brenda tree 401x401Brenda Kyle is a 2013 graduate of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy and now works on social media and public outreach for Amigos de los Rios, one of the nonprofits in San Gabriel Mountains Forever. Here, the Duarte native answers questions about her Leadership Academy experience and love of the San Gabriel Mountains.

How did you hear about the Leadership Academy and what inspired you to apply for the program?
I heard about the Leadership Academy from a friend who saw an ad for it in an online version of the Alhambra Source. She thought it was right up my alley, so she forwarded me the link. I read through the information and thought it was a great way to earn money to buy my own computer. The idea of learning about power-mapping, grant writing, and connecting people to the mountains and rivers was also very appealing. I struggled to get my application in on time. The computers in the library were not the fastest, and the computers at work had many sites blocked. I turned in the application at the last minute.

What was your project? 
My project was to take youth into the San Garbriels and along the rivers to collect plant, leaf, and flower samples and have them be exhibited at the Los Angeles County Fair under the “Collections” label. It’s still in progress and I look forward to completing it. The group I have participating will be from Pamela Park and the Sheriff’s Youth Activities League. I’m looking forward to showing them the biodiversity of the area and hopefully opening their eyes to green causes.

What’s the best thing you learned?
Art as activism. I never really thought about the power of art. I’m thankful for the art component of the academy. Posters, pictures, memory books, signs—they’re all art!  Poetry, music…the list goes on. The art component was where I learned the most, because it reminded me that some people can’t express themselves verbally, but they can express themselves in other ways. They can learn in other ways. Art as communication really struck a chord with me.

What surprised you about the program or your work on the project? 
I surprised myself.  I never considered myself an environmentalist. When I started, I wanted money for a computer so I could look for jobs and do homework. I ended up being part of a cause, making friends, making connections, and making a positive difference. The VIDA program from the Sheriff’s department has worked with me on greening an area and they loved it! I’ve led a group of English learners & special education students from Durfee School in El Monte on a citizen science project and they were excited.

What’s your favorite way to spend a day in the San Gabriel Mountains?
Eaton Canyon is a personal favorite. I like to keep it close. I like to visit alone, or with friends and family. Just walking around feels like freedom.

How do you describe the value of your work on the San Gabriel Mountains?
My work on the San Gabriel Mountains means I’m leaving something for the future. It means I’m being a good ancestor.

Being in the great outdoors—what is that like for you?

Words to describe the San Gabriel Mountains. Go!
Diverse, rugged, accessible, romantic.

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