What initially inspired you to lend your support to Oakland youth? 

My sister and I grew up in Berkeley, and our mother lived in Oakland for the last 14 years of her life, and it seemed Oakland always had an edge to it. Great wealth and privilege, some tremendous cultural elements, along with areas of crushing poverty, inequities and dysfunction.

Through the San Francisco Foundation, our mother had already been supporting projects around the Bay Area that were getting thousands of children and youth out into nature, including BAWT, when we were approached by the superintendent of middle schools at Oakland Unified School District along with the executive director of BAWT. 

They presented a bold idea. Begin moving toward a goal that every middle school student in Oakland would have an opportunity to spend time in nature, learning about ecosystems and watersheds, discovering the joy and wonder and glories of the natural world just outside their door. We believe it’s possible, and not just for middle schools!

How do you see your impact affecting the community?

Data comes in every day about increasing levels of stress, ill health, poor academic performance, injustice, and environmental degradation, and on and on. Meanwhile, data is also coming in, and getting to be more and more recognized, about the benefits of the natural world. 

Getting kids out for a walk in the woods or slog through wetlands won’t solve all those other problems, but it can help. Get your nose to the ground and look deeply at a blade of grass or a beetle or a stream bed. You’ll see it; you’ll hear it; you’ll smell it; you’ll feel it. And maybe someday, those young people who have learned to go out there for themselves, who develop not just an awareness, but also a love of nature and the motivation to see it thrive, may be empowered to be part of changing all those issues that currently weigh down our futures.

What do you imagine the future is/ how is it changing for these youth thanks to their exposure and new relationship to nature?

Eventually, my dream is, that the people of Oakland will support such a movement so fully, that people everywhere, from all backgrounds and characteristics say, “What’s so special about Oakland? We go outdoors!”