Meet the 2022 Trail Apprentices

A group of young adults smiling and holding a flag with the National Trails System logo on it


The Trail Apprentice Program provides learning, peer exchange, and networking opportunities for students and young professionals between the ages of 18 and 28 who are considering careers in trails and public lands. PNTS is excited to see such enthusiasm for National Trails and we’re pleased to introduce the 2022 PNTS Trail Apprentices. We are excited to have these young leaders join the trails community at the National Trails Workshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico November 2-4, 2022.


Melissa Olivar (She/Her)

Queens, New York



My name is Melissa Olivar and I am a second-year Master’s student at St. John’s University pursuing a degree in Environmental Sustainability & Decision Making. As a person that grew up surrounded by tall buildings and cars, I had limited access to the natural environment and did not experience the benefits of enjoying nature firsthand. I became interested in natural trail systems after studying abroad in Costa Rica, where I would hike around multiple parks throughout the semester. I witnessed the benefits of conserving parks and the effects of nature on people’s quality of life. The white noise of nature allowed me to have a clear mind, which is something that I had never experienced before. Being in such a serene environment allowed me to reset and focus on things I often pushed away in my busy life. When I returned to New York, I was motivated to explore the natural parks in my state. Since then, I have made many memories in parks I have visited with my friends and family. I would love to share this passion for learning about parks with young people who might also be limited from exploring these areas due to financial hardships. Aside from my studies, I enjoy visiting museums, watching movies, eating food from different cultures, and attempting to dance salsa during my free time.

Melissa’s Career Aspirations
I aspire to be in a career combining the social and environmental sciences. I am interested in learning about environmental justice efforts, such as increasing access and awareness of national trails for low-income youth living in NYC. My goal would be to bring more awareness of the National Trails to people living in urban cities. Although I am still thinking about a career path to follow, I would like to teach youth and/or young adults and introduce them to the natural environment around them.

Why the Trail Apprentice Program?
The program’s emphasis on the natural trail systems drew me to the Trail Apprentice Program. Growing up, I had limited access to many of the trail systems that this apprenticeship focuses on. I hope to learn more about them and how each uniquely promotes stewardship and the history behind them. I wish to one day visit them and lead hiking trips for kids in NYC with little knowledge and limited access to the outdoors. I also appreciate that the program allows us to network with professionals, and engage in trainings and skill-building opportunities. Most of all, I am excited to connect with my peers and educators who are a part of this program and learn from each of them.

Why do you care about trails?
I care about trails because of their physical and mental impact on us. Every time I go on a hike, I end my day feeling accomplished and at peace. Although I have not hiked through the national trails, I always try to find a local trail in NYC’s public parks and have been lucky to find some gems in the city such as Inwood Hill Park, Van Cortland Park, and Shirley Chisholm State Park. A memorable trail experience came from my hike in the Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey last summer. It was my first attempt to lead my friends across the trail. I was proud because I was the person with the least amount of navigation skills out of the group, yet I challenged myself to read the maps and guide my team to the finish line.

Karly Toledo (She/Her)

Cambridge, Massachusetts



Karly Toledo is a Diné Asdzáán, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and graduate of Smith College with a B.A. in Government and minor in Economics. She currently works with IllumiNative, an unapologetically ambitions and innovative Native women-led organization grounded in core Native values and community, and guided by research. Born and raised in Northern Utah on the traditional lands of the Shoshone-Bannock, Karly holds a deep love and respect of the natural world. She is currently based on Pawtucket land in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Karly’s career aspirations
As a young Indigenous woman from Utah, I’ve spent my youth cultivating a deep respect and love for both tribal and public lands. I’ve both witnessed and experienced the beauty trails can bring to communities and want to ensure their beauty for generations to come. My hope for a future career involves working with the Department of the Interior to advocate for co-led stewardship of public lands in my home state of Utah.

What do you hope to gain from the Trail Apprentice Program?
My interest in amplifying Native voices in stewardship and sustainability efforts in the National Trail System brought me to the Trail Apprentice Program. I hope to gain a thorough understanding of current efforts being taken to expand tribal sovereignty in stewardship of trails and connect with young professionals interested in land protection and engagement.

What is a memorable trail experience you’d like to share?
Born and raised in northern Utah, I’ve spent my youth exploring trails in Logan Canyon along the river with family, friends, and relatives. One experience in particular continues to warm my heart. One early morning in June, my father and I went out to trail run up to the Old Juniper Tree hidden in the Wasatch Mountains. This was one of the first trail runs I took and the memory of dewy leaves and wildflowers remind me why I enjoy visiting the mountains each year in the summer.


María Rodríguez (She/Her)

Santa Fe, New Mexico



María Leonor was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Growing up, she was first exposed to outdoor activities and interacted with trails through summer camps. She spent her summers backpacking, hiking, rafting, and climbing around the western US and grew fond of spending time in the mountains with friends. She attended Davidson College in North Carolina where she earned a BA in Environmental Studies and pursued her love for the outdoors through the outdoor program. Here, she grew interested in creating meaningful and culturally relevant outdoor experiences that spark interest in long-lasting environmental change. After graduating, María worked as residential staff at an outdoor semester school in Idaho. She worked to support student life and led multi-day outdoor trips across Idaho and Patagonia for teens. Through her work and experiences in outdoor education, María found her love for backpacking and building communities outdoors that support the personal growth of individuals. She now works at the Institute for Applied Ecology as the Education and Outreach Coordinator leading educational programs and volunteer events in Santa Fe. María runs Forest Bound and the New Mexico Nature in Prisons program, with the objectives of fostering connections with the surrounding landscape, supporting emerging ecological stewards, and advancing the conservation of New Mexico’s public lands. In her free time, Maria enjoys going on big and small outdoor adventures, dancing, cooking elaborate meals, and learning how to successfully take care of her new plants!

María’s career aspirations
I hope to continue pursuing opportunities that allow me to combine my interests in the outdoors, education and accessibility. I am passionate about finding ways to connect people with nature as a means to build community, develop leadership, and inspire environmental stewardship. I have found my most meaningful communities through the outdoors and I hope that I can facilitate these opportunities for others. I hope to continue my career by working in different organizations that are working towards expanding accessibility on the trails through education and community building. National trails and other public lands are powerful sites to foster these relationships within. They offer the opportunity to introduce communities and individuals to nature in a way that can motivate them to feel a sense of ownership and belonging within these spaces.

Why do you care about trails?
Growing up, I was very scared of the world around me and insecure about myself. On trails was the first time where I felt fully myself and found a community that supported me unconditionally and pushed me to be the best version of myself. Throughout my life, trails continue to be the place where I feel the most at ease and build meaningful relationships with those around me. I hope to work on trails so that they get to be as impactful and important for others as they are to me.

What drew you to the Trail Apprentice Program?
I was drawn to the program because of the opportunity to network and connect with organizations and individuals working on trails. I have always been interested in developing a career around expanding accessibility to the outdoors and the program seemed like an incredible opportunity to learn more about how to do that more concretely. I hope to gain information about actionable steps I can take to continue pursuing a career in the field. I also hope to develop connections with other young professionals in the field that can serve as support and collaborators in future projects and endeavors.

Lisette Perez (She/Her)

Chicago, Illinois



Lisette was born and raised in the southside of Chicago, where she had minimal access to the outdoors. Although there she had little acces to the outdoors, she had a love for her urban jungle because of strong sense of community through her Mexican culture, tight-knit neighborhoods, and because of the vibrancy of her city. This made her want to invest more in her community. It was in highschool where she learned about her passion for social justice. She would take this passion and incorporate it into her college career, and now professional career. Lisette is interested in making the outdoors more accessible and equitable, natural history, environmental justice, urban conservation, and storytelling. She believes it is important to create a better world for future generations and hopes to accomplish just that with her work.

Lisette’s career aspirations
I believe in the importance of incorporating more experiences in the world of conservation. I would like to do this through storytelling and environmental education. Communities of color are oftentimes left out of the conversation, but have contributed so much throughout history. One day, I would like to produce scientific and historical documentaries through National Geographic. Stories that include Indigenous stories, as well as Black and Brown knowledge. Lastly, I believe in order to create a more sustainable and equitable world, we must include urban conservation. When we think of the outdoors, our minds shift to forests and meadows, leaving out urban communities. Although major cities have mainly large structures, there are many ecological opportunities. I wish to bridge that gap and incorporate urban conservation into the realm of natural resources.

Why do you care about trails?
I did not have much access to the outdoors, as I grew up in Chicago. It wasn’t until I was studying at the University of Missouri and completing internships that I had the opportunity to walk on different trails. In the summer of 2021, I completed an internship with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, specifically their Marine Reserves division. This internship allowed me to experience different trails along the Oregon coast. One of the trails that I walked on was within the Siuslaw National Forest. This was truly my first time experiencing public lands and I loved every second of it. My hope now is to be able to bring others these experiences early, rather than later in life.

I care about trails from a sociological, cultural, and historical perspective. It is important to incorporate the intersection between humans and nature. I believe we have to recognize the human dimensions when speaking about our public lands so we can recognize the experiences of everyone. The work goes beyond land acknowledgements and guest speaks; It is imperative that we allow everyone a seat at the table to create a more sustainable and accessible world. I want to be able to bring marginalized voices into the conversation about our trails, act as a catalyst for change, and bridge the gap to create more opportunities for communities of color in the outdoors.

What drew you to the Trail Apprentice Program?
The opportunity to partake in different professional development opportunities will be beneficial to this recent college graduate! Since graduation, I have been searching for opportunities to expand my skill set and gain new experiences to later land a full-time position. This enriching opportunity will allow me to learn alot about the work being done on our public lands, expand my professional network, and meet people with similar passions that will allow me to not only grow as an individual, but as a professional as well.

Maura Hanley (She/Her)

Fitchburg, Wisconsin



Hi! My name is Maura Hanley and I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin but currently live in the Greater Madison area. I graduated from Beloit College in May 2022 with a BA in Environmental Studies: Environmental Justice and Citizenship and minors in Religious Studies and History. I’m serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA Communications Support Specialist at the Ice Age Trail Alliance. My role at the Alliance is to help create a bridge between the Ice Age Trail and the positive societal and economic impacts created when visitors visit and locals embrace the Ice Age Trail, essentially “ecotourism.” Since I work on the Communications and Marketing Team, I manage the Alliance’s social media pages and create/post content, which has been a lot of fun. I’m also very passionate about environmental justice work, especially relating to the decolonization of outdoor spaces, and I hope to continue to learn more about these concepts and have a career involved in environmental justice. In my free time, I enjoy hiking (but not in the summer haha), reading, hanging out with friends and family, going to beaches, and exploring Madison. I’m excited and honored to be part of the Trail Apprentice program! I can’t wait to meet and learn from other participants, those part of the National Scenic and Historic Trail communities, and folks working with public lands.

Maura’s career aspirations
I hope to continue to work with environmental nonprofits to increase access to and equity within outdoor spaces and trails. As a recent college graduate, I’m still exploring and figuring out what my career path will look like and how to achieve this goal. However, I think networking with others who have professional experience or interest working with National Trails or public lands is a great way to discover different career opportunities.

Why do you care about trails?
Working at the Ice Age Trail Alliance has showed me the magic and beauty of this National Scenic Trail. It’s sort of crazy to think this 1200-mile trail was sculpted by glacial ice. It’s amazing to hike segments of the trail and see the glacial remnants. I’ve honestly never really considered myself to be an “outdoorsy” person. I enjoy being outside and I deeply appreciate nature and environment, but I don’t necessarily seek out adventurous outdoor activities. However, I think trails are a great way to get outside, move your body, and strengthen your connection to the land and environment. In a way, it’s a spiritual experience to be on a trail. You’re able to rest your mind and embrace the present moment.

What drew you to the Trail Apprentice Program?
I’m currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Ice Age Trail Alliance, the nonprofit organization that conserves, creates, maintains, and promotes the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. During college, I developed a passion for environmental justice, especially the decolonization of outdoor spaces. Working at an environmental nonprofit has furthered illustrated the adventure/wilderness gap and the various reasons there’s unequal access to outdoor spaces for marginalized communities. I was drawn to the Trail Apprentice Program because it seemed like the perfect opportunity to connect with others who are interested in learning more about and improving trail accessibility, specifically regarding the National Trails System. From my participation in the Trail Apprentice Program, I hope to learn more about environmental advocacy so I can effectively and ethically promote the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Additionally, I hope to learn more about the National Trails System and its partnership with nonprofit trail organizations, so I can better understand the work that goes into the protection and stewardship of National Scenic and Historic Trails. I also hope to gain important communication, goal setting, and teamwork skills. Lastly, I want to make lasting career connections with other young adults who have passion and interest in the National Trails System and environmental justice.

Paola Hinojosa (She/They)

Bakersfield, California



First Gen Chicano college graduate. Pragmatic leader and goal oriented advocate. I am passionate about birds, plants, and roller skating. In light of a changing climate and excessive heat in urban areas, I seek to connect communities to nature. I am an aspiring environmental planner. Find me by a river crocheting.

What drew you to the Trail Apprentice Program?
I was drawn to the Trail Apprentice program because I see this as a great opportunity to expand my access to network with individuals and organizations in the conservation community. I grew up disconnected from the outdoors because it was inaccessible to me. I’d like to create a space for diversity in conservation and inclusivity in the outdoors community. I hope to gain a better sense of how to achieve my goals as an environmental steward and a greater understanding of the work that goes into preserving our public lands.

Why do you care about trails?
I care about trails because the Kern River, a critical natural resource for the Central Valley, is now endangered. Residents are deprived of having a green space where individuals can engage with nature. I wish to see the Kern River flow through my city again, I hope my engagement with the Trails Apprentice program will reinforce the skills I need to be an advocate for the environment. Life grows where water flows.

What is a memorable trail experience you’d like to share?
One of the most memorable trail experiences I’ve had is hiking the Eagle Creek trail with my partner at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. I was mesmerized by the fact that I was surrounded by giants, it made me feel as small as the banana slug I kept an eye out for throughout the hike.

2022 Trail Apprentice Peer Leader

Callum Cintron (They/Them)

Newton, New Jersey



Callum Cintron (They/Them) is an Anthropology and Natural Resources student residing in New Jersey on the lands of the Lenape. They have worked in social and environmental sectors for two years, holding positions such as Diversity Fellow and Human Rights Coordinator. Callum’s experiences have allowed them to work with Indigenous and transgender communities on a variety of issues. They have been involved in human-wildlife conflict mitigation, increasing inclusion and access in environmental spaces, supporting Indigenous movements and engaging with gender diverse communities. When they are not working, Callum enjoys spending time with their dogs and exploring nature.

What drew you to the Trail Apprentice Program?
I’m interested in learning about numerous areas of environmental conservation and how humans interact with the environment. The intersection of land conservation, policy and Indigenous issues is a major interest of mine and the TAP conference has workshops on all of these. The apprentice program will also allow me to meet other young environment lovers and network with them to improve our earth.

Why do you care about trails?
I love spending time in the forest. Growing up in Northwest NJ I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by state parks. I know the positive effects trails can have on one’s mental and physical health. I also care that trails are made environmentally and wildlife friendly and do not disturb the sites of indigenous people. I think any time I’ve encountered wildlife on a trail has been a memorable experience. I like to do wildlife photography and being able to witness wildlife due to trails while not disturbing them has been amazing.

Callum’s career aspirations
I’m hoping to work in Native American issues. Two of my main interests is sovereignty and land back/sacred site protection and the national parks are some of the last protected land of Native Peoples. Safe access to public lands, especially those that hold sacred sites, and giving land back to Tribes is important to me.