Next 100 Colorado Member Spotlight Series

This week's Member Spotlight features Jessica Godinez, a social equity advocate, outdoor lover, and Conservation Program Associate at Hispanic Access Foundation.




How does your job help make Colorado’s outdoor spaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive?


Hispanic Access seeks to make outdoor spaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive through a few of our initiatives. In the Conservation Program, we host multiple outdoor outings with communities across the country throughout the year, and in particular, during Latino Conservation Week and Hispanic Heritage Month. Latino Conservation Week was created to support the Latino community getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources and has grown significantly to be more intersectional and visible amongst our community and partners. Further, we host multiple opportunities throughout the year for our community to be directly engaged in advocacy and policy – through trainings, DC fly-ins, and educational resources, like our Congressional Conservation Toolkit. We also work to build workforce diversity through our MANO Intern Program (My Access to Network Opportunities) which has partnerships with federal land management agencies across the country to place interns in jobs and internships that can create a pipeline to permanent jobs with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and others. In all programs and initiatives, our mission is to establish bridges of access that provide a path for the development and rise of Latino leaders and to elevate those voices in areas where they are underrepresented.


How has Next 100 Colorado changed the way you approach your work?

Being a part of Next 100 Colorado teaches me to approach my work, both professional and personal, with a wider perspective of the problems and solutions associated with this work. The people that make up Next 100 Colorado often offer opinions and viewpoints that challenge what we’re used to seeing in the conservation and outdoors world, which is refreshing and inspiring to me as someone who is still just beginning the journey in working in JEDI conservation efforts. This network has also been an example of how to approach this work while embracing cultural differences and being comfortable doing so, and I’m grateful to be a part of this empowering group.


What is your favorite outdoor spot in Colorado?

As a climber, I love Boulder Canyon for sunny and chill crag days over the summer, but Mt. Evans (whose name will hopefully be re-named soon) holds a special place in my heart. I first moved to Colorado a little over 2 years ago for an internship with the U.S. Forest Service (through Hispanic Access’ MANO program), during which I got to spend my summer as an Interpretative Field Ranger on Mt. Evans. It was my first experience in the alpine and I got to explore and learn so much about the wildlife, its history, and its beauty during my time there.


What is your favorite outdoor activity?


I’m always down for a hike and love camping, but camp/climb trips are my absolute favorite!


Who inspired your career in conservation/the outdoors?

Many others have inspired my career, but my love for conservation and the outdoors definitely comes from my mom and her mom, my abuela. They’ve both taught me from a young age to appreciate our natural world and to care for it. Their lessons weren’t directly about conservation, but the love and appreciation started there, in the garden with my mom.

In our first profile, we spotlight Gabriel Otero, Colorado Plateau representative at The Wilderness Society and a Next 100 Colorado coalition member since summer 2019.


How does your job help make Colorado’s outdoor spaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive?


I focus on making outdoor spaces more diverse, equitable and inclusive by working with historically unrepresented and disenfranchised communities. Public lands belong to all of us, so making sure all members of our communities are welcome and their voices are heard in the management of our public lands is the right thing to do. The Wilderness Society has made a commitment to equity and access to public lands for everyone. On the ground, this means providing leadership and opportunity for the communities we work in. It also means meaningful engagement and relationship building. The work comes in many forms, including hikes, educational events to discuss local and national policy, comment writing workshops, meeting with elected officials, film screenings, etc. It’s really about meeting people where they are and recognizing that because of systemic inequity they haven’t had a seat at the table. It is most important to listen and respond to and work side by side with unrepresented communities, and in turn elevate their voices.


How has Next 100 Colorado changed the way you approach your work?


Next 100 Colorado hasn’t changed the way I approach my work, but it does align with it. I’m a Chicano and come from a family of activists so I was taught about the inequalities in our country from an early age. Next 100 Colorado’s mission of addressing equitable access to public lands is great and I hope leaders in our state continue to support this work.  


What is your favorite outdoor spot in Colorado?


It’s hard to pick a favorite spot, because there are so many good ones depending on what recreation activity you like to do. Overall, I really enjoy spending time with my family anywhere on the Grand Mesa.


What is your favorite outdoor activity?


Hunting, fishing and hiking are tied as my favorites.


Who inspired your career in conservation/the outdoors?


My inspiration comes from God, in the sense that we all have a responsibility to be good stewards of the land we are blessed with so that future generations can enjoy it too.

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©2020 by Next 100 Colorado. Photos provided by James Mills, Janelle Paciencia, Hispanic Access Foundation, and Continental Divide Trail Coalition.