I read with great interest the Bay Journal’s recent article, “The ‘green ceiling’: Environmental organizations lack diversity” (November 2014).
As an African American woman fish and wildlife biologist, there were not many faces that looked like mine as I climbed the ranks and eventually retired as the head of fisheries and assistant director at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Making history when appointed the first African American USFWS regional director of the 13 Northeastern states, I realized that we must serve as role models for girls and students of color by educating them about career opportunities in environmental science and environmental studies.
Now that I’ve retired from public service, I have the time and energy to devote to the environment, conservation and to my obligation by opening doors for diversity in the profession.
As a board member of Chesapeake Conservancy based in Annapolis, it has been my great pleasure to partner with them and the Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office on the Mamie Parker Journey: Inspiring Youth to Embrace the Chesapeake speaker series for inner city students in Baltimore.
I encourage students to work hard to overcome their life challenges and to go outside to experience the Chesapeake Bay watershed firsthand.
After each of our motivational talks, we leave teachers with a supplemental curriculum.
Students receive helpful survival tactics, information about volunteer opportunities, a Baltimore Wilderness map and a copy of the book, “Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places” by Dudley Edmondson. The book describes, in detail, African Americans making the environment a part of their everyday lives.
Although there are, in fact, opportunities for these students in the environmental field, many of them do not realize the great careers they can have in public service, nonprofit or environmental advocacy.
I hope others will join me in this important work of opening young minds to new opportunities, and reminding them to follow their dreams and embrace the Chesapeake.
For information about the Mamie Parker Journey, please visit www.chesapeakeconservancy.org/mamie-parker-journey.