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A Grand Experience

Posted on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 1:55 pm.


Grand Canyon National Park

As I mentioned in my post from Rocky Mountain National Park, our national parks are a true treasure of this country.  I had the wonderful opportunity to visit one of the most famous and widely visited parks – Grand Canyon National Park.  Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  This amazing gorge was created through tectonic uplift, erosion, and other natural phenomena – exposing stone half the age of the earth!


Grand Canyon National Park

I also learned that only 5 percent of visitors to the Canyon ever go below the rim. My source for this interesting fact and so many others was Gaby Olimon, a J-1 international trainee from Ensenada, Mexico.


Gaby Olimon with fellow ranger at Grand Canyon National Park.

As a wildlife biologist, Gaby has spent over a year training with Grand Canyon biologists and environmental educators.  Gaby’s love for the California Condor  attracted her to the Canyon and the park’s robust education program took her in unexpected directions.  The J-1 program opened the door for this passionate scientist to learn how to run wildlife protection and educational programs in a highly professional and well-organized national park.  She is now able to implement top notch programs in Mexico when she returns. Gaby’s full J-1 experience can only be captured with her own words:

“I thought I would be mainly teaching ecology and geology to kids in schools, in the park, and via distance learning.  But, I ended up also guiding hikes into the canyon, silly dancing on the rim with huge crowds, playing charades with visitors who didn’t speak English, tracking birds, and sometimes talking to 500 plus people in a day – always with a smile and in a cheery attitude.  For all of the schools we couldn’t reach by car, our education office and their skilled specialists developed the Distance Learning Program.  With this we can connect via internet with schools all over the [United States], Canada, and Mexico.  One of the most important parts of my stay here is the people.  We would often have potlucks and share laughs around bonfires.  On the weekends, we go hiking down to the river, camping, climbing or biking. I love this. I am thankful for the rocks, the water, the erosion, and the people who have made this place what it is today.  Thank you to all the Rangers.”


Gaby Olimon conducts an educational program at Grand Canyon National Park | Gaby Olimon dresses up a boy as a California Condor during an educational program at Grand Canyon National Park.

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About Rebecca Pasini

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

Rebecca Pasini

Rebecca A. Pasini joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchanges in July 2023. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister - Counselor, Ms. Pasini has been an American diplomat since 1997.

Ms. Pasini previously served as the Director of Public and Congressional Affairs in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 2021-2023. Other Washington assignments have included positions in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, the Office of Foreign Missions, and as a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security. She has also completed multiple overseas tours, including as Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan, and as the Consular Chief in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Other tours included Mexico City and Kuwait.

A Maryland native, Ms. Pasini has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Indiana University, a master’s degree in National Security and Resource Strategy from the Eisenhower School, National Defense University, and an undergraduate degree from Mary Washington College.