Olivia Mongarro - Environmental Student & Interpreter

Personal Statement

Using my Environmental Education degree and my Certification from the National Association for Interpretation I hope to spread my knowledge and passion for the environment and all that live within by becoming an ambassador at zoos or aquariums.

Through my certification training, I learned that there is more to interpretive guides than just being a people person. One of my favorite characteristics of successful interpretation is storytelling. Storytelling is a fundamental tool in interpretation that allows us, the interpreters, to share common experiences with our audience and to connect the story to our main initiative. In my first Certified Interpretive Guide talk, I illustrated the creation and evolution of modern zoos and how they have changed and adapted to societal pressures. My many trips to the San Diego Zoo and Seaworld San Diego provided early exposure to animal exhibitions and after learning more about the parks, the talk helped me develop a deeper understanding of their purpose. Through my work, I hope to facilitate that same sense of questioning, understanding and wonder in park guests.


Environmental Autobiography

My great-grandparents immigrated from Mexico to the San Fernando Valley and started a new life for themselves and their children. They were concerned about their financial situation and raising their children and, at the time, the environment was not a huge concern. My grandfather was a factory worker and my grandmother only took jobs when she felt the need to. Besides the occasional sewing jobs or factory work, my grandmother was a stay at home mom and, like her mother, was focused on raising her daughters. My grandparents made environmental efforts but more for the sake of cutting costs. They reduced their waste by instilling in their children that you only get what you need and anything left over you must save. My grandfather was also the family handyman and would keep scrap metal and wood in case something would have to be fixed. 

The two biggest social factors that have influenced my family’s connection, and all-around understanding of the environment, have been economic and geographical. My great-grandparents and my grandparents were always pinching pennies and trying to live within their means. My grandparents were able to buy a good home for their family in San Diego and do what they could to support themselves and their children. I believe that if I were to explain climate change to them they would not understand and would not know what to do about it. However, my godparents do understand climate change and make conscious efforts to recycle and change little things that help the environment. They are also better off than their parents and have extra money to put toward environmental causes. When my grandparents moved to San Diego, I do not think they thought of the impact that it would have on their future generations. San Diego is already such an amazing place and its natural beauty has a lot to do with that. Where my family started, we were 30 minutes from the nearest beach and an hour away from the mountains and the desert. We were also privileged to be frequent visitors of SeaWorld San Diego, the World-Famous San Diego Zoo, and the Wild Animal Park. Looking back, I think these visits developed a foundation and it has developed and strengthened my passion for science and the environment.

Now, our family is more environmentally aware and does what they can to help save it. My godparents donate when they can because they understand the importance of those ecosystems. They have been going to National Parks since they met and have made it their thing to visit another park each anniversary. After visiting a few, my godmother fell in love with the parks and felt like it was important to preserve them so that her children and grandchildren could also get the chance to experience such natural beauty. They have impacted me and my view and values surrounding the environment. My godmother's value of preserving nature has stuck with me and has pushed me to learn more about how to do that using environmental science and studies. I believe that because my family was lucky enough to be in San Diego and have access to nature theme parks, it has helped me develop my own values regarding animals, nature, and the environment as a whole. I enjoy going to SeaWorld and the Zoo and seeing the different animals and learning about them and their environments.

Our love and appreciation for nature and the environment have developed independently as we explored San Diego and California as a whole. I did not have an early connection to the land itself, but rather the plants and animals that live on it. The one figure that I remember sparking my interest in animals and nature was Jane Goodall. In elementary school, we had a project where we got to pick people and do research on them and I chose Jane and quickly found her interesting. She was the first woman in science that I had ever seen and her fondness and passion for Chimpanzees was fascinating to me. She emphasizes conservation and compassion toward these animals and I took that to heart. Entering middle school, there was a big mural on one of the walls that I later learned she had participated in and signed. Even though it was just her signature, I was star-struck and could not believe that Jane Goodall, my idol, had been at my middle school.