Where I Learned Who I Am
Growing up in Puerto Rico, my mom and San Juan National Historic Site all the time, to enjoy the fresh air and spend time with friends. Who could have predicted back when I was just a kid flying kites that one day I would grow up to serve as acting superintendent there? It’s the place where I learned what it means to be Puerto Rican — and what it means to be American.
It was the most important place on our little island. It did not belong to just some people; it belonged to all of us. And that’s the story of our national parks. With such a diverse collection of places, everyone can find part of his or her own story in the parks and historical monuments in the National Park System.
Now, I serve as superintendent at Everglades & Dry Tortugas National Parks in Florida. I’m always amazed by how many folks in the community have never visited our park. But thanks to support from the National Park Foundation, our Open OutDoors for Kids program brings Miami fourth graders to the parks for free. In 2019, we welcomed 14,000 students to our park. During the COVID-19 outbreak, we switched to providing virtual programs so students can continue to learn about our parks.
When kids come to the park, they fall in love with this incredible place. That’s how we build future stewards of our parks who will protect and improve these places for future generations.
Right now, with support from the National Park Foundation, we’re also undertaking the largest ecological restoration project in the world. This massive engineering project will restore natural water flows for a healthier, more resilient Everglades ecosystem.
When we celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2022, Everglades National Park will shine like the national treasure that it is. We simply could not be doing this on our own without the support of the philanthropic community, including you and the National Park Foundation.