The Institute at the Golden Gate is excited to introduce you to the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders Class of 2017! Gabriela and Maria joined our team last week and are already working hard on their respective projects. We've asked both of them to share a little bit about themselves and discuss why they wanted to participate in our Fellowship for Emerging Leaders. Keep an eye on our blog for updates from them about their projects.
Gabriela Estrada, Urban Fellow
My interest in the kind of work that this fellowship offers originally arose from many instances where I did not see inclusivity being the norm. It grew from my observations of different spaces not allowing for everyone’s needs to be met. This lack of inclusivity, I noticed, was especially present in the environmental realm and underprivileged communities. However, I was never quite sure how to go about approaching these situations and spaces. It took different mindful spaces, different mentors and their guidance to make me realize that I could become a positive change maker. It was through my development in this area that I was determined to take the knowledge I gained in order to create positive inclusive change in the community. As a result, I knew that after graduating college, I wanted a career where people’s needs were being met regardless of their socio-economic condition.
Due to this, applying to the urban fellowship was in many ways an interesting mental process. I could not believe that a lot of the pivotal points that I hoped my new career interests would include, could be so present. This fellowship offered the opportunity to actively take an inclusive approach to very human needs with the aim of creating solutions for the homeless population who are down on their luck. Through the application and interview process I found myself more and more invested and eager to see what direction this project would take.
During my time here, I hope to be able to complete the project successfully and make a positive impact in the community through the work that I do. I hope that my blind idealism will carry me through this project and that by the end I will have something tangible that will go beyond a simple idea of equity in the parks system. Additionally, through the length of the fellowship, I look forward to the wonderful professional development opportunities and people that I will meet and learn from.
Maria Eller, Climate Education Fellow
When I visited San Francisco for the first time, I was dumbstruck by the fog. “Look at those low, fast-moving clouds,” I exclaimed before someone explained to me what it was. The fog was as awe-inspiring to me as the Golden Gate Bridge is for others. You see, I lived in Arizona for most of my life- a native of the Sonoran Desert. I am familiar with cacti, monsoon storms, and summer days where the temperature reaches 110+ degrees. The Grand Canyon was the beloved national park of the area and my favorite place to hike with my family. Perhaps from such time outdoors and my family’s value of nature, I developed a growing passion for conservation and education. This led me to study sustainability and work in environmental education at Arizona State University. Yet, as I was approaching graduation, I was overwhelmed by the possible careers that my sustainability degree opened to me. What I was certain of was my desire to be positioned around a diversity of work while making a tangible difference.
Now a few years later, I am back in San Francisco becoming reacquainted with Karl the Fog because I found such an opportunity with the Institute at the Golden Gate. The Climate Education program has been doing important work on using the park to communicate climate change and to overcome barriers that limit climate education in the informal setting. As the climate education fellow, I am excited to contribute to this work with the Bay Area Climate Literacy Impact Collaborative (BayCLIC). My project is to collaborate with BayCLIC partners in the planning and facilitation of science and education seminars. The seminars will bring together local researchers and informal educators to highlight local climate science. I feel so empowered and motivated to share my previous learning experiences with BayCLIC and to expand our awareness of climate change in the Bay Area together.
Amidst a global rise in population, cities and urban areas are absorbing much of this growth, posing many challenges and questions. How do we conserve and rebuild the open spaces in our urban areas in ways that are sustainable and conducive to healthy lifestyles for diverse communities? This has become not only a topic of discussion for architects, urban designers, and planners but also a driving force in many new projects.
It is especially an exciting time for these disciplines as well as its many cross-sector industries because the awareness of this societal challenge is no longer siloed to our cities’ builders; the awareness is resonating with the larger community as the diverse inhabitants of urban areas are experiencing the impact and consequences of rapid urban growth first hand.
The challenges in creating spaces for diverse communities, paired with the challenges that come with working around the density of existing built structures have given way to some of the most creative and innovative urban park spaces today. Ranging from reclaimed industrial spaces, conservation of historic parks, to innovative infrastructure reuse projects, the new urban park is constantly being redefined as a result of the efforts of communities and industry leaders.
The recent transitions of former military bases to public parklands provide critical examples of how local needs, community interests, and partnership opportunities ever present in cities can be leveraged to create engaging and sustainable urban parklands. Looking at Fort Baker and Crissy Field in the Bay Area, and Governors Island in New York, the Institute gained valuable insight on urban park planning and implementation. After conducting research and interviewing key stakeholders who helped create these parks, we collected our findings in our report, Post-to-Park Transformations: Case Studies and Best Practices for Urban Park Development.
While many practical sustainable building practices are present in the parks of the case studies, we wanted to put our focus on the potential that diverse urban areas harbor to bring together people from different industries, experiences, and interests in order to implement great parks. We hope that this report and lessons learned could be used for innovation in the role of parks and public places in cities and encourage others to take advantage of the rich cultural fabric of urban centers to keep parks relevant, engaging, and beneficial to a changing and growing population.
Here at the Institute, we’ve been reading UC Berkeley professor Carolyn Finney’s new book Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. In it, Finney explores how the environment and nature became racialized concepts in the United States, partly by delving into the history of slavery and Jim Crow laws. She also challenges media representations of how Americans of color connect to open space and adds complexity to the (prevailingly white) cultural narratives that we use to define and claim outdoor experiences for ourselves and others. The so-called “white spaces” of American national parklands are past due for some change.
Dr. Finney’s work is exciting not just because Black Faces, White Spaces is beautifully written and thought-provoking, but because it’s part of a larger discussion about making parks more relevant to a broader diversity of people. Initiatives in the National Park Service, private industry, and environmental non-profits are all beginning efforts to see public lands in new ways so we can use them more inclusively. For example, check out the line-up of the new Diverse Environmental Leaders (DEL) National Speakers Bureau, intended to “provide knowledgeable, articulate and experienced experts of color to build broad community support for the protection of our public lands through relevancy, diversity and inclusion.” (DEL website) "Every member has individually done some seriously inspiring environmental work, so we can expect this newly-launched group to have a major impact.
The Institute’s Urban program has some related efforts of its own. This year, we’re researching and analyzing outreach strategies at the Crissy Field Center here in the Golden Gate National Parks and the SAMO Youth program in Santa Monica National Recreation Area. These powerful projects have shaped themselves around the needs of youth in nearby, underserved communities—multi-ethnic ones in San Francisco and chiefly Latino ones in Los Angeles. As a result, they not only provide job training, safe places to be after school, and financial help in the form of a stipend, they create enduring bonds between communities of color and national parkland. We’re excited to share their programmatic successes and the learning experiences they’ve had along the way.
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