How did you hear about the Leadership Academy and what inspired you to apply for the program?
I volunteered for Bike San Gabriel Valley and my supervisor thought I would be a good fit for the program. I remember being interviewed for the academy while sitting in my car at school at Azusa Pacific University and watching the Colby Fire burn many acres of the San Gabriel Mountains.
What was your project?
My project is called Queer Hike and is an ongoing project to outreach to individuals that identify as LGBTQ. It is a series of hikes and discussions centered on the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender. The project started in June 2015.
What’s the best thing you learned?
We are the masters of our fates. We are the enablers of both justice and injustice. We are the change makers for the change that we wish to see. The leadership academy empowered me through raising social consciousness and education so that I can do the same with my community. We want to see positive outcomes so we must work for it but it is achievable. I joined the leadership academy and participated in all the coalition outreach events. A few months later, I went to Washington D.C. to lobby and to provide my narrative in advocating for federal protections of the San Gabriel Mountains. A few months after that, I was invited and attended the President’s signing of the proclamation designating the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument. I saw our vision of federal protections achieved through the hard work of many leadership academy students and graduates.
What surprised you about the program or your work on the project?
I was surprised at the diversity of the leadership academy program. My opinion was that mainstream conservation organizations were homogeneous in race and income. I was actually hesitant to participate in the academy but was reassured when I attended the first leadership academy class.
Finish this sentence: Being in the great outdoors….
Being in the great outdoors engages all of your senses to a point where your endorphins shoot through your veins and you understand that you’ve fallen in love again with nature.
What’s your favorite way to spend your day in the San Gabriel Mountains?
I always enjoy a great hike. My favorite, however, is to bring people that have never been to the mountains before and watch them light up.