September 15, 2022
Marcos Stafne and Miosoty Checo: Celebrating Our Contributions
- as seen by -Julie Larsen
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for celebrating the histories and cultures of Latinx/Hispanic and recognizing their inspiring achievements.
Miosoty Checo and Marcos Stafne work for the Wildlife Conservation Society. They are co-leaders of ¡WILD! (Welcoming and Inspiring Latin Diversity), the Latinx/Hispanic employee resource group in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion at WCS.
I had the opportunity to find out about their perspectives and careers at WCS.
JLM: What are your jobs at WCS?
MC: My role is Executive Assistant to the WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs. I am the gateway to Public Affairs. I do everything from setting up meetings to working events to giving VIP tours around the Bronx Zoo.
MS: I am the Director of Learning Experiences for WCS’s Zoos and Aquarium.
JLM: How did you find your way to a career at WCS?
MC: I was working at Columbia University where I managed a budget for Alumni Affairs. I visited the Bronx Zoo and was inspired. I thought it would be wonderful to work in a place where I could be around animals and go for walks in nature.
MS: I’ve worked for a variety of cultural institutions throughout my career. In New York City, my work with New York Hall of Science and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum led me to partner with WCS’s Queens Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo. After leading a museum in Vermont for six years, it was great to come back to the city and work in all five of WCS’s parks.
JLM: You are co-leaders of ¡WILD!, the first employee resource group for Latinx/Hispanic at WCS in its 127-year history. What does that mean to you personally?
MC: It is an honor and a way to celebrate what we bring to the field of conservation. I am hoping our resource group will show people the talents that the Latin community contributes to WCS. One activity we enjoy is reading to children in shelters and expanding their knowledge.
MS: It’s a big responsibility. Latinx/Hispanic employees make up a large part of the Zoos and Aquarium workforce, especially in vital, necessary roles that make our facilities happen. We also serve a large Latinx community in each of the neighborhoods in our parks. Making sure that we have good connections to our Latinx neighbors is incredibly important.
JLM: What are the mission and goals of ¡WILD!?
MC and MS: WCS Latinx/Hispanic seeks to provide staff opportunities and support systems necessary for a successful work experience, enhance our ethnic identity, promote our culture and traditions, and strengthen WCS’s mission con Nuestro Sabor.
We have a number of goals including establishing a presence at community-wide Latinx/Hispanic cultural events. We were part of a recent event at Grand Central Station and where we met Maria, a bilingual character on Sesame Street. She is part of a PBS Kids’ television show called Alma’s Way, about a little girl from Bronx whose dad is a veterinarian.
JLM: What are some of your achievements? Challenges?
MC: We are hosting cafecitos, informal gatherings with delicious traditional treats, that bring people together from around the organization to share ideas and express their thoughts. We are also active in seeking bilingual signage and programs for employees and our guests.
MS: A large part of our Latinx/Hispanic workforce does not have access to computers throughout the day. Staying in communication is a challenge since we are spread out among five parks. Making sure that we get to hear the voices of all our employees can be a challenge. We are really excited that we’re producing events like our cafecitos during Hispanic Heritage Month at each of WCS’s five parks.
JLM: Any anecdotes or funny moments at your jobs?
MC: Our cafecitos are so popular, my new nickname around the zoo is “Cafecito Lady”, but that’s OK because our get-togethers are about good conversation, coffee, and music, and the inspiration that comes from the many people and places.
MS: Every once and a while, I fill in for a role at one of the parks. I recently became a star attraction as I operated a turtle puppet for what felt like hours at the New York Aquarium’s first member event in two years. I made it into so many people’s social media accounts.
JLM: What does National Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
MC: I’m Dominican, first generation, raised in both countries. I celebrate my heritage all year long. I’m also glad to observe a specific month.
MS: It’s a great time to reflect on where we have come from, the contributions that our families have made to our communities, and where we are headed. I am first generation Panamanian. I feel great pride in how my family worked tirelessly to help me get where I am.
JLM: What advice would you give the next generation that hopes for a career in conservation?
MC: You need to know where you came from to know where you are going. Find an organization where you can volunteer – one where you can help nature and your heritage, whether it is the United States or the Dominican Republic. Get a good education in what you love to do. Take language classes and use bilingual skills in communication.
MS: Policy is everything. Learn about your local officials or candidates and see where they stand on the issues that matter most to you – especially around the environment.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, Wild View is featuring posts on their contributions that continue to enrich science and conservation.