Erynn Castellanos, MS expected in 2021

erynn castellanos

Making Environmental Education More Accessible for Communities of Color

Erynn Castellanos

By Bryony Schwan

Erynn, currently a graduate student in EVST focusing on environmental education, grew up in Los Angeles, California. Erynn is focusing her work in EVST on making environmental education more accessible, more open, with a city or urban focus, for communities of color. She was recently featured in an article A Look at Why Environmental is So Homogeneous — And How Organizations Might Cultivate Genuine Diversity by Ambika Chawla in Ensia, a “solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.”

Erynn says her thesis will focus on designing curriculum with Latino Outdoors, an organization whose mission is to inspire, connect, and engage Latino communities in the outdoors. She is “passionate about educating young people of color about the importance of connecting with nature, hoping to inspire them to help protect the environment." (Chawla) As part of her thesis she plans to create a curriculum manual for leaders to guide their outings.

What environmental issues are you passionate about and how is the EVST program helping you?

Growing up in Los Angeles, Erynn says she initially did not have a strong connection to nature or the environment until spending time at her grandmother’s home exploring the garden, “My grandmother was an environmentalist without being an ‘environmentalist.’ She showed me that I could have a garden filled with limones, guavas, bananas, yerba buena, and nopales. I could water that garden by using the bucket that awkwardly sat in the shower with me so that no drop would be wasted. She taught me how to love her garden, how to be self-sufficient and how to feel at peace in nature.” (See Erynn’s full blog post here.)

Erynn says she didn’t even know there were these kinds of environmental job opportunities. “My hope is that in the near future, jobs in conservation, environmental science, and nonprofit work will be flooded with applicants of all colors and backgrounds.” She is really interested in how the EVST program and other organizations in Missoula integrate wild and natural places into their programs. “I want to explore how this might happen in a place like LA.”

“EVST has been great! Len Broberg, in particular, has been super awesome. His transboundary class was amazing.” Erynn says being able to attend the Crown of Continent conference was incredible and then to “camp in Glacier National Park with students from the Mansfield Center’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) was amazing. Some of them have never seen snow before. I’m curious how these experiences might change their communities?” Erynn adds that the networking opportunities at EVST have been great.

This semester Erynn is proud to have been nominated for the board of the Latino Student Union. She is appreciates being a member of Latino Outdoors and to have been able to find a like-minded community especially during Covid-19 pandemic.

Erynn brings a breath of fresh air to EVST. Her energy, care, passion and grit as she surmounted the challenges of the last year were impressive. Committed to environmental education and bringing the outdoors into the lives of all citizens in a meaningful way, we are delighted and proud to have her part of the EVST community and look forward to her future contributions. I think her potential is enormous.

~ Professor Len Broberg