Ernesto Pepito was raised by his mother, Patricia, in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, along with an older sister, an older brother and a younger brother. Today, he oversees youth leadership programs for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Bay Area’s National Parks and making sure they are accessible to all people. Ernesto was appointed to his current position after he launched and managed an award-winning program at the Crissy Field Center called Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (I-YEL).
I think the beautiful thing about the parks and Crissy Field is that they allow people to decide for themselves how they want to use these amazing public resources we have in San Francisco. It’s the whole idea of the National Parks that everyone’s invited, even those who haven’t traditionally been invited. Many times, those who are not visiting these parks are the young people and communities who could really benefit from them.
There’s a stereotype that caring about the environment and nature is for white people or that only white people go camping or hiking or care about parks. Part of what I do in my work is to shatter that perception among young people and help them understand that the parks are for everyone, and that caring about your environment is the same as caring about your community.