Nicole: Hello, you are listening to Conservation Diaries, a new National Park Service podcast series. I’m your host, Nicole Segnini. In this series we are showcasing some of the Latinx interns who are working on amazing projects with the National Park Service.
There are many youth programs designed to connect kids, teens, and young adults with opportunities at national parks sites to contribute to our nations natural, cultural, historical, and recreational resources in their own way. Like the Latino Heritage Internship Program, or LHIP.
Our fourth guest is Manuel Santos from Puerto Rico. He is a recent graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans with a Bachelor of Design in Graphic design and a minor in Art History.
Manuel: I just ended up in design because I knew that with design at least I could at least bridge all the things I liked. Because if I did film it would have been like just film really. By design I can work with design in movies, music, and really like anything. That’s probably why I went with design. It’s kind of hard to put myself in my shoes four years ago, but I think that was my conclusion.
Nicole: Manuel spent this past summer as a graphic designer visual information specialist intern at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park.
New Orleans is widely recognized as the birthplace of jazz and the sites and structures associated with the early history of jazz remain in the city.
In 1987, Congress resolved that quote, "Jazz is hereby designated as a rare and valuable national American treasure to which we should devote our attention, support, and resources to make sure it is preserved, understood, and promulgated."
The park's mission is to serve the nation as a global leader in the promotion of New Orleans jazz by enhancing and instilling a public appreciation and understanding of the origins, early history, development, and progression of this uniquely American music art form.
Manuel: So, one of the things that all the rangers try to tie up is the fact that, you know, gumbo is like a really typical food from here. It's just a combination of all the different cultures that have been a part of Louisiana and also New Orleans as a whole throughout and ever since its inception. And it's the same with jazz. It's just a culmination of all these different cultures. That's sort of what all the posters and interactive stuff at the jazz parks try to tell you. It's just jazz and come from one specific place. Well, it’s in New Orleans, but it’s a combination of all these cultures whether it’s Caribbean, African music, you name it.
Nicole: Manuel didn’t know much about New Orleans before he moved there for college four years ago, and the diversity of the beautiful city, and its music, was one of the immediate charms that kept him there.
He told me the city used to be called Bulbancha, which means “place of many tongues”, because it was a trading port for many different peoples of distinct heritages and linguistic groups. Like Manuel said, the city’s food and music are a combination and culmination of many cultures. And so are the people.
That is why inclusivity and representation is really important at the park.
Manuel: I think it’s really good to have diversity of culture everywhere, but specifically when it’s something that is government-funded and has to do with preserving history and I think it’s needed, really needed. Just because of how much the city is just born out of a diversity of culture, I guess. So it is really important to have people that don't have one singular cultural background, like it's good to have all these people working. Especially because, I mean, you get different perspectives, but also they're cut...They'd be kind of passionate about the story they're telling in the park.
It’s a really interesting city when you get to know the whole history and I don’t even know it all yet. I am constantly hearing about the history of New Orleans and Louisiana. And it ties in jazz history too, they go hand in hand.
Nicole: As an intern, Manuel’s tasks varied from creating posters for specific events and creating a logo for the park and animating it.
At the time of this podcast, the park has been closed with the ongoing pandemic, so the park’s visitor center is temporarily located at its sister park Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve French Quarter Visitor Center, which is only a few blocks away. Even though their main exhibit halls are also closed, they have temporarily set up shop in the courtyard with a small exhibit in one of the outside rooms, which features a piano that people can play, a TV with a video detailing the history of the Louisiana, as well as posters along the walls.
Manuel: Even though we were closed, it was nice that we would still do show recordings. Bands would come in and we would record them and then just upload them on Facebook. So it was like a fun virtual performance for people to just like watch at home and for even other stuff like this that the Creole Tomato Fest, French Quarter fest to like. It would just be like digital online performances, but we would just record them at the park. So it's pretty fun. Like, I still got to spend time at the park even though we were closed. I was able to be engage in the park, which is good.
Nicole: Manuel’s big project, however, was working in collaboration with Love’s Music Therapy to orchestrate and teach a summer digital workshop for children and young adults on the autism spectrum.
With the help of Ranger Jon, Manuel taught four students lessons on Adobe Photoshop, Logic Pro, and Adobe Premiere Pro. The goal was to teach these kids the basics so that they can at the end record a live performance, mix it, edit it, and perform any post-production changes they please.
Manuel: So like I mainly focused on Photoshop and a little bit of Premiere because I knew how to do Premiere. Logic, we had someone come in to sort of show the kids. But sort of the point of teaching all this was that we're having a band come into the park and they're going to be the ones in charge of recording the band, like video-wise, mixing the board to make sure the sound is okay. And then once it's all wrapped up, they're going to edit the video and sort of make their own little video editing of the whole performance.
Nicole: Manuel told me the performance and recording were a success and he was very proud of the work his students were able to do.
This was a great way for him to dip his toes into education and teaching, a career path that he had been considering for a while.
He also talked about the importance of programs and summer camps like this one. Classes like these ones in someone’s early life can have a huge impact on their future. It can help guide kids and teens towards careers they are actually passionate about. Workshops like this one could also make someone conscious of an interest they never thought they had.
Manuel: You know, I had some summer camps growing up as a kid. It was really hard to find a summer camp that was teaching something that I was interested in, and especially in Puerto Rico. I feel like, I don’t know, I was like “I want to like animate or do movies,” it’s not a niche thing. But to find a summer camp like that, at least in Puerto Rico, is kind of niche. I am sure here is different especially in New Orleans they’re filming movies all the time.
But, yeah, just the idea of having a summer camp like that is really fun because some of these kids are interested in that stuff, they already do this in their own time. But even if one them isn't interested in a specific thing, like maybe one like Photoshop and likes music, but doesn't really care about video or vice versa, you know, maybe doing something in this camp, something will click and then like, well, maybe I am interested in this and I want to, like, pursue that in the future.
Nicole: By the end of our interview, we talked about the importance of programs within the National Park Service that are aimed for young people in underrepresented communities and the importance of having those voices in our federal government. Manuel wants to encourage the youth, especially in the Latinx community, to follow their passion, and try to use that passion to do something good.
Manuel: I feel like there's jobs in almost every field for the government, especially with the national parks. But yeah, just the fact that you could use whatever you're passionate about, just sort of you kind of using it for good. I would hope at least, but because it is really important to preserve parks, it's really important to preserve history. And if you're kind of passionate about that, which if feel like a lot of people are, especially if you're, you know, in a minority group, I think it's really important to have your voice heard and to be able to make change. Because if you don't know if you're involved in this process at its sort of core, then you can make pretty good change, I’d say.
Nicole: National parks are more than just beautiful nature sceneries and historical monuments. New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park celebrates a living legacy of musical traditions, and you can learn more about the park on their website at www.nps.gov/jazz. You can also take a look at some of the live musical performances on the park’s Facebook page.
And remember, there are many opportunities for youth and young adults 15-30 years old and veterans 35 years old and younger to work with the National Park Service.
To learn more about these jobs, internships, and volunteering opportunities, you can go to www.nps.gov/youthprograms.
Thank you for listening!