Leadership Academy Spotlight: Alejandra Sandoval

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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 had met Roberto Morales (Nature For All Coalition Chair) at a social event. I was inspired to apply for the program because of the opportunity to carry out a project in my own community.

What was your project?

My project was called Lions Leadership Academy. We engaged 25 fourth graders from Don Julian Elementary School. We held weekly workshops with topics that highlighted the importance of nature for mental health and wellbeing.

don julian elementary

  • Week 1: The kids planted a garden and took a planted seed home. They learned how to care for their seed at home.
  • Week 2: Mindfulness – yoga and art with nature in nature
  • Week 3: Equine Assisted Learning session – they learned about their responsibility to protect their world and discussed leave no trace concepts.
  • Week 4: Environmental Advocacy – visit to 4th Avenue Park to learn about our Nature For All campaign and protecting the San Gabriel Mountains, learning about native plants and animals, and enjoying a local park.
  • Week 5: Cooking from the garden – a healthy cooking class in which they created a salad inspired from their garden, as well as learning about the importance of advocating for the protection and access to public lands.
  • Week 6: Graduation! The kids used their iPads to create iMovies and spark videos to showcase all that they had learned and presented it to friends, family, and school district board members. We had s’mores, build your own trail mix, and a camping demo site and reinforced the leave no trace concepts. Each student received a certificate, every kid in a park pass and a copy of “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” by Sean Covey.  

What’s the best thing you learned?

Nature truly makes an impact in our lives and has so much to teach us. For example, I thought we would magically have a full garden in 5 weeks. Well, Mother Nature is on her own schedule, and the life lesson here is to be patient.  

What surprised you about the program or your work on the project?

Kids today have little exposure to nature, and they actually enjoy it when they are given the opportunity and guidance to explore and learn from nature.  

Describe what being in the great outdoors means to you.

Being able to ride my horse out to the river and open trails.

What’s your favorite way to spend your day in the San Gabriel Mountains?

I have yet to explore the San Gabriel Mountains, but I would like to camp and be able to take my horse on a trail ride.

What has post-academy life been like?

Planning my next LLA! And looking to get out to the mountains.

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