Name: Kesha Medina ’18
Education: BA Sustainable Food Systems & Environmental Humanities — Kesha is currently, studying to be a Shinrin Yoku (Forest Therapy) Guide and a Yoga Instructor
Current Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Employment: Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program (LEAP) Curriculum Developer for the Free Library of Philadelphia, an Urban Forestry Tree Specialist and Data Analyst for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, a Community Voice Member with the Parks and Recreations Urban Forest Strategic Plan, full-time mom, and student.
Other Interests: Gardening, Art, Yoga, Cooking, Hiking
Can you tell us about your current work? My current work has changed quite a bit since COVID restrictions hit but I essentially still do the same work. I currently develop curriculums and activities for the libraries and those activities get shared on our social media platforms, while virtually helping students with their school work, and also mentoring our Teen Library Assistants via peer review sessions on Zoom. When I am not doing that, my work is with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Parks and Rec Department. I am a certified Tree Tender so run a community group that plants free trees across the city, and did the data work for this past year’s plantings. With Parks and Rec, I am a community voice member for my neighborhood in which I help with the ten-year plan to plant trees in communities for the environmental, social and mental health benefits they provide. All of my work is in the realm of education, social, and environmental justice.
How did Sterling influence your current career path? Sterling has mostly supplemented my path since I had always been involved in work within the realm of natural sciences; obtaining my degree allowed me to jump into the work I wanted to do with the necessary experience to back it up. I will say that during my time at Sterling I was deeply involved in social justice work both inside and outside the community which has since opened up many opportunities for me. These days I work as an educator, a researcher, and an organizer all in the hope to create awareness in BIOPIC communities and the intersectionalities of our collective needs, while also committing myself to action-based change in the forefront and behind the scenes. My experience at Sterling was unique and much of my education came from learning how to survive in my environment, I was under a lot of pressure, but I overcame and have since used those experiences to inform my teaching and as a foundation for what I aspire to do in the future while continuing to learn and grow.
How easily did you find work post-graduation? I found work as soon as I graduated. I was working with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society as a farm host and educator for a pop up garden series they had curated. Shortly after that I also found the LEAP position at the library where I focus on STEM and art curriculum development. I have stayed at both locations since 2018 and have evolved in both as well as my extra activities around social justice and land care.
What does ecological thinking and action mean to you, and how does it show up in your life post-Sterling? As a young woman of color who was transplanted into the U.S from Puerto Rico, ecological thinking and action means so much more to me than one might think. Systemically, communities of color in the United States are placed in ‘urban’ settings that affect our health and culture, this means that our access to green spaces are limited either because they are too far, or too expensive to see. Though culturally we have always been the main contributors to agriculture and our ancestry is full of land care practices that we carry on with our stories, art etc.
In Puerto Rico, we actually suffer from what is basically environmental racism because climate change and man made factors disproportionately impact our homes, and larger, wealthier countries come in and begin to buy our land or tear it down because socioeconomically we cannot compete. These are the things that my community have to tackle everyday, both professionally and personally with our peers. We all know that work needs to be done and that action has to be taken in order to preserve our sense of self, community, culture, identity, and more. Ecological thinking and action seems to be just one of the fights ahead for my people and will most likely continue on long after me. So I can only say that if I were to define what ecological action and thinking mean to me, it is the quote from The Ignant Intellectual, “planting and reaping don’t happen in the same season.”
What is your most memorable “out in the field” story? Not sure if this counts, but I can never forget my experience in Mexico 2017 with the Agricultural Adaptations to Climate Change: Chiapas Mexico Field Study Class. Outside of it being an amazing class and opportunity, (We met the Zapatistas and people of Naha!) my class had the unique experience of being caught in an earthquake. I remember that I was brushing my teeth that night after returning to the hostel, and suddenly everything was shaking – I immediately knew that it was an earthquake so told whoever was in the showers to get out and ran to our room where some people had thought that the shaking was the washing machine next to us! Once they realized that it in fact was not the washing machine we all ran out of the rooms and stood outside waiting to see what happen and if there would be another. Gladly, we were all safe and ok, just a bit shocked and ready to go home. Unfortunately that memory is bittersweet because at the same time my beloved island was about to be struck by hurricane Maria so you can say that my family was highly concerned.
Any words of wisdom for current Sterling students? College isn’t the end all be all, yes there are rules but sometimes they need to be reevaluated, changed or completely overthrown. You are just as much a teacher as a student so be secure in what you need to learn in its entirety because it isn’t always in the ‘classroom’.