In my eight years as a volunteer with the Sierra Club, I have gained tremendous leadership skills, met heroes, and made life-long friendships. I have moderated and sat on panels, organized youth leadership trainings, and developed strategic plans to make communities stronger. So why do this? You see, I believe that it is through nature that we find we are most connected to each other and our communities. The power of nature as a facilitator for empowerment can not be underestimated. It is out there where trees don't care what race you are but still they share their shade, the river will not check your FICO score before quenching your thirst. And believe me that the mosquitoes won't look at your skin color; they will happily suck you dry.
Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors and Sierra Student Coalition helped develop my leadership skills. I now use those skills to turn my passion for the mountains and my community into empowering other young leaders to create positive change for their environment and their homes.
I coordinate the Natural Leaders Network, a national group of millennial generation leaders throughout the country who are closing the gap between nature and their communities and leading the fight to curb Nature-Deficit Disorder. The Natural Leaders Network is an initiative of the Children & Nature Network and together this April we are sending out a call to Play, Serve, Celebrate outdoors (emphasis on celebrate!) through our Let's G.O.! (Get Outside) initiative. And we’re doing it with friends like Sierra Club, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, The North Face, REI, and the Outdoor Alliance for Kids. Together, through our signature events (the San Francisco Bay; Washington D.C.; Atlanta, GA; Nebraska City, NE; Asheboro, NC), we are leading the grassroots effort to join President Obama's America's Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative to develop a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda. These diverse areas show geographic diversity of the movement to reconnect our communities and youth with nature.
The children and nature movement is growing and moving, thanks in large part to the energy pulsing through my generation. We are determined not to be the last generation that celebrates time outdoors.
I am truly blessed to have found my passion, and to work within a movement that is representative of that passion and helped me gain the skills to be effective. I owe a lot of that to friends, trainers, and mentors within the Sierra Club, and to the opportunities I still find here. Hope to see you outdoors soon.
By Juan Martinez, Volunteer Youth Coordinator for Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors, Natural Leaders Network Coordinator, and Lets G.O.! (Get Outside) Co-Chair