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Natural Leaders Core Team


Juan Martinez

Juan Martinez

A proud product of south central Los Angeles, Juan D. Martinez is C&NN’s Director of Leadership Development and the Natural Leaders Network. His passion to empower individuals and youth led him to direct Sierra Club’s first environmental justice youth leadership academy in Los Angeles. In 2009, Juan introduced Department of Interior’s Ken Salazar at Powershift in Washington, DC, and he was invited by the White House to attend the National Forum on Clean Energy Economy. In 2006, Juan was a delegate to the Latino Congreso, and he is included in “Hispanics Living Green.”  A recent graduate of the California State University Los Angeles, he is a recipient of Congresswoman Hilda Solis’ Environmental Youth Leadership Award and “Looking to the Future” award from the Breaking the Color Barriers conference.  Juan received a “Green for All” 2009 fellowship and is on the national executive committee for the Sierra Student Coalition. Juan is a spokesperson for the Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors initiative. He dedicates his energy and free time on grassroots campaigns that vary from health care and housing discrimination to creating garden space in the city of L.A.

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Leslie Cook

Leslie Cook

Leslie Cook’s five summers spent directing an outdoor adventure summer camp program led to an interest in the importance of children spending time outside. Her interests in science and getting kids outside led her to attend Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center’s Graduate Program in Finland, Minnesota. She completed her Master’s degree at Prescott College focused on understanding how educators connect students to place. Since arriving at Teton Science Schools, Leslie has been a part of the Teacher Learning Center, facilitating trainings for in-service teachers and coordinating the Wyoming Stream Team program. She also oversees Teton Science Schools’ initiatives to reconnect children to the nature of Wyoming, including the Wyoming Youth Congress on Children and Nature and the Children & the Outdoors statewide survey. In her free time Leslie enjoys anything that she can do in or near water.

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Tamara Poles

Tamara Poles

As the Nature and Outdoor Education Manager at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, Tamara Poles coordinates the Martinsville-Henry County Community Nature Initiative, Martinsville-Henry County’s first nature and outdoor educational program. She also initiated several local events, including the Earth Force program, Earth Week, Screen on the Green, Ecological Survey blog, and other programs for the area that have subsequently become annual events.  Tamara graduated from Roanoke College in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Environmental Science. In 2009, Tamara was the recipient of the Martinsville-Henry County Activate Healthy Business Award.  In her free time, she uses her experience as a USA International Softball player to encourage local girls to play softball. Tamara is also a certified Master Naturalist, a Fellow of the Sierra Club Global Population and Environment program and a member of the Henry County School’s Strategic Planning Council. She also serves as a member of the Educational Board, the Rivers and Trails Board, and the Blue Ridge Ski and Outing Club.

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Chris Alvarado

Chris Alvarado

Chris Alvarado was introduced to the outdoors through the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings program at 15. Three years later he became a certified outdoor leader with Sierra Club and, at 19, part of the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders Network. During this time he has traveled the country, camping, hiking, mentoring, and exploring every outdoor avenue he can. These opportunities, and the leadership training he has received, have made him a successful young Puerto Rican in all parts of his personal and professional life.

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Matthew Browning

Matthew Browning

Matthew Browning is a native Iowan with a passion for providing children opportunities to play unstructured in nature.  He spent his childhood playing in his parent’s woodland as well as the Boundary Waters, Cascade Mountains, Colorado’s Front Range, and Southwestern US deserts. Since his last job as a park ranger, he’s advocated for and researched children’s nature play throughout the eastern US and western Europe, and recently earned his Master of Environmental Science (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies). He’s currently pursuing a PhD in Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation (Virginia Tech). Additionally, he is co-director with fellow Natural Leader Tara Arthur on the 2013 Appalachian Trail: Millennial Youth Led Expeditions (the AT MYLE) project.

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Lizbeth Williams

Lizbeth Williams

Lizbeth Williams is a young environmentalist. Her passion for the environment began at the age of 16 as the first-ever chair, of the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) for Outward Bound Adventures, where she was the lead of a group of teens involved in community projects concerning the environment. Since then she has taken numerous OBA trips to local mountains to introduced hundreds of underprivileged youth into the outdoors. Her passion to care for the environment and reconnect children to nature continues, through her participation in the Natural Leaders Network. Her work in the community has been highlighted in the book “Power of One, Pasadena Shaping our Community”, published in 2003.

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Andrew Anderson

Andrew Anderson

Andrew Anderson has worked with various organizations, from Outward Bound to The Flaba.  As a teen, growing up in Los Angeles, Andrew was given a chance to travel all over the country, from Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon to Desperation Island in Antarctica, wilderness areas that are rarely visited by urban youth. He has been involved with the Children & Nature Network ‘s Natural Leaders Network for three years and hopes that one day the kids in his neighborhood will get the same chances he has had.

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Tyrell Hughes

Tyrell Hughes

Tyrell Hughes holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Johnson C. Smith University, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude, traveled to Morocco and was awarded a research scholarship from the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, in addition to many other scholarships and honors. These include several scholarships from the United Negro College Fund and being named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Tyrell worked for Mediation Matters in his hometown of Albany, NY, where he served as the Family and PINS Mediation Program Coordinator and oversaw mediation for Albany County Family Court, the Equinox Youth Shelter and the PINS Diversion program. He now administers programs for the Social Security Administration and is the Director of MODEL (Men Organized to Develop, Empower and Lead, Inc.) a growing not-for-profit he co-founded. Tyrell aspires to further educate and mentor urban youth. A Board member of Literacy Volunteers of America-Mohawk/Hudson, Tyrell is an active member of his community who often speaks at local high school and other special events.

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Rosie Williams

Rosie Williams

Rosie Williams was born and raised at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe, New Mexico and grew up exploring the diverse landscapes of the West. Extensive international travel, long back-country adventures and a keen interest in socially progressive education led Rosie to pursue a degree in Multicultural and Experiential Education from Prescott College, where she graduated with a BA in 2009. As the Training Director for Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in Taos, NM, Rosie designs and implements a unique, wilderness-based, service learning curriculum for all of RMYC’s AmeriCorps members and staff. When not at work, you can find Rosie reading, hiking, and playing outside.

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Tara Arthur

Tara Arthur

Tara Arthur received her B.A. in Political Science from Virginia Wesleyan College and her M.A. in International Development and Social Change from Clark University. Her Master’s paper focused on the role of sports as a multifaceted tool for international development. It emphasized sports connections and benefits to various social indicators, primarily the empowerment of women, health and sustainable development.  In 2008 she worked with the Nature Conservancy’s Internship Program for City Youth and continued her passion to unite the spirit of the outdoors and play with sustainable development initiatives.  She recently served as a National Conservation Organizer at the Sierra Club, Program Director at World Trade Youth and as the International Project Coordinator with the Haitian Sports Foundation (HSF), which seeks to improve the health of Haitian youth through sports and education.  She is a 3rd Degree Black Belt who has participated in both national and international competition.  In 2009 she was named by Loudoun Business as one of Loudoun County, Virginia’s top 30 young professionals under 30. 

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Krista Bustamante

Krista Bustamante

Krista Bustamante graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Political Science and Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies. She is Co-Director of Youth Discovery Inc., a non-profit organization in Cache Valley, Utah that strives to help youth realize their full potential through environmental education, mentorship and literacy development.  Her goal is to make a difference, using nature and cultural understanding as her tools.

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James King

James King

James King serves on the Boards of Directors of Students Endeavoring For Enlightened Environmental Decisions, The Lets Raise A Million Project, American Mentorship Program for Sustainability, and Keeping It Wild and is a member of the Natural Leaders Core National Team. James has helped enlighten communities and groups about sustainability at local and national levels. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, he attends Morehouse College, where he studies Mathematics/Architecture with a minor in Japanese. He plans to be a sustainable architect and an environmental community activist and organizer.

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Hanna Pinneo

Hanna Pinneo

Hanna Pinneo grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and was introduced to the natural world through her love of animals. She spent much of her childhood and youth at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, connecting children to nature through the animals they loved to learn about. In 2009, after the encouragement of a mentor, Hanna attended the first Natural Leaders Network Summit in San Francisco and joined the National Team. As a part of the Natural Leaders Network, Hanna has dedicated herself to serving those who serve us, the Armed Forces, by encouraging military families to explore nature wherever they are. Hanna also works with the Arbor Day Farm to introduce Nebraska children to nature in their own backyards.

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Katia Rossi

Katia Rossi

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Zoology from Washington State University in 2007, Katia Rossi served in an AmeriCorps position, working at the Palouse Discovery Science Center in Pullman, WA, where she coordinated volunteers, planned outreach activities and promoted environmental education. Most recently, she completed a one-year Graduate Fellowship position as a member of the Jane Goodall Institute’s national staff. There, she provided important representation and outreach for Roots & Shoots at conferences and universities. Katia’s interests remain centered on youth programs, environmental education, community outreach, and animal advocacy. She hopes to establish a humane education and community outreach center that cares for animals on site and focuses on youth being a part of the daily goals and overall mission to foster respect and proper care of all animals and their environments. Katia enjoys traveling, cooking, photography, music, and spending time outdoors and with her cats and dog.

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Martin LeBlanc

Martin LeBlanc

Martin LeBlanc is a leading voice in the movement to reconnect children and nature. As a teenager, Martin’s own life was turned around through an outdoor experience. Since then, he has gained experience in government and the non-profit sector to unite diverse partners toward the goal of giving each child an outdoor experience. 

A founding Board Member and Vice-President Emeritus of the Children & Nature Network, Martin is inspired by the vision of Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. For 10 years Martin was with the Sierra Club, the oldest and largest conservation organization in the United States. Most recently he was the National Youth Director.  In this role, he introduced over 200,000 children to the outdoors. Martin has established non-traditional alliances with the military, educational groups and health organizations.  He was instrumental in establishing the Outdoor Alliance for Kids, a national partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with the common interest of expanding opportunities to get kids and families outside. Martin has built relationships with the Obama White House Administration, including the Department of Interior’s Office of Youth, and the First Lady’s Let’s Move Initiative. Martin helped organize President Obama’s June 2009 kickoff event for the United We Serveinitiative in Washington, DC.

Martin earned his BA in Political Science from American University of Washington, DC, and an MA in Environment, Culture, and Society from Lancaster University in England.  He was recently appointed Senior Vice-President at IslandWood.  Martin lives with his wife and young daughter in Seattle. At every available opportunity, the family spends time at the parks throughout the Pacific NorthWest.

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[+] What is Nature-Deficit Disorder?

“A back-to-nature movement to reconnect children with the outdoors is burgeoning nationwide.”
— USA Today, Nov. 2006
All of us share a sense of common purpose. We represent many, many others—some we know, and others we have never met. People throughout the world are increasingly connected by a resonance and passion, to create a new common sense for the good health of children today and generations to come.
– Cheryl Charles
“The movement to reconnect children to the natural world has arisen quickly, spontaneously, and across the usual social, political, and economic dividing lines.”
Orion magazine

Newsletter Archive


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C&NN Publications

As part of our ongoing efforts to build the movement, the Children & Nature Network has published these resources for leaders, organizers, and participants at the local, national, and international levels:

2010 C&NN Report
[>] Download PDF [2MB]

Children and Nature 2009: A Report on the Movement to Reconnect Children to the Natural World
[>] Download PDF [1.1MB]

C&NN Community Action Guide: Building the Children & Nature Movement from the Ground Up
[>] Download PDF [1.4MB]
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