Giving Compass' Take:

 The story of Shahne Belveal, a NatureBridge educator, highlights the importance of increasing the number of minority professionals in environmental and outdoor education. 

• Can partnerships with schools help expand outdoor education programs and potentially provide more opportunities for minorities to participate?

• Read about the importance of equity and inclusion when connecting youth to the outdoors.

The lack of minority professionals in the environmental and outdoor education field isn’t from a lack of desire. It’s from a lack of awareness, resources, and guidance on how to get there. As a result, we need people who come from these marginalized communities to lead the way for others who are experiencing the same barriers that they did.

A Sacramento native, 27-year-old Shahne Belveal is now entering his second year with NatureBridge. Born to a black mother and a white father, Shahne’s upbringing was unique. He frequently traveled and camped with his mom and sister as a kid, but not in the traditional way you might imagine.

Despite his commitment to sustainability, it’s never been easy for Shahne to find his niche in the environmental field. Barriers like financial resources have made his journey an uphill battle.

“I worked four years at FedEx to get through community college,” Shahne said, “and I have back issues as a result of it.”

Not having the funds to purchase appropriate gear for his back has been a painful obstacle for him, especially as an educator who spends 8+ hours a day on foot. Yet one of his biggest obstacles was getting the necessary training to work with NatureBridge in the first place.

The WFR, or Wilderness First Responder, is a certification needed to work in most outdoor recreation and education roles. The two-week long course is pricey for some and not even an option for others who can’t afford to take two weeks off from their current jobs.

Shahne hopes to capitalize on current NatureBridge efforts such as the Educator Development Program, which aims to increase the representation of minority groups, and other internal diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to help recruit more educators from minority communities.

Read the full article about creating access to environmental education by Gabriela Contreras at NatureBridge.