By Tyler Valdes & TTriss Williams Renard
For over 10 years, the School of Environmental Leadership (SEL), a program of SEI, has built strong, innovative leaders who are empowered to creatively and critically analyze issues and formulate plans of action. In the spring of 2020, as growing research has demonstrated the extensive health benefits that result from exposure to outdoor environments, Marin County Parks announced the continuance of its community grant program called “Breathe/Respira!” which seeks to provide the means to help the local community have access to parks. The title symbolizes the ability of outdoor recreation and connection with nature to reduce stress and improve health with the Spanish translation of “breathe”, respira, included to underscore the importance of making parks available to all Marin communities regardless of language or cultural background. Upholding strong values of equity and inclusion, SEL was successfully awarded a grant to support equitable access to parks for underserved communities - a project that would be spearheaded by SEL students.
Under the guidance of SEI staff and the Marin Environmental Forum, 10th grade students in SEI’s flagship SEL - Marin School of Environmental Leadership (MarinSEL) - coordinated a year-long Leadership and Environmental Action Development (LEAD) project that brought students at Laurel Dell Elementary School to local green spaces. LEAD projects, a key component of SEL, are equity-forward, community-based environmental action projects that focus on policy change. While the original project design culminated in a field day for K-8 students and their families in Marin County parks, the challenge of COVID-19 restrictions called for solutions driven by creativity, a 21st century skill fostered through SEL.
SEI is spotlighting our amazing Climate Corps Fellows who have been working to protect our climate through a wide range of sustainability initiatives. This week we are highlighting Billie Hervas, Education and Training Fellow at the The Energy Coalition.
By Anne-Christine Strugnell
When Chloe Ney graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a BA in geography and environmental studies, she was eager to get started on a career in sustainable urban planning.
“Conservation of open space is hugely important,” she says. “By making urban spaces more appealing, sustainable, and better for our physical and mental health, we can reduce the tendency to sprawl and enhance the synergy between nature and the built environment.”
But Chloe found no entry-level opportunities: all the jobs in her preferred field required experience, and despite having completed an internship, she couldn’t get a foot in the door. One of her friends had participated in SEI’s Climate Corps program and urged Chloe to check it out. When she went to the SEI website, one opportunity jumped out for her: a Fellowship with Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) to promote on-campus energy conservation. LACCD has the most aggressive and comprehensive sustainability goals in the California community college system: 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% carbon free by 2040.
“I grew up in LA, and it’s a special place for me,” Chloe says. “And a college campus is a perfect place for an urban planner to get a start, because campuses are like mini cities.” She applied and was selected for the position.
Chloe and her supervisor Aris Hovasapian, Utility Program Manager at LACCD
Pivoting to professional achievement
Just six weeks after Chloe started her Fellowship at LACCD, the office went virtual in response to the pandemic. All the in-person outreach activities she had planned were cancelled. Now what?
SEI is spotlighting our amazing Climate Corps Fellows who have been working to protect our climate through a wide range of sustainability initiatives. This week’s Fellow spotlight is Benjamin Bravo, Preserve Resources Manager at Sonoma State University Center for Environmental Inquiry.
By Hernan Gallo-Cornejo
SEI is spotlighting the incredible and inspiring sustainability leaders who serve on our board through a series of interviews. In this story, we are shining the spotlight on Bruce Riordan, Program Director for the Climate Readiness Institute and Director for the Bay Area Climate Adaptation Network.
Mr. Riordan is the Co-Founder and past Chair of the Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA) that coordinates climate adaptation leaders from San Diego, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Sacramento, and the Sierra. He was recently appointed by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to their statewide Advisory Committee on climate resilience under SB 246. Mr. Riordan has also consulted on climate change strategies for BART, Next 10, the Marin Community Foundation, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Quality Management District, and other Bay Area organizations.
Why do you serve on SEI’s board?
SEI is doing great work that must be done on energy and climate issues. The board is a very interesting group of people from different parts of the energy and climate world.
SEI is spotlighting our amazing Climate Corps Fellows who have been working to protect our climate through a wide range of sustainability initiatives. This week we are highlighting Noah Cordoba, Energy Efficiency and Building Electrification Fellow at East Bay Community Energy.
By Fernando Gil
In spring 2021, SEI hosted a virtual Energy Challenge, giving students a fun opportunity to learn about energy conservation, help spread awareness about energy use and climate change, and win scholarships to support their future college and career goals. In partnership with Whitehorse School in the Navajo Nation, Swinerton Renewable Energy, and Heart of America, SEI made this programming available to students fully offline, as 80% of students there do not have access to the Internet at home. This meant creating alternatives for all the online aspects of the original challenge, including educational resources and ways for students to share their work. The transition was a success as Whitehorse seniors were able to engage with content and launch creative energy conservation campaigns including presentations, poems, and infographics.
Energy Conservation Poem by Xavier Martin
Energy Campaign Reflection by Diana Whitehair
SEI is spotlighting our amazing Climate Corps Fellows who have been working to protect our climate through a wide range of sustainability initiatives. This week we are headed to the garden to spotlight Haleigh Yang, Climate Corps Education Outside(CCEO) Fellow at Visitacion Valley Elementary School
By Jessica Redden
Over the past year we have all been adapting to online working and living, but teachers have continued to go above and beyond showing up for their students virtually and in-person. Whether you are a K-12 student, in college, or emerging professional, take time this teacher appreciation month to tell the inspiring teachers in your life how much you appreciate them! Here are some ideas for ways to show appreciation for the teachers in your life.
1. Tell your teacher you appreciate them!
This one seems obvious, but the power of telling someone you appreciate their hard work can’t be underestimated. Write your teacher a note on the back of a homework assignment or stay after class to tell them how much you enjoyed their lesson and are grateful the time they spend helping you.
2. Volunteer to help in class
Help your classroom run smoothly by volunteering in class. When students volunteer it can help teachers feel supported and let them focus on other elements of the classroom or lesson - making everyone’s experience better!
SEI is spotlighting our amazing Climate Corps Fellows who have been working to protect our climate through a wide range of sustainability initiatives. This week we are highlighting Shona Paterson, Compost and Recycling Associate at Alameda County.
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field