Stories from the Field

TEEM Interns, Four Years Later

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After starting my NatureBridge journey as a fifth grade student, I joined the NatureBridge staff in 2010 and eight positions later, started my dream job as the TEEM Manager. Every year, my family grows by 18 (the number of TEEM interns each year) and over the last five years with TEEM, my family has grown by almost 90. 

In an age full of unbelievable unrest—with climate change, racism, violence, hatred, insecurities, political turmoil and bullying on the rise—more than anything, the TEEM program provides a space for young folks to explore their identity and build their confidence in a place that is safe to make mistakes and try new things, where they are surrounded by love and support from their peers and program staff. 

I have tremendous love and respect for every young person who has gone through the TEEM program and am thankful to be able to witness their incredible personal and professional growth.
Karli Cowman, TEEM Manager

Being part of this program, learning from young people and deeply connecting with teenagers from varying backgrounds has made me a better version of myself, someone who is more confident, compassionate, kind and inclusive. I am reminded daily of the importance of love, empathy, equity and making sure everyone feels like they belong. 

I recently reached out to my very first cohort of TEEMies to see where they are now. I invite you to celebrate them with me:

Michelle Zheng, 2016 TEEM Graduate

Michelle is in the midst of her fourth year at UC Riverside, pursuing a B.A. in Media and Cultural Studies, with an interest in media marketing and design. 

I am so thankful that I was a part of TEEM. I often think about the wonderful experiences I had and the amazing people I met. Through TEEM, I had the opportunity to take part in the Armstrong Scholars program and go on a life-changing backpacking trip in Yosemite. I learned to take risks and challenge myself, I gained leadership and communication skills and most of all, TEEM inspired me to be a mentor for students and to have love for everyone. 

I have become so much more environmentally aware through TEEM. I strive to make daily choices that benefit the Earth and encourage others to do the same. People are so busy with their digital lives and sometimes forget to spend time outdoors. I think it’s so important to have a balance between nature and technology. 

Dylan Lew, 2016 TEEM Graduate

A junior at UC Berkeley, Dylan is studying Sustainable Environmental Design and hopes to graduate with the Berkeley Certificate in Design Innovation. Outside of school he enjoys paddling outrigger canoes in the San Francisco Bay, working in his school's maker space and practicing landscape photography.

TEEM allowed me to understand that environmentalism and environmental justice are less binary than what is often portrayed by society. Having been privileged enough to learn about the environment, TEEM led me to recognize that I have an obligation to be an advocate for the environment in every part of my life. 

One of the biggest influences TEEM had on me is understanding that education should be more dynamic, experience-driven and hands-on, no matter the topic. TEEM has made me think more critically about sustainability in the things I love to do. 

The biggest impact of TEEM for me was the sense of community it brought me—the sense of safety and greater awareness in myself and others. I have people who care about me and who want me to succeed. People who care about the things I care about and who I can be completely authentic with. That time in TEEM, even though it was only a year, was something really special for me. 

TEEM showed me that I am part of something bigger than myself.
Dylan Lew, 2016 TEEM Graduate

Hui Situ, 2016 TEEM Graduate

Hui is a senior at UC Santa Cruz pursuing a dual degree in Psychology and Economics.

TEEM led me to explore parts of myself that I did not know about, such as my love for hiking and camping. Through TEEM, I was able to experience National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), which to this day is still one of my favorite trips. Because of these two organizations, I became more conscious of the environment around me.

TEEM was also an initial start for obtaining leadership skills which encouraged me to serve as Vice President of a service organization. Shout out to Karli, Zoe and all the other mentors! I hope to hold the skills I've gained to explore more organizations that I'm passionate about.

Tina Chiem, 2016 TEEM Graduate

Tina is in her final year of undergrad.

While hiking, camping and being outside was absolutely amazing and reaffirmed my love for the outdoors (I didn't and still don't have much access to outdoor spaces!) being a part of TEEM helped me open up, learn how to reflect and gain confidence in myself. 

NatureBridge and TEEM holds a special place in my heart! There will always be times when I come back to it—in person and in spirit. TEEM opened me up to the loveliness of nature and showed me it's possible to simply be in it and enjoy it. And it opened me up to the world of facilitation and education—a big influence on my life that I didn't expect at all.

When I need to time to think or process or be alone, being outside is what is calms me the most, and I definitely would not have known that or thought it was normal had it not been for TEEM. I love the trees and the oceans!
Tina Chiem, 2016 Graduate
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