“Everyone likes to play outside.”
Those are the words of Juan Muñoz, a double-degree graduate of Wright State University and co-coordinator of the Albuquerque, New Mexico, chapter of Latino Outdoors.
The group’s mission is to inspire, connect and engage Latino communities in the outdoors and embrace culture and family as part of the outdoor narrative to help ensure that Latino heritage and leadership are valued and represented.
“I have a passion for getting involved in the Latino community and combining that with the outdoors simply grabbed me,” he said.
The chapter recently received a $15,000 state grant to help purchase or rent gear for youth-focused programs. Muñoz has arranged with a local gym to hold socially distanced monthly events and has mentored two Latino teenagers and taught them to climb at a local climbing gym.
He said the biggest challenge has been adjusting to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We work with a few kids individually here and there, but look forward to the time when we can go boating down the Rio Grande or climbing in the Sandia Mountains,” he said.
Muñoz grew up in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, before moving to Bellbrook, Ohio. His father, Pedro J. Muñoz, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
“I wanted a flexible degree,” he said. “Marketing felt natural with my writing background in history and the languages that I speak and led me to international business.”
Muñoz said the academics were great.
“I can only sing the praises of the history, marketing and international business departments,” he said. “Honorable mentions go to professors Damaris Serrano, Tony Ortiz, Riad Ajami, Wakiuru Wamwara and Kendall Goodrich.”
Muñoz called his experience with extracurriculars “fantastic.”
“My involvement with the Office of Latino Affairs was instrumental in sharpening my personal mission to diversity in outdoor spaces,” he said. “My graduate assistantship with the Outdoor Resource Center educated me in environmental education and stewardship, a lesson I am eternally grateful for.”
With the help of Amy Anslinger, former assistant director of Outdoor Recreation, Muñoz developed two outdoor winter trips to Puerto Rico for students. He also helped coordinate field trips and managed the team-building ropes course and the 70-foot-high climbing and rappelling tower programs.
Erin Sherrets, Outdoor Recreation program manager, said Muñoz was always making people laugh.
“On outdoor trips when exposed to the elements, comedic relief is always welcome, and Juan was always there for that,” she said. “Juan is dedicated and extremely passionate, which shines in everything he does.”
After graduating with his M.B.A., Muñoz moved to New Mexico. He landed a job as social services coordinator with the Greater Albuquerque Housing Partnership, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing for seniors and young families.
Muñoz organized food pantries, tutoring programs, physical exams, Tai Chi and classes in Zumba, high school equivalency and citizenship. He also developed the first STEM Scouts Lab in New Mexico. He currently is the agency’s business development analyst, working primarily on federal, state and local funding applications for building projects.
Muñoz said trying new things at Wright State shaped his worldview.
“Not just the academics, but the study abroad programs through which I studied in Salamanca, Spain; Meknes, Morocco; and Budapest, Hungary,” he said. “Involvement in my local Latino community through Latino Affairs clarified my goal of becoming a mentor to youth, and the Outdoor Resource Center gave me a means by which to communicate. Everyone likes to play outside.”