Program Update (January 16, 2018)
The SFNPT has selected 12 professionals under the age of 40 for the inaugural class of the National Park Ambassadors Program, a new environmental leadership program in Miami focused on South Florida’s national parks. Starting in January 2018, the 12 participants will spend six months exploring four national parks and learning about key environmental issues in South Florida.
The National Park Ambassadors Program seeks to connect a younger, more diverse South Florida community with national parks by inspiring a new generation of environmental leaders who are passionate about public lands and the benefits they bestow.
Program participants will spend six Saturdays from January to June exploring South Florida’s four national parks (Everglades, Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, Big Cypress) while learning about local ecology, native wildlife, and environmental issues.
The twelve ambassadors chosen for the inaugural class are:
- Gabriela Barrocas, 27, an executive administrator at Grayscale Partners and a member of the team that created the Miami Science Barge, a floating marine laboratory and education platform.
- Jaeson Clayborn, 34, an adjunct lab instructor and Ph.D. candidate at Florida International University who has been active in efforts to restore native habitat for the endangered Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly.
- Jose Felix Diaz, 38, an attorney at Akerman LLP and a former state legislator who has worked to improve public park access and recreational facilities for people with disabilities in Miami.
- Marcos Garcia, 37, an attorney with Rubenstein Law, a dog lover and photographer who tapped his twin passions to create a photo essay on shelter dogs in Miami featured in the New York Times.
- Amanda Humbert, 28, a spiritual formation director at Touching Miami with Love who works closely with children and families in Miami’s Overtown community and chaperones girls on annual backpacking trips in national parks.
- David Kaplan, 28, a senior associate at Starwood Property Trust who is passionate about animal rights and outdoor activities and who has photographed nearly 50 species of birds in South Florida.
- Richard Kern, 37, a natural history filmmaker and educator with Encounters in Excellence whose live presentations of nature films in Miami-Dade public schools reach approximately 40,000 students a year.
- Maha Nusrat, 28, an ecologist at Johnson Engineering and The Institute for Regional Conservation who is active in volunteer efforts to restore South Florida’s pine rockland and protect threatened and endangered plants.
- Haniel Pulido Jr., 39, a software engineer at Miami Dade College who created a native pine rockland / tropical hardwood hammock in his backyard and who leads students on immersive Everglades experiences through the Earth Ethics Institute.
- Cynthia Toledo, 37, a school programs manager at HistoryMiami Museum and a national park volunteer who contributed to Hurricane Irma recovery efforts in Biscayne and Everglades national parks.
- Audrey Warren, 34, a pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Miami who has led efforts to assist the chronically homeless in Miami by deploying a mobile shower facility that provides more than 80 showers a week.
- Margarita Wells, 30, assistant director of Environment and Sustainability for the City of Miami Beach and the author of the blog ThankYouMiami who discovered her love for the ocean and marine biology on a family trip to the Yucatan.
About the National Park Ambassadors Program
The National Park Ambassadors Program is a six-month environmental leadership program for young professionals focused on South Florida’s four national parks. For the program’s inaugural class, the SFNPT sought individuals of diverse backgrounds in Greater Miami who enjoy the outdoors, were eager to learn more about the Everglades and South Florida’s marine environment, and who could devote one Saturday a month for six months to the program, to develop a deeper knowledge of these parks and greater leadership skills on environmental issues of importance to South Florida.
Participants will spend six Saturdays from January to June exploring four national parks (Everglades, Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, Big Cypress) while learning about local ecology, native wildlife, and environmental issues in South Florida. The program will provide opportunities for mentoring, networking and team-building, and participants will be asked to work with others to complete a project of their choice that benefits one or more parks and the community. After completing the program, participants will be invited to join a South Florida National Parks Trust advisory board and encouraged to serve as national park ambassadors in communities where they live and work.
The National Park Service, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and The Miami Foundation have joined the SFNPT to support the launch of this program.
The program is funded by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), Professional Bank and SFNPT’s Board of Trustees, with additional support from the Public Lands Alliance.