Support Leadership This #GivingTuesday

We need good leaders, now more than ever.

This #GivingTuesday, we give thanks to the future leaders helping us care for our public lands and advocate for the protection and enhancement of our mountains, forests, rivers, parks, and urban open spaces.

Now is the time to lead, and to take a stand. Our public lands are being threatened — including our beloved San Gabriel Mountains National Monument — by a federal administration that has no regard for protecting our environment or serving our communities.

On this #GivingTuesday, you can take a stand with us and support our Leadership Development program to find, educate, develop and encourage a new generation of environmental stewards to carry on our work.

IMG_4546 1Earlier this month, we celebrated the 12th graduating class of our Leadership Academy at a newly created urban park, the Los Angeles State Historic Park. The six-month training program focuses on developing outreach and advocacy skills, civic engagement, and local community action, and it was inspiring to look around and see faces of local citizens ready to rise up and resist — to defend our public lands and demand justice for our underserved communities.

meg-convert-a-canIt was also inspiring to see previous graduates in the audience, including Meg Devine, who developed the Convert-A-Can project in the program several years ago and continues with running it today. The program enlists volunteers to turn trash bins into art installations, to curb graffiti and beautify our public spaces. Meg is among 121 Leadership Academy graduates have worked on projects to enhance and improve our public lands; provide access to nature for kids and families living in park-poor communities; clean our trails, rivers and streams; and educate students about environmental justice and the public health benefits of spending time in nature.

In addition to the academy, our Leadership program supports 100+ volunteers and dozens of super-volunteers activists working with us on community engagement projects. We are grateful for these volunteers and inspired by them. You can be, too. We can do this together.

With your support, we can continue to grow our Leadership program and work to protect the mountains and rivers in our area, to conserve resources and be more climate-resilient. We can continue to create more natural spaces, such as parks and bike paths, in our historically underserved neighborhoods. We can continue to connect people to public lands through more trails and other outdoor recreational opportunities, to improve public health.

With your help, we can find and support the leaders we need to ensure that everyone in the Los Angeles area — no matter where they live—has equitable access to the wide range of benefits that nature can provide.

Thank you for giving.

On the Ground Work Update: Wild River Ride Bike Tour

For her Leadership Academy project, recent graduate Dorothy Wong partnered with Bike San Gabriel Valley’s Women on Wheels to host an educational bike tour of the San Gabriel River in September. The Wild River Ride bike tour started at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area and ended at Cogswell Dam. Along the way,  she educated the 30-plus female riders on our watershed areas and highlighted the four dam systems along the San Gabriel River.

On the Ground Work Update: Guiding The Eagles to Their Nest Project

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Leadership Academy graduate Liliana Camacho Guzman led a workshop at Drew Magnet High School, followed by an Eaton Canyon visit and hike with the students. As part of her project, Guiding The Eagles to Their Nest, she discussed environmental justice, access to green and open spaces, and our work in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and region, with the students.

“It was so rewarding seeing all these students enjoying themselves in their backyard,” said Liliana. “It was their first time wetting their feet (literally) in the San Gabriel Mountains. They can’t wait to go back with their friends and families!”

Leadership Academy Spotlight: Megan Devine

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Megan Devine is a graduate of the Leadership Academy who continues to lead the Convert-a-Can program.

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

I learned about the Leadership Academy through a friend, Kevin Lynch, who was in the cohort before mine, and he said it was a great opportunity. I also connected with my degree I was studying at the time, environmental science and policy. I am a huge advocate for protecting our public lands and conservation so it only made sense to get involved in the Leadership Academy.

What was your project?

“Convert-a-Can – Using Art and Creativity as a Tool for Advocacy.” Project Convert-A-Can turns unattractive trash bins into interactive art installations to create awareness and advocacy toward the prevention of littering and graffiti. The projects focus is to improve the infrastructure, deter litter and graffiti vandalism, and enhance the outdoor experience by beautifying the specific areas of the San Gabriel Mountains.

What’s the best thing you learned?

I learned vital leadership skills that allowed me to coordinate a successful project and do public outreach. I learned so much history about the San Gabriels and the organizations that work together to protect it.

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

I was surprised at the level of achievement I felt after completing my project and the Leadership Academy program. It felt so good to successfully complete both. And the impact it has made on my life was a surprise — it keeps on giving.

Describe being in the great outdoors.

Being in the great outdoors gives me peace. It allows me to let go of reality and be in the present. My senses heighten and I’m able to take it all in for all its worth. It allows me to have a greater sense of being and know that this is what I’m fighting for. The feeling of being outdoors makes me feel free and alive.

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

I love the drive up Highway 39, visiting the West Fork trail with my sister and mom. Taking a hike down the trail along the river. Sitting down along the river by a waterfall to enjoy a great sack lunch with my family. Telling stories or just being in silence. That crisp air, and the sound of the trees in the wind makes my day.

On the Ground Work Update: Project FIRE

Leadership Academy graduate Mary Venegas led a three-day camping trip in the San Gabriel Mountains for 16 CalState Long Beach students, Long Beach City College students, and San Gabriel Mountains rock climbers. During the August 5-7 trip, Venegas informed participants about the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign, led guided hikes, partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to provide interpretation of the historical and ecological treasures of the San Gabriel Mountains, and facilitated fire-side discussions about SGMF’s environmental advocacy.

On the Ground Work Update: Project Tri-Affecta

Leadership Academy Graduate Dominique Vitti worked with the Panorama Recreation Center to integrate and facilitate two arts-based workshops on protecting the environment, as part of the center’s summer day camp for youth (July 12-14). To conclude the workshops, Vitti organized a guided hike to Big Tujunga Canyon for 40 students to experience the San Gabriel Mountains up close and personal.

 

On the Ground Work Update: Green Space and Communities of Color

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Leadership Academy graduate Syllenne Moody, in conjunction with LA Rooted Organizing, facilitated a July 14 workshop on the importance of green space and the SGMs for communities of color in LA county. As part of the interactive event, youth from the organizing school toured their communities and photographed areas of their neighborhoods where they would like to see more green spaces. Next up: they contact their elected officials with a request for more green spaces.