What Happened When I Said Yes to National Parks

Whitney MitchellFYPx
Profile of African American person looking out onto Great Sand Dunes
– Javier Gonzalez

An online survey that turned into a celebratory email, that morphed into a plane ticket, that connected to a welcome reception, that descended into the cliffs and sand slopes of Mesa Verde and the Great Sand Dunes.

Profile of African American woman looking to the left surrounded by stone walls

Whitney Mitchell at Mesa Verde National Park

Javier Gonzalez

The 2015 Find Your Park Expedition was a trip of a lifetime. A serendipitous string of linkages and events that I will forever remember as the moment I told myself yes. 

I said yes to taking a chance on finding me, yes to being offered an opportunity to explore me, and others, in unfamiliar territory.

I said yes to entering parks that mirrored pictures and paintings of places that I never thought were for me.

The National Park Foundation created an experience that showed that I belong in every painted place and within every picture I hadn’t yet discovered.

Hand reaching towards the sky with open landscape in the background

FYPx was a curated diverse cast of individuals uniquely fantastic at bridging perspectives. A cast that said yes to themselves, taking the same leap I chose. We ate with each other sharing stories of our realities; we climbed cliffs and listened to histories of people that were foreign to us all. We started our trip as individuals and became a unit as we created a caravan of experiences through the kelly-green hillsides of Colorado.

Back of woman with arms stretched out with hills in the background
Javier Gonzalez

We said yes, together.

As a unit, we confirmed what national park staff already knew.

Outside of comfort zones and inside the magic of America’s national parks you can find learning, peace, togetherness, histories, and new chapters. 

All things that continue to make us human and foster harmony within our everyday lives.

I took the feeling of the parks, the smiles of the FYPx crew, and the new chapters of more challenging yes’s with me.

Asian man and African American woman sitting on a bench under a covered sidewalk area

Whitney Mitchell and Andrew Lin sitting outside the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve lodge

Javier Gonzalez

The freedom surrounding the National Park System is a yes I will continue to explore in every new chapter.

If you’re reading this, and you haven’t applied yet, take a chance on a chance and say yes for you.

Apply to be a part of the 2016 FYPx crew.

Whitney Mitchell participated in the National Park Foundation’s 2015 Find Your Park Expedition. She is a visual artist and collective impact strategist, creatively working to address health disparities in New Orleans, Louisiana. You can follow Whitney's adventures and connect with her on InstagramTwitterTumblrFacebook, Snapchat using TwoMacks, and on her website

Photo credits: Javier Gonzalez and Whitney Mitchell


I am now following Whitney's adventures and connecting with her on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat plus her website!

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