Summer at the Urban Ecology Center is a time where community engagement is at its peak. From Land Stewardship, Community Programs to children’s summer camps, the Urban Ecology Center grows tremendously. To keep up with the increase in activity summer brings, interns are recruited to help fill in the gaps. With 26 total interns hired this summer to fill an assortment of positions, they bring a fresh perspective to the team and gain valuable experience to help propel them into future careers.
Eunice Perez, a southside Milwaukee native, grew up and still lives blocks from the Menomonee Valley branch of the Urban Ecology Center. She was able to watch the transformation of the area from the beginning and said it was incredible to see the plans for the center come to life before her eyes. It is now a place she and her family enjoy, her mother and aunt frequenting the trails on walks.
As a first-generation college student, her goals for the future include giving back to Milwaukee and the community that made her who she is. Pursuing a degree in communications, a minor in Political Science alongside a certificate in Peace Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Eunice says she considers work at the Urban Ecology Center “peace work” and will continue to pursue a career that stems in positive change for the area.
While Eunice never considered herself someone who was “in-tune with nature” she said some of her favorite things about working for the Urban Ecology Center was the knowledge that she has gained so far from the people she works with. “I can recognize plants out in nature and know what is invasive or what’s native. I even learned how to catch a dragonfly. I never used to be interested in that kind of stuff but it’s probably the coolest thing I will take with me”, said Eunice. A green career was never something that she considered as an option but is now excited about the possibilities.
Chamong Xiong is a California Native, currently pursuing a degree in Biology and Environmental Science with hopes to eventually graduate with a PhD in Entomology. It is his work at the Urban Ecology Center that spurred his interest in insects. While doing surveys he realized just how many insects reside in such a small patch of land. Chamong has great relationships with his supervisors, who are willing to teach him everything.
Going back to school later in life was a difficult choice for Chamong. He had a good job as a security guard, a career he had been in for a long time, but he knew that wasn’t what he wanted for the rest of his life. Without financial aid because of past academic hardships, Chamong made it through and graduated with an Associate in Biology. He said it was his mentors who made all of the difference along the way. From close relationships to former professors, who served as professional references when applying to the Urban Ecology Center internship, to now at the Urban Ecology Center, the supervisors and fellow interns who he said treat him like family.
Through his environmental pursuits, Chamong decided to take up wildlife photography. He loves to share what he sees out in nature so he strives to take the best photos possible so others can experience those special moments with him.
This passion even took him to win a regional wildlife photography competition in the process.
2019 competition winning photo by Chamong Xiong
Eliza Woods is a Madison native and current student at the University of Minnesota Duluth pursuing a degree in Anthropology. She defines herself as a dancer, a plant person, and a personal who cares. She cares about people, the environment, the community, and the world around her. Eliza has always been an outdoorsy person so she enjoys being able to spend so much time connecting with nature.
Eliza’s first encountered the Urban Ecology Center in 2017 when she was in Milwaukee for a World Affairs Seminar.
When she and her group visited the Riverside Park branch, an employee at the time gave a talk about the center and its goals for environmental justice that really resonated with her. While Eliza hadn’t been able to return to the Urban Ecology Center until this summer, it was at the front of her mind when applying for jobs in Milwaukee on her summer break from school. She wanted to do something that focused on environmental intersectionalism so she was eager to apply when she found out about the internship opportunities.
Knowing about some of Milwaukee’s history, Eliza sees a real need for environmental intersectionalism in the community and is excited to be a part of it. One of her favorite parts of her Summer Camp Internship has been watching children who started out shy become more outgoing and confident in themselves and their surroundings. “One camper started out terrified of getting into a canoe at the start of the day but by the end, she didn’t want to get out”, said Eliza. “It’s those kinds of things that are really special to see.”