This recent issue of Cascadia Weekly is all about getting outside this summer. See our photos (cover and page 12) and short profile of our Summer Adventures camp program. Registration is open and spaces are still available. Come join us for big adventure days immersed in exploring the Northwest's mossy forests, wild rivers, mountain meadows, tumbling waterfalls, and pebbled beaches.
Hello Friends of Wild Whatcom!
With the arrival of spring, and all the brightness and new energy it heralds, Wild Whatcom is thrilled to introduce our new Executive Director, Licia Sahagun (pronounced Lee-shuh Suh-haggen).
Licia comes to Wild Whatcom with stellar experience and talents, and is ready to guide Wild Whatcom to its next stage of development and community impact. Her strategic thinking, keen intellect, and strong communication skills are a great match for our goals and values. As we welcome Licia, we say goodbye to Emily Highleyman. We are so thankful for Emily’s five fabulous years of leadership and see the passing of the baton to Licia as a continuum of that excellence.
Licia brings a decade of non-profit experience to Wild Whatcom, ranging from AmeriCorps volunteer, Program Manager, Executive Director, and Board Chair. Most recently, Licia has been the Deputy Director at the Green Energy Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School. Licia holds a degree in International Studies and Sustainable Development from the University of Illinois and received her master’s in Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.
Though Licia was born in the Chicago suburbs, she joyously spent much of her childhood on a 10-acre non-working farm near her hometown. There she grew up exploring, playing, and just being outside on a regular basis, which fostered her love for nature and her drive to spend time outdoors. Licia is excited to join the thoughtful, welcoming, and compassionate team at Wild Whatcom. She can’t imagine a better way to spend her days than supporting an organization that connects young people with the awe-inspiring outdoor spaces in Whatcom County - and beyond.
When she’s not working, you’ll most likely find her hiking, gardening, birding, exploring, or camping with her partner, Ryan, and their pooch Hazel. Feel free to reach out to Licia if you’d like to welcome her or find a time to connect!
With sincerest gratitude,
The Wild Whatcom Board of Directors
This recent issue of Cascadia Weekly profiles the work Wild Whatcom and our partners have been doing to help teachers become trained and confident to extend their teaching beyond the walls of the classroom — getting kids outside, introducing climate science, and using curriculum that inspires and empowers students (and meets Next Generation Science Standards).
Join us Thursday, May 2, 2019 for Wild Whatcom’s 2nd Annual Wild Thyme dinner. This year's theme, Wild at Heart, highlights something we all have in common--falling in love with nature. How did it happen to you?
You are invited to join us for this special evening at Ciao Thyme to support a shared vision of connecting kids to nature and creating future leaders and stewards of the earth. Funds raised will help us better serve all kids who want to explore outside.
Ciao Thyme is developing an incredible menu for this multi-course dinner celebrating the season. Please join us in sharing in great company and conversations inspired by Ciao Thyme's exemplary dining space and the best food the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
Early-bird special through March 31: $110/guest
Regular pricing begins April 1: $125/guest
Space is limited. Reserve your seat today!
Wild Whatcom is pleased to help support the 2019 Climate Science K-12 Teacher Summit. This partnership between Wild Whatcom and other Whatcom County organizations brings together their expertise teaching outdoor and place-based experiential education to our local teachers.
The summit is a chance for teachers to gain confidence to lead experiential, place-based science lessons beyond the walls of their classroom and come away with a better understanding of the Next Generation Science Standards and Climate Science in regards to the place we call home.
For questions or more info, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wild Whatcom is hiring!
Please see full job descriptions and other application instructions on our Employment page.
Positions are open until filled. Priority application dates apply.
Wild Whatcom is actively committed to social equity and justice and encourages candidates of all racial and gender identities, cultural and economic backgrounds, and of any sexual orientation to apply. Wild Whatcom is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, or marital status in employment or the provision of services.
Join our team today!
Wild Whatcom ignites enduring connections to nature. Your gift will inspire kids to recognize that we are all connected, we are all teachers, and we can each make positive change in this world.
"Wild Whatcom has given me a voice to speak out for what I believe in. It's given me values, like to help make a difference in the community. It's given me a ton of self-confidence and determination. But mostly it's given me some of the most amazing experiences and memories."
This giving season, please choose Wild Whatcom. You will be making a difference in the lives of hundreds of children, right here in our community, who otherwise wouldn't have the chance to roam, romp, and learn in our wondrous natural areas.
Go wild and get kids outside!
You will inspire future stewards for our community and earth.
Every dollar makes an impact.
Take a minute and donate today!
Your friends at Wild Whatcom
Interview with Field Mentor Stormie Romero
Our growing community is full of women who are devoted to helping more young women learn, grow, and discover themselves through outdoor adventure. We caught up with Stormie Romero, Program Coordinator at Wild Whatcom, to learn more about how she became a Woman Who Leads.
Tell us about your role at Wild Whatcom – what’s a typical day as Mentor and Coordinator?
I wear two sets of boots at Wild Whatcom. The first is as the Program Coordinator for Girls Explorer Club and the second is that of a Field Mentor. Though different in their day-to-day functions, these two roles share the same heart.
As a Program Coordinator, I often feel like that quote from Harold and Maude, that ‘the Earth is my body, my head is in the Stars.’ My mind’s eye is zoomed out, focused on expansive, far-reaching programmatic goals: the whys and hows of things. But my hands and feet are on the ground, fully emerged in the gritty logistics. This is a beautiful way of saying that I do a lot of work on the computer. I create and update curriculum, communicate with parents and service providers, schedule the mentoring staff and the group outings, and zip around a lot in meticulously color-coded spreadsheets.
Serving as a Field Mentor also requires a mental balance of big-picture design and on-the-ground presence of mind. It is a Mentor’s responsibility to see an Explorers Club group as both a cohesive entity that will adventure together from 2nd through 8th grade and a collective of individual girls with personalized needs. As a Mentor, I am always asking myself when should I step up in order to model collaborative decision-making or safe tool use, and when I should step back to create space for youth voice or participant-led exploration.
How did you get involved in women’s outdoor education?
I learned early in life that indoor employment did not suit me. When I was 20, I began working at an organic farm in upstate New York. Eventually, I found myself managing an organic farm-to-table farmstead outside of Philadelphia. I worked there every day, in every season, from sunup to sundown. My soul was bright with love and connection for the soil, the plants, and the bees. But at 25, my back was sore, my feet were stiff, and my hands were basically rocks. So when I moved to Washington state, I knew that it was time to chart a different course. I wanted to find another avenue of employment that filled my soul. I found Wild Whatcom’s website while driving across the country and interviewed for a position as a Girls Explorers Club Mentor the day after I arrived in Bellingham.
I didn’t get that first position that I applied for but I did eventually became a Mentor for Wild Whatcom’s after-school program. From there, I watched, learned, and slowly moved from Field Mentor to Program Coordinator. Through my work with Wild Whatcom, I became familiar with the mountains, forests, creeks, birds, and cycles of the land. Now, rather than growing and providing food for my community, I help foster young girls’ love for each other and their connection with their natural community.
Read the full interview here.
Giving Tuesday is here!
Your gift to Wild Whatcom will help kids discover a love of nature, a passion for learning, and the confidence to be leaders.
At Wild Whatcom, nature is a place for kids to indulge in wonder, play, compassion, service, and connection. By giving to Wild Whatcom, you develop youth who care about the earth and understand how connected we are to our planet.
You – our supporters – grow our programs and strengthen our impact. We are forever grateful. You have been part of many accomplishments this year:
A robust partnership with Bellingham Public Schools to double the number of kids getting outdoors.
A focus on equity and inclusion across the organization to ensure that we reach a diverse population.
Tens of thousands of nature hours for kids to explore and learn outdoors.
A demonstrated ethic of service when kids give back to their community.
$20,000 in scholarships to families who otherwise would not have the chance to participate.
While program fees and grants provide a financial base, we rely upon you to offer scholarships, serve those in need, reach new audiences, and grow a vibrant organization. Wild Whatcom maximizes the impact of every dollar you entrust to us.
On this Giving Tuesday, please take a moment to support kids and invest in our shared future.
On behalf of Wild Whatcom and the 2,000+ kids who have explored outdoors this year with incredible mentors – THANK YOU!
May your holidays be restorative and happy. Warm wishes from our Wild Whatcom family to yours.
Emily Barnett Highleyman
Dear friends of Wild Whatcom!
We’re making our popular tech shirts available for special order just in time for the holidays. Order one (or more) today!
Style: Short sleeve, crew neck
Color: Forest Green (note: Youth size S and M – Royal Blue Only)
Last day to order: Sunday, December 2.
Your friends at Wild Whatcom
Dear Participants and Families,
In the spring of 2019, when the salmon berries are bursting and the barn swallows are carving S-turns over your head, Wild Whatcom will begin its next chapter under new executive leadership.
To that end, we have an important announcement. Emily Barnett Highleyman, after five incredibly successful years as Executive Director, has decided to depart the organization in May of 2019.
We have nothing but accolades for Emily. In fact, here are a just a few things (out of many) that occurred under her leadership:
In 2014 we provided nature outings for 400+ kids. Today that number is over 2,000.
Wild Whatcom now has a thriving partnership with Bellingham schools, serving over 1,000 youth.
We've grown our program impact from 30,000 participant Nature Hours to over 50,000!
We provide $20,000 in financial assistance to those in need - a five-fold increase.
Mentors used to store gear in their cars and prepare for outings at their kitchen tables. Today we have an office that serves a team of 25.
If you are reading this announcement then you have played a part in these accomplishments. Thank you!
Emotionally, it will be quite challenging to see Emily go. She brings the type of compassionate leadership this world needs; she is wise, collaborative, effective, passionate, visionary, loving, and on and on.
Fortunately, it will not be hard organizationally. Why? Emily has strengthened the fabric of the organization at all levels. Systems are working smoothly, programs are supported by amazing staff, there is a well-configured budget, and best of all, there is a clear direction in which the organization is headed, endorsed and developed by the staff and board – toward a Wild Whatcom that is more diverse, equitable, and inclusive in all facets of its operations and programming.
Thanks to the long lead time, we have 5+ months to make a smooth and empowering transition. We are putting things in place to ensure that all goes well for Emily, for the staff, for our partners, for you, and most importantly for our participants. The kiddos getting muddy in Arroyo Park will continue to enjoy the beautiful outdoors under great mentorship and thoughtful programming as they always have.
Here is the plan. Our five-person Transition Team will announce the new position in early 2019. Between now and then we will be seeking basic input from a variety of stakeholders and consulting with executive transition experts. Interviews could be held as early as February and proceed from there. There will likely be a planned overlap between the new director and Emily, depending on timing.
We are tremendously grateful for all that Emily has brought to Wild Whatcom. We are healthy and vibrant thanks to her strong leadership and we wish her all the best in her next endeavor. Emily has a few words to share with you as well, below.
Feel free to reply to this announcement with questions or comments and we will do our best to answer you as quickly as possible.
Wild Whatcom Board of Directors
To the wonderful Wild Whatcom community,
When I was hired in 2014, I made a personal commitment to 3-5 years. This May will be 5 wonderful years! Though I know I will miss being in the midst of such a phenomenal organization and team, the time feels ripe for me to move on to new endeavors and adventures.
What a fantastic journey these past 5 years have been! I am overcome with gratitude and awe for the amazing team of folks I have the privilege to work alongside. That is one of the hardest parts about deciding to step down as ED. And, it is also exactly why I can imagine leaving; the fact that we have such a solid and superlative group of leaders who will carry forth the mission of Wild Whatcom with great care and success.
As you know, they can’t do it alone. They need you - the wonderful community that you are - to continue to support the vital work of connecting youth to nature in meaningful ways. Together, we mentor youth to become empowered and compassionate stewards who take action as positive change-makers in their communities.
It’s hard to imagine more important work in this time of acrimony and environmental onslaught. Thank you for your sustained commitment to this incredible endeavor. I know that the skills, insights, and vision of the next leader will bring exciting new horizons to Wild Whatcom.
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or input. I’d love to hear from you and hope to stay in touch far into the future!
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Thanks to the Chuckanut Health Foundation, over a hundred students at Carl Cozier Elementary are exploring nature outdoors, learning new concepts, and improving mental and physical health. After two months of implementation, the HOWL program (Healthy Outdoor Wanders and Learning) is off to a great start, popular with teachers and students alike. The grant focuses on three different outdoor education pathways within the school: field outings with 2nd and 3rd-grade classes; after-school explorations with a broad range of ages; and outdoor activities with students with disabilities in grades K-5.
The field outings provide an opportunity for kids to leave the classroom and bring their learning outdoors -- to accentuate classroom learning with hands-on exploration and the chance to immerse themselves in nature first-hand. Despite the fact that Carl Cozier sits beside a beautiful nature area, this is, for many students, their first foray into the forest. Trees become the classroom walls, and the ecosystem of forest life, alive with bugs, plants, birds, and fungus, the teacher. In a lesson about observation, for example, students explored spiders, slugs, and insects, as well as the nuances of fall leaves, and began to understand how each was connected. “It was really neat to see students get excited about digging in the dirt to find what might be hiding below. The curiosity and inquiry were endless,” says Wild Whatcom Mentor, Nicole Keeler. “The hardest part of the outing was having to leave the woods at the end!” Another outing provided the chance for students to become map-makers; exploring the land first-hand and then putting that knowledge to practical use charting the trails within the woods.
As one of the teachers expressed, “I love Wild Whatcom. Learning about the outdoors is so beneficial for our students.” And the enthusiasm is contagious; it’s just as exciting for the mentors working with the students as it is for the students and teachers themselves. Nicole Keeler sums it up perfectly: “It's really empowering to see students during regular field trips and again after school. The interpersonal connections and the consistent exploration in nature create a more meaningful experience for everybody.”