Latino Heritage Intern completes service in the Valley


VALLEY — Marissa Ortega, Latino Heritage Intern, completed her service hours at the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Marissa is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University where she received her B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. She plans to continue her education by pursing a master’s in environmental policy and sustainable development.

The Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP) is designed to address the lack of Latinos working in the National Park Service. “The NPS has a number of national internship programs that focus on increasing opportunities for diverse populations and ethnic groups. These programs include: The NPS Student Conservation Association (SCA) Academy, the Cultural Resources Diversity Intern Program, Mosaics in Science, the Ancestral Lands program, and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Intern Program. None of these programs specifically target the fastest growing population group in the United States of America and the most underrepresented group in the NPS workforce. This program hopes to address this challenge,” - the LHIP organization.

Marissa shared her housing experience during her time in the Valley, “I live in a shared house inside the park and the view from my window is breathtaking, as I wake up every morning to the sun rising above the snow-capped mountains.”

Marissa assisted the heritage area with a booth at the SummerFest where she helped youth bob for duckies. Later in the summer she helped with the Junior Archaeologist Camp. She also planned her own programming for youth at the Sand Dunes. Other activities included water research, visitor services at the Sand Dunes and GPS mapping.

Marisa said her favorite place in the Valley was Zapata Falls. It’s “where the most beautiful and most accessible waterfall is in Mosca. The hike is only half a mile and the view is spectacular. Considering that I am from sea level, hikes are really difficult for me here at Great Sand Dunes because we sit at 8,000 feet in elevation, so a mile hike uphill is exhausting and I feel like I just ran a marathon.”

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is committed to working with interns both locally and through programs such as the Latino Heritage Internship.

For information on other internship opportunities with the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit the website at

Captions: Marissa Ortega, left, and Tori Martinez, executive director of SdCNHA, right, at a booth at the SummerFest.

Marissa Ortega, far left, with the middle school Junior Archaeology camp. Courtesy photos