportunity to learn about the history of the land. Hiking, camping with my family, and protecting our food from bears were some of my favorite memories of my first visit to Yosemite.
My experiences at Sly Park and Yosemite are just a few of the reasons I am so committed to our work at the National Park Foundation. I want to help more kids experience what I did. I want them to be filled up with awe and wonder, and know the benefits that nature provides to our lives. It goes beyond nature too, parks give us spaces to literally experience history where it happened, both virtually and in person.
What projects do you normally work on at NPF?
So many great projects and programs! On the programs and partnerships team, we are focused on expanding programmatic impact that preserves places that share stories about all people, including Women's history, Black history, and Latino history, in addition to programs supporting sustainability and landscape and wildlife conservation.
We are helping to ensure that parks are sharing relevant and more expansive stories and that everybody can see themselves in these places. This work is very important, especially as we think about whose voices have not traditionally been heard or have been excluded or sometimes just under-engaged.
For example, we're working with the Greening Youth Foundation and Fund II Foundation on the internX program to place collegiate interns with national parks. We also partner with NPS, American YouthWorks, and Mission Heritage Partners to fund cultural landscape apprenticeships for local Latino young adults at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. These types of internships and apprenticeships help create on-ramps for future leaders in conservation and preservation.
Hybrid park learning for kids is another area we are focusing on with parks and partners. We are looking at how we can incorporate both green time and screen time during the COVID pandemic and beyond.
I also lead the team in our efforts to strengthen the more than 450 nonprofit park partners across the country. That is a ton of groups doing important work for parks and people! Through our Strong Parks, Strong Communities capacity building grant program, NPF is responding to current needs and helping partners preserve parks and increase access to parks for all people. Part of that work is expanding engagement efforts to represent all park visitors.
What drives you to do this work?
I have been fortunate to know first-hand the power of national parks since childhood and I truly believe that parks can be pillars of strength for all people. That is what drives me at the core.
I want to help preserve parks and increase engagement with these places that have provided so much to me and my family. I want to help create a more equitable outdoor community where everyone feels safe, where everyone feels included, where people feel like they belong, and where all people have access. I am constantly thinking about how our actions and programs support justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
What is one of your favorite parts of working for NPF and what is one of the biggest challenges?
I have an amazing team of staff and I am privileged to work with them every day.
One of my most important responsibilities is building a trusting and collaborative relationship with the National Park Service and other partners, that is both one of my biggest challenges and my biggest honors. It’s a challenge because the National Park System is huge with over 420 national parks, and the opportunity to support their needs are endless. I am honored to be in a position to protect our parks and engage more people in the opportunity to experience them.
If you could create a park around a current or historical figure or moment, what would it be?
The very first park I would create would be in honor of the late John Lewis. Of course, the theme would be “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble” with a focus on human rights.
Additionally, I firmly believe we need a greater diversity of stories reflected within our national parks. I would love to see more park sites created around women and people of color, so that all people can see themselves within the parks.
We hope you enjoyed this opportunity to get to know LaTresse and invite you to hear more of her insights on the National Park Service FriYAY podcast about creating more equitable outdoor spaces.