It Is Powerful to See Yourself in Parks
Ernesto Vasquez is a former member of the National Park Foundation’s Board of Directors. Together with his wife, Socorro, they are longtime supporters of the National Park Foundation's Open OutDoors for Kids initiative, enabling children from diverse under-resourced communities to experience the parks firsthand.
I grew up in East Los Angeles, where the largest open space we had access to was the local cemetery. Needless to say – I didn’t consider myself an outdoorsman. In contrast – my wife, Socorro, is a nature-loving former Girl Scout. She made it a priority to expose our own children and grandchildren to California’s Redwood Forest, Yosemite, the Sierras, and so many of California’s other beautiful outdoor spaces. It is magical to see the wonders of nature through a child’s eye.
Education is one of our family’s top philanthropic priorities. When we learned about NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids program, it seemed like the perfect way to help young people connect with nature while furthering their education.
I’m honored my wife and I can help other children create special park memories, too.
I once watched a group of fourth graders arrive at Zion National Park; many of them were visiting the park for the first time thanks to Open OutDoors for Kids. To witness their excitement as they explored the park was magical. See what can happen when city kids get out of their usual setting? It expands their horizons and gives them a chance to dream.
Socorro and I both are rooted in our Latino heritage, and I’m glad our support has helped children, including underserved Latino communities in Southern California, discover the parks. As our National Park System continues to evolve, more and more young people will be able to see their own families’ heritage and stories reflected. I recall attending the opening festivities for César E. Chávez National Monument here in California, and it was such an moving and powerful celebration of my community. It means a lot to see yourself in the parks.
Let’s continue to spread the message to new communities about the importance of our national parks. The parks need our love and support for future generations, and the more people who care for them the better!