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NatureBridge Educator Spotlight: Brenda Ramirez
Gabriela Contreras
September 25, 2017 - 3:11pm

 

For some of us, playing near near vast forests and pristine meadows sparked our desire to protect the environment at an early age. For others, like 24-year-old Brenda Ramirez, seeing our natural world in a dismal state instead served as a motivator to inspire and teach others about preserving nature.
 
“I grew up near the channelized river beds of Los Angeles, so I would go for walks there,” said Brenda Ramirez, NatureBridge environmental science educator. “That was my recreation area growing up. Just seeing all the murky gross water got me interested in litter and pollution. 
 
“I knew that I wanted to protect the environment, but I just didn’t know how I would do it.”
 
Brenda first came to NatureBridge through the Educator Development Program, a NatureBridge initiative designed for educators from underrepresented communities in the field of environmental education to increase their experience with outdoor teaching and risk management skills.
 
An East L.A. native of Salvadoran-Mexican descent, Brenda now leads NatureBridge programs in the Santa Monica Mountains, helping her students learn about nature by using shared life experiences as tools to help kids from Latinx communities connect with the natural world. 
 
 
“There’s the benefit of taking a kid outside to nature,” Brenda said. “But, there’s a greater benefit of getting educators from diverse communities who are able to relate to the students who they’re teaching. It changes the whole experience.”
 
Brenda is able to relate to some of her students because she shared some of the same experiences as a member of the same minority group. One tendency she noted was some of her Latinx students’ choice to remain layered with sweaters and jackets despite hot, sunny weather. 
 
“They’re so used to being told to stay out of the sun. They’ve had people tell them, just like I’ve had people tell me, ‘stay out of the sun, don’t get any darker.’ ”
 
Brenda attributed this to issues of colorism within the Latinx community. Those with a darker complexion are often discouraged from spending prolonged periods of time outdoors as a result of the social implications associated with darker skin tones.
 
“I think that’s the benefit of working with NatureBridge and understanding nuances in student behavior,” Brenda shared. “It’s those little moments of understanding that make me feel like this is where I should be.”
 
Brenda hopes to translate her desire to provide a safe space for youth like her to another passion she holds dear: birding.
 
“I’m starting to root for birding in the gay community,” Brenda said. “I want to make a space for myself to enjoy nature with people who share the same identities as me, and share the same passions as me, who I can also relate to on different levels. 
 
“I want to create a space that is more inclusive and understanding.” 
 
Brenda plans on starting her own birding group in the future to help others in the LGBTQ community find their niche in the beauty of the outdoors and among its winged creatures.
 
“That’s what I’m doing with these kids,” said Brenda. “I’m trying to create a space in nature that is safe, comfortable, and enjoyable."
 
 
 
“Even though I don’t know how much they’ll remember after their NatureBridge trip, for that moment, I know that they felt safe and they felt happy.”
 

 
If you’re inspired by Brenda’s story, learn more about how our NatureBridge Educator Development Program is recruiting and shaping outdoor education professionals from underrepresented communities.
 
Interested in pursuing a similar career path? EDP in Southern California is currently accepting applications until October 2, 2017! Visit naturebridge.org/edp or reach out to Diana Lopez at dlopez@naturebridge.org for more info.
 
In the Santa Monica area this October? Join us for Moving Mountains on October 5, 2017 and support NatureBridge programs in Southern California so that educators like Brenda can provide more life-changing experiences for our youth.
 
Do you know of a NatureBridge educator who has gone above and beyond to help others connect to the natural world? Nominate them to be featured in our Educator Spotlight series.