Intern Spotlight: Estrella Sainburg

A young latina woman smiling, wearing a blue polo shirt, with colorful letters that spell "LHIP." She is wearing black pants. Behind her is a black statue of a military person, green trees, grass, and cloudy sky.
Estrella in front of the Minute Man statue at the North Bridge unit

Photo Courtesy of Estrella Sainburg

Meet Estrella, a former Trails Planning and GIS Assistant with the Latino Heritage Internship Program!

How did you find yourself at the National Park Service?

As an Angeleno (native of Los Angeles, California) growing up at the foot of the Angeles Crest National Forest, and now the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, I was closely interconnected with exploring nature. My family made a point to explore the trails of Los Angeles and occasionally national parks of the Southwest, namely Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. As the daughter of an immigrant from Mexico, I grew to know intimately our dependance on the land and the peace, serenity, and awe we can find in places as near as our backyard garden. My concern for environmental injustice has grown over the years. This has led to the inequitable treatment of minority and low-income communities as it relates to the enforcement and implementation of environmental policies, programs, and activities.

In 2018, I found myself interested in increasing equitable access to parks and planning parks that are contributing to the community’s well-being and sustainable growth. I entered a master’s program in planning to strengthen my ability to speak to these issues and advance environmental justice. There, I found the incredible opportunity to intern with the National Park Service through the Latino Heritage Internship Program in the summer of 2022 through a University of Texas at Austin faculty member. The National Park Service is an incredible leader in environmental and cultural conservation and is positioned to strengthen community, sustainability, and equity. For me, the National Park Service helps us understand who we are as a nation through its preservation and education of history and memory. This agency also advances interactions and experiences with nature in urban settings and remote places through its visitor services, recreational opportunities, and environmental protection efforts.
A young latina woman in a light blue polo shirt, dark pants, and sneakers holding up a measuring tool, while three other crew members in bright orange hard hats, gray shirts, and dark or khaki pants work on a trail.
Estrella records Appalachian Mountain Crew members working on the North Bridge trail

Photo Courtesy of Estrella Sainburg

What has been the highlight of your experience as an intern with the National Park Service?

I had the incredible opportunity to be the Trails Planner and GIS Assistant at Minute Man National Historical Park. I worked with the Culture and Resource Management group, a talented team that included a landscape architect, biologist, and historian! While working on my master’s in planning, the internship provided me the opportunity to learn more about trail management and planning, alternative transportation, and cultural resources. It was truly a summer full of highlights from having a wonderful mentor to working alongside bright interns and learning about interpretation.

One highlight I’d like to share in detail is documenting trail stewardship needs and techniques along the park’s main trail -- the Battle Road Trail. The goal of the StoryMap was to help identify regularly occurring problem areas along the trail and train future trail crews, including volunteers and park staff, on how to address the trail problems in an organic manner. A StoryMap is an interactive, digital tool that helps tell a story using various multimedia, including pictures, descriptions, maps, audios, videos, and more! Securing a trail with limited water damage and easy mobility is crucial for people of all abilities to move through the trail from beginning to end as desired. The trail is essential to the purpose of the park’s interpretive story -- the story of the beginning of the nation’s Revolutionary War. As a non-science person, I find it essential, as well as fascinating, to learn the nitty gritty of the workings of soil, water, plants, and animals. As planners, I believe we must start from the ground and work our way out. We have so much to learn from nature. The internship provided me with the opportunity to learn more and parks are always a local asset to communities for gaining a greater perspective of the world’s wonders.
A young latina woman wearing a light blue polo shirt with the letters "LHIP" in different colors, dark pants, and sneakers, poses with her left hand on hip. She is standing next to a male dressed as an eighteenth century New England farmer
Estrella and park ranger, Tom Ritz, stand outside of the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man NHP. Ranger Tom is dressed as a eighteenth century New England farmer while holding a Fiddle

Photo Courtesy of Estrella Sainburg

What is it like cultivating a community as a National Park Service intern?

The Minute Man National Historical Park team has a built-in community. I stepped into a community that was excited to meet me, get to know me, and orient me around the park. From the superintendent to the interpreters and the facilities team, the entire park staff, and even interns and regular volunteers, were kind, curious, and supportive. The park had celebrations for one another for milestones and even Wednesday teatime for volunteers. One team member, in particular, from the facilities team went above and beyond to help me find information about any park connections to Hispanic heritage or Latino history for an art project we were working on for the Latino Heritage Internship Program. He returned to me to share that a park icon, Henry David Thoreau, was an active voice against the U.S. War with Mexico that took place in the 1800s. When one is working on natural and cultural resources in a historic park, it’s easy to become siloed and lose sight of our interconnectedness with interpretation and true dependance on one another. In addition to being welcomed on, I made a point to get to know all teams, eat in the interpretation team’s office, and even take some time from my week to help with visitor services. Building a community meant stopping when you could around the park to talk with team members that you would run into, ask them how they were doing, listen, and learn and share about each other’s work.

What projects have you been involved in so far?

In addition to the StoryMap that I created for the park, I also had the opportunity to enhance the availability of information for getting to the park by bike and contribute to the planning of alternative options for ways parks can get to the park. I worked with the communications team to update the directions page on the website. This was exciting since the area is a popular destination for cyclists and the park recently permitted electric bikes on the route. I also had the opportunity to participate in conversations with local towns about starting a shuttle that would move through the three towns that the park spans, Concord, Lincoln, and Lexington. The conversation followed a study of the feasibility of having a town-led shuttle service that had been conducted one year prior. During my internship, the local town of Concord began a pilot shuttle service, connecting local historic and tourist destinations, of which Minute Man National Historical Park was a part. I learned quickly that the park is not only physically interconnected with surrounding communities, but is also a highly visited site, that is helping to advance park recreation and sustainability goals.

What have you learned that you will take forward in your career?

12 individuals stand in a garden with yellow, green, and orange plants. There is a mix of park staff in their gray and green uniforms, young workers in neon green shirts and work pants, some in green shirts, and others in regular street clothes.
Estrella located in the center of the group in blue alongside Integrated Resource Program staff and interns in the Buttrick Gardens

Photo Courtesy of Estrella Sainburg

I have learned that taking in every perspective is incredibly valuable, and learning, observing, and honoring the wisdom of experienced professionals and local leaders matters. Being from California, I grew up very distant to the history of the nation’s colonial origins. Therefore, interacting and working alongside trained historians who are engaging and passionate opened my eyes to a whole corner of the country and part of our history that I have forgotten since my elementary education. The history, and even the monuments commemorating the history, is relevantand continues to teach us lessons today. I am a stronger planner with the history that my colleagues taught me at the park and with such great enthusiasm and relatability too. These are the skills and talents of our nation’s park interpreters.

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Bryce Canyon National Park, Minute Man National Historical Park, Zion National Park

Last updated: May 30, 2023