GRIC Member Awarded 2023 Corps Member of the Year
January 20, 2023
Precious Vicente, District 1, has been named the Corps Network 2023 Corpsmember of the Year and will be recognized at the Corps Network National Conference at a hybrid event March 7-9 online and in Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1985, The Corps Network is the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, comprising 150 organizations that engage young adults in addressing conservation and community needs on public lands and in rural and urban communities. Corps members also gain work experience and develop in-demand skills.
Vicente works full-time as a National Parks Service Ranger at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in the Interpretive and Education Division.
“I never really expected to be where I’m at right now,” she said. “I never predicted that I would’ve be working for Casa Grande Ruins at all.”
Vicente initially joined American Conservation Experience (ACE) when she came across a flyer online announcing a six-month historic preservation internship through the Traditional Trades Advancement Program. Through ACE, she was able to connect with her ancestry and work to help preserve her rich culture, traditions and historic sites. “We got to do different projects like preparing some of the historic walls here,” said Vicente. “We worked a lot with adobe. We’ve done backcountry assessments, so the parts that are closed back to the public here, we would walk out and pretty much check for evidence of anybody looting or any pest infestations.”
During her internship, Vicente visited Montezuma Castle and other national parks in the state and did preservation work.
“I got to make a lot of new connections, and during my first internship, it really opened up my eyes to what conservation is and why it’s important, especially for us as Indigenous people,” she said.
While networking during her first internship, she secured another with Conservation Legacy immediately after completion. From there, she was hired and began working at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
“I’ve been here for eight months, and our work consists of park statistics, keeping track of the weather — the rain that we get — how many visitors that we get, and, we most recently started doing tours,” Vicente said.
During the tours, she shares the general history of the monument and its ties to GRIC while highlighting the rich O’otham culture and traditions. She also provides cultural awareness training and proper language use for employees at the park.
“The cool thing about it is that I didn’t really have to follow staff here,” Vicente said. “They really gave me the opportunity to make it what I wanted to be., So a lot of what I do in my tours are things that I’ve learned from my cultural understanding of it.”
She shares traditional knowledge, teaching the O’otham language of the plants and surroundings while giving an in-depth cultural perspective of the area. At the end of each tour, Vicente performs an O’otham song for visitors while paying respects to the historical site.
She added that she enjoys teaching the public that her people still occupy the area.
Vicente credits U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary, for creating positions like these for Indigenous people.
“She’s creating more and more opportunities through the Indian Youth Service Corps to allow more Indigenous people to reconnect with sites like this,” Vicente said. “Learning what I did and learning off my preservation internship, I really built a connection with this place.”
She added, “It’s very honoring, I couldn’t have gotten this award without all my teachers passing on their knowledge to me about this site.”
According to a profile of Vicente on the Corps Network website, “Corps staff that worked with Precious say that she is a positive influence and a role model to her Community. Before joining the Corps, Precious already had a passion for her heritage, serving as the president of the Akimel O’odham/ Pee-Posh Youth Council.”
In the future, Vicente hopes to pursue her education in the field of archeology, using an education award she received during her Conservation Legacy internship.
“The parks need Native people in this area,” she said. “All national parks are associated with Native lands, and we need more of that representation.”