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SFNPT Launches Environmental Leadership Program Focused on South Florida’s National Parks

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(Photo Courtesy of Haniel Pulido Jr.)

January 2018 – A new environmental leadership program begins this month in Miami with a class of 12 professionals under the age of 40 who will spend the next six months exploring South Florida’s national parks and learning about environmental issues.

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 in South Florida.

The program will provide opportunities for mentoring, networking and team-building, and class participants will be asked to work with others to complete a project of their choice that benefits one or more national parks and the community.

After completing the program, the inaugural class of the National Park Ambassadors Program will be invited to join a South Florida National Parks Trust advisory board and encouraged to serve as national park ambassadors in the communities where they live and work.

The twelve fellows 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.

The South Florida National Parks Trust (SFNPT) has partnered with a number of organizations to launch the National Park Ambassadors Program in January 2018.

The National Park Service, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and The Miami Foundation are supporting the development and 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 provided by the Public Lands Alliance.

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