Leadership Academy Spotlight: Joel Glen

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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 through a Facebook link. What inspired me my mission to clean up the East Fork after my good friend passed away. I feel he would have wanted me to do something like this.

What was your project?
East Fork’s Golden Preservation was my project. I wanted to eliminate as much trash on the East Fork as possible and create awareness of what’s going on before it gets any worse.

What’s the best thing you learned?
I learned that people can come from a good cause. People really want make a difference, but sometimes, all we need is a leader. I was just one of the leaders. I wasn’t able to this by myself. Group effort was involved. Thanks again to Daisy from Trash Free Earth, as well as everybody who came out. You all are the true heroes.

What surprised you about the program or your work on the project?
What surprised me were a few things, including the amount of trash we picked up within two hours (713 pounds!) and the people who woke up early to help out. I’m still thankful for them. Other surprises were the obstacles I had to hurdle over to make my project go off… Those being people dropping out.

Describe what being in the great outdoors means to you.
Being in the great outdoors means more to me than you’ll ever know. I met some of the greatest people in the mountains. I feel people who love the mountains know themselves and have good energy. They are happy go-lucky people, and I like that.

What’s your favorite way to spend your day in the San Gabriel Mountains?
Prospecting, camping, hiking, truck camping, All the above. Need I say more?

What has post-academy life been like?
Post-academy life has been great. We are planning more cleanups this year and will be teaming up with Convert-A-Can to create double the awareness. To sum it all up, I’ll put it in a song lyric: “We’ve only just begun.”

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.

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  • 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.

Liliana Camacho in DC

Volunteer Report: Liliana Camacho on Our Annual DC Trip 2018

Liliana Camacho in DC

Liliana Camacho Guzman is an alumni of the Nature for All Leadership Academy and now works for the Council of Mexican Federations. As a field organizer, she advocates for environmental justice particularly in southeast Los Angeles communities, to reduce environmental health inequalities. She participated in Nature For All’s Annual DC Trip to speak with our representatives in Congress about the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and to advocate for its protection.

What Surprised Me

As a first-timer visiting Washington D.C, I was shocked to experience a different culture. I was exposed to the lifestyle and work operations that occur in Congress. As I walked through the hallways of the Capitol Building, I sensed tension and seriousness because of my DACA status. However, when I spoke to a Congress member and/or legislative staffer, I felt welcomed and the ability to demonstrate my concerns and love for the San Gabriel Mountains. Each meeting had its uniqueness.

During some meetings, we had the opportunity to have a great dialogue with legislation staffers or the Congress member him/herself. However, in a certain occasion, we found ourselves speaking to a legislative staffer in the hallway, accompanied by puppies. In addition, I was surprised to learn how many different committees are in congress and their role of introducing legislations. As a minority party, it has been difficult for Democrats to obtain a hearing to introduce any environmental-related legislation. Though we have not had much success compared to previous years, we continue to fight back for environmental equality.

What We Talked About

On average, meetings were 30 minutes long. Therefore, it was tremendously important to state the importance of protecting and expanding the San Gabriel Mountains through a clear storyline. As a representative of The Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM), I stated how important the San Gabriel Mountains are to our immigrant communities. Our communities are starving for green space. Therefore, the Leadership Academy alumni, including myself, shared our community projects. Consequently, we requested Congress members and staffers to support Representative Judy Chu’s bills.

What I’m Still Thinking About

After learning more of how Congress works, I continue to think of how long and difficult the process of passing a bill is. The Congress members and staffers greatly appreciated our advocacy and activism we’re leading in our communities. This effort is through teamwork; we, Nature for All, work with communities at the local level, while Congress members operate at the federal level. Our public lands are under attack; therefore, we must continue to advocate about the importance of protecting our public lands, including the San Gabriel Mountains.

Leadership Academy Spotlight: Maricela Rosales

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How did you hear about the Leadership Academy and what inspired you to apply for the program?

I found out about the Leadership Academy when I first began volunteering with Latino Outdoors in Los Angeles. I went to a mixer in Pasadena and met some amazing folks from SGMF who were doing great things for the San Gabriel National Monument and furthering the expansion of the National Monument. I was inspired to apply to learn more about community engagement and seeking better recreation and access for underserved communities in Los Angeles.

What is your project?

The Abilities Project is a civic outdoor education access project though the Leadership Academy — connecting individuals with disabilities to green and open spaces and providing an interactive and educational hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. Disabled people will learn about the history, wildlife, environmental justice, and the importance of civic engagement in protecting access to the San Gabriel Mountain National Monument for their community and beyond.

The first event will take place during the month of October during Disability Awareness Month. October is also the same month that President Obama designated the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument. I wanted to make this first event important and memorable. There’s still as lot of work to be done.

The Abilities Project’s long term goal is to develop and launch a website and app to help Disabled People connect to green and open spaces in the city or outdoors and to connect to programs and organizations that provide resources and services. The app will create a platform for Disabled People, families, service workers/providers, and transform the way communities come together and advocate for access and recreation through technology.

What’s the best thing you learned?

While in the Leadership Academy, I learned many things. I can’t really pin point the best thing I learned because every class was different and in my opinion very important. I highly recommend applying to the SGMF Leadership Academy. It will change your life.

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

I was surprised about how much I had to learn about community engagement, fundraising, and storytelling. It made an impact on my life in a short amount of time. It helped nurture a passion of mine that was kept in my head for such a long time. And now I am slowly but surely working on making it a reality.

Describe what being in the great outdoors means to you.

Being in the great outdoors is a way to connect and heal with oneself. To breathe in fresh air. To get lost in the sounds, smells, vibrations mother nature gives. For me it’s about hitting the trail or rock climbing. It’s about protecting the wildlife that call the great outdoors their home. I find peace when I enter this space and I want others to experience it in their own way.

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

I have so much to learn about the National Monument and its different terrain. I will say my favorite is rock climbing at Horse Flats Campground. I just started trial running again and I am looking forward to running on trails in the San Gabriel Mountains.

What has post-academy life been like?

It has been exciting and exceptionally busy! Doors are opening for the right reasons. I’ve got a world to change and it’s very humbling and exciting process! My role in Latino Outdoors is changing and there’s room for opportunity if anyone in the Los Angeles area is interested. I recently was picked to be a part of the SHIFTjh Emerging Leaders Program and slowly making moves for the Abilities Project. While at the 2017 Summer Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, UT, I marched on behalf of protecting public lands. I support and help in any way I can to provide volunteer time for organizations like Access Fund, Wilderness Society, and SGMF who are doing great work to get the word out to their communities on how important our National Monuments are to all of us. I hope that more people join the movement and become lifelong constituents. Being pulled in many directions is hard, but at the same time I’m hoping that the long hours and dedication pays off.

Leadership Academy Spotlight: Dorothy Wong

sgmf dorothy Argyle DotDorothy Wong is a graduate of our Leadership Academy and was recently elected to the Altadena Town Council.

How did you hear about the Leadership Academy and what inspired you to apply for the program?

I found out about the Leadership Academy from BikeSGV and was eager to be a part of protecting our mountains while also having the opportunity to learn more about civic engagement and the opportunity to create projects for the betterment of the community.

What was your project?

To create an educational bike tour for young people to learn about the precious resource of water and the watershed, while also learning communication art skills to tell the story of their journey along the way and why protecting our lands and waters through the National Monument is vital. This creative content will be a tool shared broadly and especially to our civic leaders to support the need to protect open space. These young people will learn about the environment as well learn skills that may become their future life’s path.

What’s the best thing you learned?

The process in the classroom brought things together, so as a whole I would highly recommend the Leadership Academy to anyone who is looking for their next pathway.

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

It was great to see the coalition of organizations we were able to learn from, and to see how working together was bigger and better for the benefit of the movement. Supportive together, it’s strength.

Describe what being in the great outdoors means to you.

Being in nature is so calming, so fresh and is really bigger than me when I’m there. Its vastness can be an adventure. Getting away from the city noise. The great outdoors is beautiful and still so full of life. It works in harmony and balance when we let it be.

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

It’s hard to say. I love walking with my dogs in the Arroyo Seco or Eaton Canyon while I test my skills riding mountain bikes up and down the trails in my home of Altadena. Paved ways by bike with friends we love to push ourselves climbing up and over the mountain roads and river paths as far at Mt Baldy Ski Lifts and sometimes all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

What has post-academy life been like?

The timing was so right with our national political leadership challenging our national monuments it was time to stand up and protect them. I felt more confident and knowledgable and ready to make change. A big moment was attending the Transportation Equity Summit hosted by Transform and Cal Bike in Sacramento, advocating and lobbying for support Transportation Equity themed Assembly Bills and seeing how it all worked by using my advocacy skills learned though the Academy. I was so excited from the momentum to make a difference, I took the opportunity to do so in my community and ran for Altadena Town Council — and much on the grounds of protecting open space and the environment. People rallied in support and I got out there to meet and speak to my neighbors about their concerns. I worked all the way up to the last minutes of the election and as a result got the highest votes!

Working together is what it’s all about, so I’ve been taking on opportunities to outreach provided by and in support of the SGMF coalition. Driven by my love of competition, I entered the National Monument Public Comment “Postcard Challenge” and reached out at events and in my community, as well as working alongside SGMF Leadership Academy alumni at events such as the REI Garage Sale to ask the public to be a voice and sign the postcards asking our Federal leaders to protect our lands and waters via National Monument designation. We help people understand why we need to protect more of it. I also recently attended Climate Day LA leadership conference. It was amazing to be a part of the enthusiasm to work on climate change issues and become leaders in reducing our impact on the planet. It all works together and what we do affects all on our planet… the great outdoors!

MORE: Feature in the Altadena Library newsletter

Volunteer Report: Liliana Griego on Our June 2017 Trip to DC

liliana dc 1Liliana Griego is a graduate of the San Gabriel Mountain Forever Leadership Academy and a volunteer for SGMF who joined a group of coalition members on a trip to Washington, D.C. to advocate for protection of our national monuments. Below, she reflects on the experience.

What Surprised Me

I was shocked to learn about the network of tunnels and the subway system found under the Capitol that connects the Capitol to the House and Senate office buildings. Unfortunately, only representatives are allowed to take the subway, but we did utilize the tunnels every time we traveled from one representative’s office to another. After visiting a few offices and speaking to different staff members, I also learned that they actually like when local representatives visit them and they strongly encourage their constituents to call if they have opinions on certain matters. A staff member shared a story with me about their office receiving so many calls on one particular issue that they couldn’t get any work done because the phones wouldn’t stop ringing. It was a fast way to bring attention to the issue and they felt pressure to resolve it as quickly of possible. This story showed me that our voices can be heard if we just make them loud enough.

What We Talked About

When I arrived in D.C., a weeklong event was being held by the Monuments for All campaign. The week was designated for two things — to draw attention to the national monuments that are currently being reviewed and to find ways to bring diversity and inclusion to those monuments. Local representative from different monuments were brought together to share their connection with their particular monument. Other Californians accompanied me, and we shared our stories with different congressional offices. We requested they make their voice heard on the floor, submit letters of opposition to any changes on the national monuments, and support any legislation that would benefit Californian monuments.

I was also given the opportunity to speak on a panel that brought different perspectives on how national monuments benefit different communities. Speakers addressed how beneficial monuments can be in terms of archeological preservation, growth of the local economy, and providing opportunities for urban youth to experience nature for the first time.

What I’m Still Thinking About

After returning from D.C., I felt energized, optimistic, and determined to keep the momentum going. After speaking to many representatives of the LA region, it was reassuring to hear that most of the offices are in support of our national monuments and they are fighting the good fight alongside us. I believe now the greater push is to continue engaging our communities and educating them on the importance of our national monuments. I now feel inspired to spread the word to my community and let them know that our representatives want and need to hear from us. Politicians and the people who work for them are in fact just people, and sharing your story with them can be impactful. Filling out those postcards actually does matter, making those phone calls can make a difference, and uniting together can bring change.