Excel as a High-Performing Agency

Resource assistants connect people to the outdoors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This summer, five Resource Assistants are bringing the USDA Forest Service mission to diverse and underserved communities in metropolitan cities thanks to the Eastern Region’s Urban Connections program. The Resource Assistants Program is a rigorous, immersive and paid internship for individuals interested in Forest Service careers.

Mary Lovelace, a recent graduate from Mount Holyoke College, joined the Urban Connections team in Minneapolis/St. Paul this summer. Mary has been working with Forest Service partner Wilderness Inquiry, a non-profit that aims to make outdoor adventures accessible to all, regardless of ability or financial status. Through this partnership, she has provided canoe, water quality and history programming in the Twin Cities.

Imena Ezell and Jamila Rice, both recent graduates from Tuskegee University, have been working with Urban Connections in Boston for about a month. Although they are still settling into their new roles, both are excited about connecting Boston residents to nature. Imena has worked with the Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation who provides jobs restoring urban green spaces throughout the city to teenagers. The goal is to increase awareness of the importance of having nature in the community. 

Francisco Hernandez-Flores is working with Urban Connections in Milwaukee to bring Forest Service messaging to the large Latino community in the city. He is working primarily with the United Community Center, an organization that serves a predominantly Latino audience. In conjunction with UCC and other environmentally focused non-profits like the Urban Ecology Center, Francisco has planned and led a variety of outdoor recreation programs such as interpretive hikes, canoeing, rock-climbing and biking, including a historical bike tour to celebrate Latino Conservation Week. 

Jaqcara Jackson is working with Urban Connections in Detroit helping with community outreach and environmental education programming. In just three short months, she has been able to share Forest Service messages with thousands of young people at large events such as Metro Detroit Youth Day and Open Street Detroit. 

Urban Connections and the resource assistants are bringing the mission of the Forest Service closer to the urban population of the Eastern United States. Hopefully, they will inspire the next generation of environmental stewards in the process. 


All of the Urban Connections Resource Assistants were able to network in person at the Resource Assistants Conference in Washington, D.C. From left: Mary Lovelace (Minneapolis), Imena Ezell (Boston), Jamila Rice (Boston), Jacqara Jackson (Detroit), Francisco Hernandez (Milwaukee). Forest Service photo.