Stories are an essential part of the human condition. Storytelling allows us to exchange ourselves with one another and build community. Unfortunately, for many of us who belong to marginalized backgrounds, our stories have been defined for us, or ripped from our personhood entirely. We are placed into boxes, told to homogenize our experience, make it palatable to others. Through the Alumni Leadership Cohort, we recognize the vastness of experience, and how storytelling can be used to reclaim that vastness. It is our pleasure to introduce just a glimpse of the diverse narratives that exist within the 3rd annual DDCSP Alumni Leadership Cohort.
Intro by Ashia Ajani all narratives by alumni.
I am passionate concerning environmental policies, legislation and laws. I support the reformatting and creation of policies that are sustainable and meet or needs in today’s and tomorrow’s society. I hope to develop the resources to assist not only myself but others with my involvement with the DDCSP. “We are stronger together than we are divided” quote by Jamaine
Jorge Agudelo Idárraga
I call both Miami, FL and Manizales, Colombia my homes. Growing up surrounded by breathtaking mountainous landscapes in Colombia, I gained a love and respect for the environment that has continued to grow up to this point in my life. Thanks to DDCSP I have not only met people who have become lifelong friends, but I have also learned how important concepts such as social, gender, and environmental justice are in addressing climate change and fighting it. Because of DDCSP, I learned how powerful collective action is. That is why I hope to strengthen the Alumni Network so that it can become a community platform that helps us launch our careers to create positive change within oppressive institutions that have long disregarded our environments and the narratives of minorities.
Being an environmentalist is not a singular mission to me. My passion for justice expands from food equity and support for Black and Brown farmers to restorative justice and economic reform. I hope to develop the resources of the DDCSP network so we can uplift each other with knowledge, advice, and funds without relying on larger institutional structures.
Ashia Ajani is an environmentalist hailing from Denver, Colorado. She views her passion for environmental justice, climate justice, reproductive justice and criminal justice reform as inextricably linked. Ashia seeks to use creative writing as a way to actively combat misinformation about climate justice and uplift the stories of those who have been most affected by climate change. She hopes to use indigenous storytelling, traditional ecological knowledge, quantitative data, and feminist marxist political theory to re-enchant our vision of the world and our role as stewards in it. She is indebted to DDCSP for providing her the resources to explore this relationship. She hopes to cultivate the alumni leadership network as a place where all stories thrive and cohabitate. Black Lives Matter, always.
Keren likes to say that her interest in the environment is in her blood. Growing up with parents who had ties to farming and land in the Caribbean, Keren values both these connections and the knowledge found in childhood science books. Currently, Keren is focusing on her creative side and exploring book arts - developing skills in papermaking, lettering arts, bookbinding and letterpress. She plans to take these skills back to Jamaica and help people learn more about the natural environment through workshops and art initiatives.
From a very young age, Charmaine has always had a deep love for animals, leading her to pursue her passion for wildlife ecology and conservation. While navigating college on her own, Charmaine learned that managing animals is basically managing people; after all, people are the ones who make decisions that impact these wildlife species. That realization guided her to want to influence people, specifically, influencing children’s perspective of the environment through outdoor education. As a highly optimistic and adaptable individual, Charmaine is learning how to foster healthy relationships with others, as well as nurturing the relationship she has with herself. She envisions the DDCSP alumni network to be a resource for all scholars on a plethora of topics, both personal and professional.
Michael is an outdoor enthusiast, that finds hiking, camping, and fishing to be the most refreshing of hobbies. He is a graduate from the University of Idaho where he acquired his degree in wildlife resources. Michael hopes to find a career where he has the opportunity to complete research on non-game animal species. He specifically hopes to study how animals adapt to a changed environment. His interest in this topic stems from his time growing up in a rural area where public lands were close by.
Ryan comes from an ag background and calls many Midwest states home (anywhere within the land of "Ope"). An easy giveaway you're near Ryan is if you hear "Ope, sorry" or massive laughter over something seemingly random. Ryan's life passions include caring for his family (especially his sisters and best friends), basketball/football, tutoring and college opportunity work for low-income students. Ryan's career passion lies in Climate Change mitigation and Climate Change impact equity. His current work focuses on transitioning the U.S. energy grid to renewable energy. He envisions the alumni network as a hub of opportunity and knowledge for all scholars, especially new ones.
Marcy is a recent transplant to Boston, MA (Wampanoag lands) with roots deep in the Mojave desert (Paiute lands). She is passionate about increasing the quantity, quality and accessibility of green spaces and park sites. Marcy is seeking ways to combine the fields of outdoor and experiential education with citizen science, service learning, and restoration ecology. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and love for the outdoors with kids and adults of all ages, and she’s always ready with an energizer or icebreaker. She hopes to instill a sense of stewardship and appreciation for natural spaces through empowering individuals and communities which have been isolated and disenfranchised from these places.
James Martin is attending North Carolina State University pursuing a master’s degree in Entomology after recently receiving his BS in agriculture. Upon discovering food as a universally cultural and biological component of life, James found his desire to improve current industrial food systems. By using his natural inclination to support from behind the scenes, he hopes to chip away at current food production practices for future incorporation of sustainably minded methods.
As a part of this goal, James has joined the Alumni Leadership Network to aid in the diversification of the conservation field and to find other like-minded individuals.
Catherine is a recent MPA in Environmental Science and Policy graduate interested in wildlife conservation policy and urban sustainability. She also recently moved out from her childhood home of 21 years with the support of her family and friends. She believes that real collective impact starts with the individual person and wants to bridge the gap between science and policy. Her vision for the alumni network is one that has significant political influence and connections for everyone to excel.
Maeghen hails from Motor City, Michigan. She Just recently completed a service term of AmeriCorps after having received her BA in Environmental Studies & Sustainability. She is currently she is studying at the University of Michigan where she is pursuing Masters Degrees both in Environmental Justice and Urban & Regional Planning. She hopes to work be a pioneer in blending environmental action with affordable housing and land use planning. One of her non-academic professional goals is to start a sneaker company made from recycled materials such as old tires and discarded clothing. Her wildest dream is to make her hometown a place where people from all over the country would want to visit. Her vision for the Alumni network is for every DDCSP alumni to have an ALC experience.
Imani is a California native, born and raised in the vibrant city of Los Angeles. She is a civil engineer who is passionate about improving the sustainability and environmental impact of large urban areas. In particular, Imani is interested in water treatment as a way to reuse and replenish already existing water supplies. Through the DDCSP Alumni Network, Imani hopes to redefine the traditional definition of conservation to include folks in urban spaces.
Xavier is passionate about making a difference in underrepresented communities through outreach and sustainable energy management. Through his experience with DDCSP he built an interest in land use and personal connections with those who are connected to the land. His main goal is to be apart of the change that happens within our urban environments as it relates to sustainability and environmental justice. His positive attitude and welcoming personality invite all to work with him and connect our DDCSP network even further.
Nadia’s passion for sustainability stems from prevailing environmental issues disrupting Africa’s livelihood. As a proud child of Ethiopian immigrants, her interests were ignited through research in various facets of conservation including bioremediation, large-scale agriculture, aquaculture and renewable energy. Nadia is currently working on building a cellular aquaculture startup with hopes to introduce innovative ways to offset food injustice and climate change’s effect on our oceans. Through the DDCSP Alumni Network, Nadia is looking forward to developing long-lasting relationships with her peers and make a positive impact on global communities.
Frances can be found roaming a variety of habitats lassoing lizards, banding birds, and catching bats. After graduating with a B.S. in Zoology+Painting from the University of Wyoming, she’s been doing fieldwork in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Although she’d be hard-pressed to admit it, Frances is also a people person. Frances learned that people and their stories are deeply woven into conservation. DDCSP is filled with amazing people whose stories she has yet to know; she’s excited to listen, create, and collaborate with you! She aspires to conduct ecological research that maintains equitable balances between the needs of people and non-human organisms/habitats.
Wilson attributes much of his desire to join the conservation field to his Hmong ancestry. He grew up raising livestock, fishing, and hunting. Because he was one of the few Hmong’s in the conservation field, he wants to bridge the gap in understanding the importance of conservation within the Hmong community. He utilizes his skills of communication and networking to try and help everyone in this field. He takes pride in addressing mental and professional health within the conservation field by facilitating and encouraging these conversations. In the future he hopes to start his own organization that trains young professionals and those early in their conservation career, using the mentality that anyone can be a conservationist.
We look forward to cultivating the visions of our unique scholars during this six month adventure. We hope you enjoyed getting to know a little bit about our community, and the projects and visions we are pursuing.
In the field of conservation, you often hear all the bad things that are happening globally. Something that drives me to continue being in the field of conservation is the optimism that I gain by surrounding myself along with like-minded peers who are working towards a sustainable future. My career path has been shaped by my family who I consider to be environmentalists as well. Having recently graduated from UCLA with a degree in Geography and Environmental Studies, I plan to utilize the skills that I have gained to work with my community environmental injustices.
I look forward to developing a professional and personal relationship with my DDCSP peers and make an impact in perspective communities.
Dyaami is a person navigating the human experience through relationships between nature and people. A spiritual herbalism apprentice, a writer, a dreamer and schemer, Dyaami thinks critically about limiting structures that exist and imagines new ones that we can create where all people thrive, feel joy, and step into their power. Dyaami has worked in the field of diversity and conservation for eight years and wants to create an alumni network where conversations around transformation of the self and collective feel feasible and inspiring. In Octavia E. Butler’s words, Dyaami is “positively obsessed” with DDCSP, liberation, baking, queer science fiction, Frank Ocean, and plants!
Daughter of a Malaysian Chinese immigrant, without a network such as DDCSP to expose possibilities in the environmental field for those without a model, she never would have imagined finding both a fulfilling career and calling in the field. Having a network to even begin to understand what questions to ask or to see a field as a possible option is invaluable. Guilu sees the building of the DDCSP Alumni Network as crucial in strengthening, growing, and challenging the field of conservation and the exclusionary whiteness of its beginnings and legacy. Through her position with ELP as the RAY Program Coordinator she hopes to make an impact by meaningfully empowering as many young people of color in the environmental field as possible. When not working she enjoys living in Philadelphia, listening to NPR, embroidering, and sharing food with friends.