Los Mejores Calcetines Llevan Historias—A Summer to Remember
by Nizhooni Hurd, Environmental Learning for Kids Urban Ranger Assistant Coordinator
Please check out the Urban Rangers on Instagram: @denverurbanrangers
The Urban Rangers program is a summer youth employment opportunity offered by Environmental Learning for Kids, ELK, in partnership with The National Park Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. A “normal” summer would consist of weekly fishing clinics across lakes and ponds in Denver, family camping trips and so much more. More hugs, and more time in person.
Unfortunately, this summer we all needed to adapt to a new normal - at least for the time being. We didn't spot any moose at CSU’s mountain campus during training. Rather we all gathered via video call, imagining the aromas of each other’s coffee and wondering how we will all maintain our connections. Connecting young people and attempting to build a team, especially with new members, over Zoom calls is quite the challenge. Breakout rooms were an option, but we also opened our minds and schedules to some dedicated virtual escape rooms and even exchanged playlists to learn what our teammates jam out to.
Even in these unprecedented times, the Urban Rangers of Environmental Learning for Kids have had a summer for the books. Amidst a pandemic, the Urban Rangers have managed to sweep algae out of hatchery raceways with metal brooms, plant flowers in old chicken feeders, hand out 75 backpacks to ELK families, monitor mine reclamation revegetation, learn and get active with environmental justice efforts, get on the path to becoming Certified Interpretive Guides and to top it all off create a sock design with Smartwool.
We were excited when Smartwool contacted us and asked us to help design a sock that celebrates Latinx Heritage Month. The month recognizes and celebrates the contributions of people who trace their roots to Mexico, Central America, South American, Spain, and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean. The Urban Rangers were able to use their creative skills to develop a design focused on what they cherish from their culture and family traditions.
This ELK sock contains four main components of cultural value and significance. Designed by some bada** Mexicanas, Daisy Madera and Xitlaly Avitia, this sock shares a story of beauty and unity, all while keeping your feet stylish and comfortable for all your outdoor adventures.
Grasping and holding on tight, these hands are different colors, representing the diversity of Hispanic/Latinx people. They hold tight because unity within the community is necessary and one of the most beautiful acts of togetherness.
A popular placement for commemorations of passed friends and family during El Día de Los Muertos, the flowers signal beauty. We see them when we celebrate and remember our past loved ones. We see them while connecting with the natural world. We see them as signs of beauty and are the perfect aesthetical touch to the sock.
The colors and histories of the serape are never simple. With deep roots and vibrancy, the serape is one of Xitlaly’s favorite representations of her culture. Culture means the people around her and her family. Culture is a warm and welcoming invitation.
The child dancer:
A caricature of Daisy’s little cousin dressed in a popular baile Folklorico dress that is part of the Mexican culture and worn with pride. It’s more than just a pretty dress and a pretty dance—it’s a beautiful representation of the Mexican community. These are historical dances that keep the culture alive and this serves as a message to the future generations to never be ashamed of where you come from or what your people do.
As a coordinator for the crew, it was difficult knowing that their summer was flipped upside down and nearly canceled. It was important for ELK to consider all that students are going through at this time and how for our young adults, they need work and encouragement. Even as events were canceled abruptly, the Rangers still showed up ready and eager to participate with what they could, in person or virtually. This group of young people is a true testament of what drive and passion can look like, even in the middle of a global pandemic. The Urban Rangers all have hearts on fire for their communities and the natural world and will deliver this spirit whether in person or from behind a computer screen.
I commend this group for all they have learned and achieved, for their good adaptability and flexibility this summer!
Here’s a quick look at all of the sock designs that were submitted by the Urban Ranger team. It was hard to pick a sock design, but we worked together to choose one to represent ELK. Then we worked with the Smartwool marketing, design, and creative teams to finalize the project. In celebration of this sock project, Smartwool is also donating $2000 to ELK, and the Urban Rangers decided to give that donation to our community campaign for the creation and development of the ELK Education Center and Montbello Open Space in Denver, CO.
This was the original rough art for the design by Daisy and Xitlaly that we ultimately chose.
“The drawing represents the movement, the island being the singularity of a holiday/movement and although opportunities aren’t presented much there is still peace to attain.”
“So, what we had in mind was drawing a feminine and masculine sugar skull which is part of the Día de Los Muertos culture which is the first thing we thought of when they said the theme was Hispanic heritage. Also, we added a serape background which a lot of Latinos wear for graduations or special events.”
-Gloria and Juan
“My sketch is inspired by Talavera Mexican tiles. These colorful designs often incorporate bold colors, common motifs, and detailed patterns. I include the sun, moon, and flowers into my design. I think the Smartwool and ELK logos will fit nicely inside the sun.”
“This sketch showcases the Urban side of the outdoors while also showing the mountainous aspect of what we all enjoy. Then the two people symbolize the culture and diversity of the people who use these spaces, and the flowers represent nature itself.”
-Verinice and Christian
“This design uses art from the Mexican flag and shows how proud I am of my heritage.”