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For Rudy Rolon-Rivas, the outdoors has become a powerful element in his everyday life. At Latino Network, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering and transforming the lives of Latinos, Rolon-Rivas is responsible for mentoring and guiding youths. Using his love and knowledge of nature, Rolon-Rivas hopes to inspire kids to venture outdoors and learn more about their surroundings.
Rolon-Rivas previously participated in It’s Our Nature, Metro’s yearlong nature immersion program, and will be participating in Nature University to become a volunteer naturalist.
Q. What’s the most interesting thing you learned during the It’s Our Nature program?
A. I can’t really pinpoint one. Every time we met up, we were at a new location and we looked at new birds, plants, trees, different environments, different ecosystems, different trails. Everything was new to me and it was fascinating. I had the mind of an explorer everywhere I went.
Q. Why is it important for the young people you work with to have access to nature?
A. I think it’s important for everybody, but generally speaking, kids of color, poor kids, kids who don’t have cars – they all live in apartment complexes. They’re stuck in the neighborhoods. Nobody’s really taken them on an adventure. The city is so highly developed, which is another reason minority kids who don’t have resources don’t really see nature. All they see
The neighborhood park is a place where gangs hang out. It’s a popular drug spot where you can get shot or get into trouble and get arrested. That’s why it’s very important for minority kids – not just Hispanic kids – to get out into the woods and take a hike, get to know nature, understand it, appreciate it, admire it for what it is and just marvel at its beauty.
Q. How do you bring nature to the kids you work with?
A. Actually, I bring the kids to nature. I try to bring that love and joy, that passion I have for the forest when I talk to the youth. I ask them “Hey, what do you know about the trees?” Everything I ever learned in my life, I try to pass it down to them, some way, somehow.
Q. What are you most looking forward to at Nature University?
A. Learning more. It’s never enough. I want to explore, I want to learn to teach others. But also it’s because my population really isn’t out there. I need more kids to be into nature. I need more of my population out in the woods, to teach kids, or even volunteer to become a naturalist.