When 16-year-old Carlos Navarro applied for a summer job at the Canyon, he wanted some money to buy a car. He received much more.
“This place has changed my life. The Foundation doesn’t want to just give people jobs; they want to give people purpose,” Navarro said. “It’s a lot different than anywhere I‘ve ever worked.”
Navarro, now 31, serves as the senior director of Canyon operations, heading teams totaling about 30 people who together manage the property—from installing handwashing stations in the cabins to ensuring the water system runs properly. It‘s a lot more responsibility than his first job, but as he discovered, no more important.
Fifteen years ago, Navarro applied for a temporary grounds helper position at the suggestion of his father, Fern, who worked as Laity Lodge’s facility lead for more than two decades. Carlos had never attended camp, yet he was familiar with the property growing up in Leakey. It became a regular job for him every summer for the next three years.
“They saw something in me I didn’t see in myself”
After a couple of years in college, living in San Antonio, and getting married, Navarro was still seeking his calling. He considered becoming a firefighter before he and his wife Taylor decided to come back to Leakey to be closer to family in 2014.
“It’s always felt like home,” he said.
Navarro returned to the H. E. Butt Foundation in 2014, this time as a full-time groundskeeper. Groundskeeping is an art. Grass growing beside a rock doesn’t necessarily require cutting. Beauty lives in its wildness–a wildness that guests notice and appreciate.
“It actually tells a story,” he said.
Returning to his roots proved fundamental for him. He realized the impact he could make, and his supervisors noticed it, too.