Episode 154: A Natural Leader

Environmental Educator Nicole Jackson

Sponsored by Danner, Oregon State University, and Peak Scents

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Nicole Jackson is an environmental educator, birder, and co-creator of Black Birders Week. She’s also dedicated to connecting people to the environment and each other. As a girl, nature nurtured Nicole growing up on the east side of Cleveland, and much of her career is built around returning the favor.

Throughout our conversation, Nicole gifts us with nature lessons and shares how she’s grown into herself as a natural leader and advocate for developing a lifelong relationship with nature.

Full transcript available after the photos and resources.

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Featured in this episode: Nicole Jackson

Hosted by Gale Straub

Music in this episode is by  Swelling, Meydan, Kai Engel, & Lee Rosevere using a Creative Commons attribution license.

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Nicole Jackson

Nicole Jackson at Shenandoah National Park
Nicole Jackson

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TRANSCRIPT

Gale Straub – Narration:

I’m Gale Straub and you’re listening to She Explores.

Before we dive in, I want to provide a content warning for about 1/3 of the way through the episode. We talk about child abuse – sexual and emotional. I’ll be sure to let you know before that specific part of the conversation comes up.

Nicole Jackson:

But I’m glad nature showed up in my life when it did because I have so much patience now. And that’s definitely something that I’ve learned over time, being outdoors, sitting by myself and just thinking and waiting for spectacular things to happen. I think that’s another inviting thing of nature. It reveals a lot of beauty and I think we don’t give ourselves enough time to wait for that. And I think I realized that I needed to apply that to my career of just having kind of like that build up to something awesome. To something amazing, to something that puts you in this space of, I’d never thought this existed, but like I want more.

Gale Straub – Narration:

I connected with Nicole right after Black Birder’s week. She’s a member of Black AF in STEM and works as an environmental educator. Nicole’s a birder too, and a National Parks Conservation Association Next Gen advisory council member. Above all else, my overwhelming impression is that Nicole is leading through connection. She’s a connector of people to each other and the natural world, and she’s a synthesizer of ideas. What she describes, the way nature reveals itself to you, the way nature has taught her patience – is one of several nature lessons Nicole gifts us with throughout this episode. And it’s not surprising once you get to know her through our conversation. In many ways, nature has held and supported her throughout her life. And much of her career is built around returning the favor. Nicole works at Ohio State University, in two complementary roles. The first is as program coordinator for a networking group called the Environmental Professionals Network. Part of this work is helping to plan events focused around environmental topics – inviting experts in to talk about their expertise. And it’s also about networking within the field

Nicole Jackson:

There’s a lot of networking happening within the program and it shows up in different ways and I’m very engaged with wanting to connect students to opportunities and resources because in those situations, students are just bogged down with courses and, you know, having to get really good grades to move on through their program with them. We really do forget about just how we communicate with each other and how we build networks that I’m really interested in. And not just having to think about it from an academic standpoint, but just life, you know, how do we build relationships with our family, our friends, then professional relationships with our colleagues and mentors. And what does that mean for each student? You know, how they, how do they want that kind of as a foundation, um, for them to move forward as, as professionals, but then the building blocks of a network, you know, how you reach out to people, how you talk to people, how do you connect with them based on your interests? How do you connect with them when you’re having a hard time, um, navigating these professional environments? You know, so a lot of it, isn’t just about getting a job, um, which is something I definitely speak a lot about. It’s really, these things are going to be helpful for you throughout your life. Not just while you’re in college.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Like I said, Nicole is always making connections – between people, between ideas. Nicole’s other position is as a program coordinator for the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist Program.

Nicole Jackson:

So it’s a certification course. It’s kind of like a master naturalist program and it’s statewide and people from all over, you know, the different counties in Ohio take this course. And, you know, the, uh, some of the topics are ornithology, herpetology, land stewardship. So there’s different topics that each one is kind of learning about specifically relating to Ohio, um, landscapes this year, or I guess when I joined the director to help her with the programming and helping people get their certificates, I figured we should have some form of that networking component or at least interpretation, environmental education component of, you know, once you learn these things as adults and you’re volunteering, you know, at parks, at nature centers at nature preserves, how do you communicate that to your audience? It’s not just you learning something to learn something, but you want to invest that time into the community and help them learn and understand it and contribute to these natural spaces in different ways as well. So for me, it was just like, well, we need to have more of that conversation of what that looks like. And a big thing is working with youth and families. And because we are at a time where those audiences have become more diverse, whether it be through ethnicity, language ability, those kinds of things, we still haven’t like really like mastered. So how do we better do that? You know, and currently we’re working on one of the categories within the courses, citizen science. So how do we engage people in the community that visit these parks with citizen science and show them how they can engage with the natural world using apps like eBird, you know, to document where birds you see in your backyard at the park, even things around water quality, air quality, and feel like they can contribute to the science, the research and the data from their perspective, as they see it every single day and experience it every single day. And it’d be used to help us make decisions, um, on creating a better healthy world.

Gale Straub:

That last piece must be particularly fulfilling to help people make those connections and to help people see that their interaction and their dedication to that has an impact that it can help save species or help people understand about climate change. Like it’s pretty cool to have that ability to connect people with that.

Nicole Jackson:

Yeah. I think these, these two positions kind of go, go hand in hand. One definitely focuses on people and networks and another focuses on, um, the content and curriculum of the environment. So I always find ways to kind of blend the two, connecting them together, you know, that my two supervisors in a way, um, that they can both help each other. And that’s another thing where a lot of institutions, a lot of nonprofit organizations, departments are siloed and nobody’s really talking to each other. Um, but they all want to accomplish the same thing. So being able to like, I have a lot of moments where I just am frustrated, cause it’s just like, well, this person, so and so down the hall knows this, you know, specific thing is an expert in this specific thing. And then the person across from them know something specific and they’re not talking to each other, but they’re like, Oh, well I want to get this done or I want to do this. And it’s like, well, it’s going to be so hard and I’m going to need all these resources. And it just takes so much longer to get it done when you, cause we’re not all experts at every single thing. Like that’s the power of knowing other people who know things that you don’t know. Yeah.

Gale Straub – Narration:

No. And there’s like probably a bit of, you know, I’m sure there’s ego that’s wrapped up in not asking, not connecting with other people. And there’s that scarcity mindset probably in terms of getting funding for projects. And, but if you really have like a mission to, to move things forward, you have to be a connector like you are.

Nicole Jackson:

Yeah. And that’s, I I’ve done so many things in the past, um, where I’ve had to just make things happen and ask questions. I, I’m definitely a person who asks a lot of questions and I don’t apologize for that, but it helps to just know your network, who’s available to help you because you’re only one person like you can’t do it all.

Gale Straub – Narration:

This kind of relationship building is also part of Nicole’s role as a member of Children & Nature Network’s natural leader’s group. She got her training in 2013.

Nicole Jackson:

Children & Nature network focuses on getting children, youth and families connected to nature and the outdoors. And after that training, I was just like, I want to do something in my community. I just want to put something together where you’re just using our parks, our city parks, because I feel like they’re very underutilized. We talk a lot about our Metro parks and our national parks within our city parks or neighborhood parks don’t really get credit that they deserve. Um, and how we can use those in different ways. And even the networks within our communities, you know, like afterschool programs, libraries, rec centers, like all of those have a purpose. Even our YMCAs. I, um, ended up putting together a project called learn your park Seabass. And I literally just, there was three of us who put this together, all voluntary six or seven months of planning and getting families out like to their parks and like setting up a hike or a wild flower walk, thinking about gardening and using your library to like get field guides and like take them to the park next door and use the field guides to ID birds.

Nicole Jackson:

I don’t think families, I don’t think they really understood the power of community and how you can use those resources and not have to go far away to experience nature was very eyeopening. And I just got even more excited cause it’s just like, yes, if we can think about these things in, in these different ways, the sky’s the limit. It really is because you have access to all of these resources and they may not be the fanciest or have the most funding, but they’re there and they need to be given more credit and explored and kind of just opening it up to more engagement, imagination, creativity, to kind of, you know, connect people to thinking outside of the box. Like what does it really mean to think outside of the box? And that’s kind of what, what stemmed that for me of how can I make this park visit more interesting for people? And they feel like they can do it on their own. Like once the event is done, they can do it themselves and not feel like they have to go to someone or pay for something for them to do that.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Nicole’s work helps give people the tools to connect with and learn from nature.

Nicole Jackson:

And that’s another thing nature has taught me is just, we’re all connected. We are all connected. I think just as much of the destruction that we see in nature, like, especially with like natural disasters and forest being torn down for development, things like that, I feel like there’s still strength and there’s still resilience. And nature still continues to show us that each and every day that it doesn’t necessarily need us, but it is putting a mirror in front of us because it is giving us this chance to reflect and look at, you know, well, if you didn’t have me, would you be here? And I don’t think any way anybody really likes thinks about it on that level, but you know, there’s oxygen to start with oxygen. Like it’s being created every single day by the trees, but then, you know, are we taking that for granted? Like, it’s very simple, but it’s very complex at the same time.

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’ll learn more about the role of nature in Nicole’s life after this.

AD BREAK: PEAK SCENTS

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’re back.

Nicole Jackson:

Nature…Nature is very, it’s honest. That’s the best way I can explain it.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Nature’s honesty shows up in its blunt reaction to our treatment of it. Nature’s honesty shows up in the frank warmth of the sun on our skin, the soothing rustle of leaves in the wind. And for Nicole, nature just plain showed up for her as a child growing up in Cleveland.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Before we jump in with Nicole right now, I want to share a content warning – the next 10 minutes contain high level talk of child neglect, as well as sexual and emotional abuse in the foster system. I checked in with Nicole before we chatted and she affirmed that she wanted to share her earliest outdoor memories.

Nicole Jackson:

For me. It’s and I, I appreciate you mentioning that, uh, just, you know, for a lot of reasons and involving trauma and being triggered by, um, having to relive those experiences in a way, but I have gotten to a point where I’m okay with talking about it more. So just in case, you know, there might be someone else who’s, who’s dealing with the same thing and it needs a little bit more perspective on how to just kind of reflect and think about ways that they can reach out to get more help or resources to better get through it.

Nicole Jackson:

Yeah. So growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I have a really big family grew up on the East side of Cleveland. And when I was very young, about four or five years old, I was put in foster care with my older sister. She’s a year older than me. And while we were in foster care, we were sexually abused. So that kind of starts the story of how my connection to nature came to be. I went through abuse a lot and just knowing that I had a lot of questions, I was really confused. I was very frustrated. I just want to be back with my other siblings and with my mom, I know she was very scared and trying to figure out how to get us back in that situation. You’re not really thinking about these bigger issues, these, these very layered traumatic situations, uh, from a societal standpoint, you just know you’re going through something that’s not fun.

Nicole Jackson:

And for me just being outside and the backyard and just sitting in the yard, playing in the grass, looking at flowers, the sky, things like that to just keep me calm and grounded, uh, and not really having to like it helped me not think about the stuff that I was going through with my sister, uh, with the abuse and just having a space that I can retreat to and feel calm and supported by nature. Um, and at the time I didn’t understand that that’s what was happening. It was just like nurturing, supportive feeling was being provided by this natural environment around me, but realizing it did give me some comfort.

Nicole Jackson:

I also had comfort in education. So we did go to school and my teacher, uh, at the time, her name is Ms. Post. She took a liking to me and I didn’t realize how much it meant to me until I left foster care eventually, but just learning things and knowing that there’s a bunch of information out there and other kids that you can be around and play with and having an adult share things with you, care about you and not being scared of them not being, or feeling uneasy around them. She was a very loving, nurturing person. And I miss I miss that. I really do, but she, uh, was awesome. I just, I think I held onto that more than anything because there’s an actual person that I can go to and not, you know, I didn’t ever talk to her about my abuse, but just knowing I had a place to go to where I felt safe and supported from another human being was amazing.

Nicole Jackson:

She, uh, would give me extra snacks. I remember, um, there was a point where she, I think it was like the end of the school year and it, and it was a surprise. I didn’t think anything was happening, but like she surprised me with a bunch of like things to take home. So it was like markers and paint and paint, brushes and stickers and construction paper. And just, it was, I was very excited. I was so excited to just take it home and just go to town with all the things that she gave me. And I, I just thought that was the most awesome gesture like, and I remember going home and I was so excited to tell my sister and like the, um, my foster father that turned into something very negative. So I don’t know what triggered him, but I remember him taking, cause I, at a certain point I took everything out. I was like painting and drawing and using the construction paper and glue and all that stuff. And he got upset with me and he threw everything away. Like he threw it in the trash and I was just devastated. I was absolutely devastated because it was just, why would you take that joy away from a child? Sorry.

Gale Straub:

No, that’s awful.

Nicole Jackson:

But it just didn’t make sense to me. It never, it never occurred to me how much like how painful that was. Cause I wasn’t doing anything wrong, you know?

Gale Straub:

At any point.

Nicole Jackson:

Yeah. At any point, and again, just being so young, you’re not thinking about, you know, why adults are doing these things, you just know what’s happening to you and you want it to stop. So yeah, there is a lot of moments where I just buried a lot of my feelings and trying to understand, you know.

Nicole Jackson:

The end goal, the end goal was always to get back to my mom, back to my S my other siblings. There were six of us at the time and we were actually all put in foster care. They divide us, divided us up into twos. So even knowing that the others were out there too with other foster families worried me tremendously.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Nicole spent four years in foster care before being reunited with her mom and other siblings. She was so happy to be back with them and also found herself needing alone time to process her emotions.

Nicole Jackson:

I would just go outside a lot. I would just go out in the backyard or we, um, one of our houses had a big field and there’s trees. And I mean, you’re in the city, you’re in Cleveland. So along with those trees, you’re going to have like, you know, concrete, broken glass, you know, things like that. But there was still parts of nature, like in go and sit and just be outdoors and just kind of re evaluate like, okay, I’m here, I’m safe with my family, but then what’s next, you know, how do I, how do I get past the trauma? But yeah, I, I think nature was definitely a sanctuary, a safe Haven. I felt more safe outside than indoors with people. And that’s that spoke to me because that just showed me that there’s so much more out there and that I didn’t have to, you know, I was at a point, it was just giving up on myself.

Nicole Jackson:

I was giving up on other people. Uh, cause I felt like anybody that I encountered was going to disappoint me in some way. So that just, you know, if nature’s there, then I can get through it. If not, it’s harder for me to open up. It’s harder for me to be honest with my feelings, it’s harder for me to just be me. I was who I was supposed to be, but because I went through abuse, it was all just being buried. Like the, I guess true me was, was taken away. And I couldn’t express that at the time. So I have gotten to a point where I’ve expressed that love and that interest and that passion to my family. And they still don’t quite understand it too, to the degree that I do. Um, but they know that it’s done something for me and they see that it makes me very happy. And my whole mood changes when I’m outside, I’m in a more peaceful, inviting way. And I try to encourage them to do more of that. Or at least when they spend time with me, you know, let’s, let’s go outside, let’s go to a park and just enjoy that time. And now it’s become, you know, aside from therapy itself, it’s turned into just sharing those experiences and educating people on the benefits of it being therapeutic.

Gale Straub – Narration:

This therapeutic time in nature is a big part of Nicole’s origin story. It ties to her love of connecting people with city parks and helping folks tap into the benefits of nature through education. And on a related note, educators played a big role too, as Nicole embraced nature and science in high school, another teacher in her life helped shape her path.

Nicole Jackson:

My biology teacher was awesome. I loved her. She was a, a black woman and she, you could tell she was very like invested in teaching and just very caring, like always checking in and always just letting me know, like I can do anything you’re really smart, intelligent, motivated, dedicated to whatever you want to do through life. So just having someone like that, you know, show up

Gale Straub:

And I love that you can look back and think about those two teachers that were so special to you and integral to your development and that you get to play that role in certain ways with people as well.

Nicole Jackson:

Yeah, I think in those instances where you’re, you feel like you’re alone and you’re going through so much and it’s just so it’s really hard. I think I do still have a lot of moments where I think about the people that have showed up in my life and that have been there when I wasn’t expecting it, but like they left something with me that I could take with me for the rest of my life and hold on to it. And it’d be like the shining light that I need just in case it gets dark again.

Gale Straub – Narration:

This last point – in case it gets dark again – feels worth repeating. Here on She Explores we know that our life stories don’t usually have clear arcs. Nature is also clearly connected to Nicole’s career path. Initially, she wanted to be a veterinarian, and was accepted to the highly competitive veterinary program at Ohio State. As one member of a big, boisterous family, Nicole wanted to carve out an identity for herself and she wanted take her time in doing it, quietly blending at a big university. She didn’t want to be the loudest voice in the room. But that changed. As you’ll hear, as she fell into a career that she loved, she took on more and more leadership positions.

Nicole Jackson:

It turned into, okay, don’t want to do this veterinary medicine situation anymore. And I think I realized that after taking a stats class and I was just like, okay, let’s see what else is out there. So I tried a bunch of different other majors there’s zoology. There was wildlife science, wildlife management, animal sciences, and then finally parks, recreation, and tourism. So that’s why eventually went into environmental education. I found out that it was very interdisciplinary, which I loved because I knew I could switch my interests at the drop of a dime just because I was like, Ooh, you could learn about, you know, snakes and amphibians and, you know, plants and cityscapes and things like, it’s just like so many different layers, but it’s just like how you communicate the information. So I’m like, maybe this is it. I think I have something. And it wasn’t until I think it’s, that was solidified at the time. My advisor, Amanda Rosenwald, um, who, who now works at Cornell lab of ornithology opened up this opportunity, uh, to work with her grad students and do bird research in Columbus. Um, I think that was my way of trying to figure out if I wanted to do field research.

Nicole Jackson:

And this was an internship opportunity that she let me know about. And I was just like, sure can try this. And this is how my birding relationship started. And it was for a summer three and a half months. It was, I believe four in the morning I’d have to get up four in the morning until like four in the afternoon looking for bird nests, bench plot. So we had these grid set up in our locations or park locations and within the grid, um, we’d have to look at the amount of vegetation that was under a nest. So that was considered our bench plot. But then there’s bird banding. There was a camera tracking, um, with mammals and predators. There’s a bunch of different things. I was learning, being outside and I loved being outside, but it was summer and it was hot and having to be out there for so long, looking at birds, ideating them, looking to see if they have bands on their, their legs to see if a male, female pair the head, come back to make a nest, or they were new.

Nicole Jackson:

It was a pretty awesome experience because I got to see another world of research that was really like engaging, even though we weren’t interacting with people, but we were interacting with nature and wildlife. And I found myself at one point, um, when we were doing our research, people are walking their dogs, they’re running, using the parks as, as normal, but every now and then we’d get someone, you know, Hey, what are you guys doing out here? I see you have these like this equipment and like these poles and like the nets, you know, set up for the, uh, bird banding and all that stuff. And I found myself more interested in answering their questions than doing the research, not to say that it was boring, but I was just going back to that education mode of like, Oh, you want to know about, you know, this, like, this is really cool.

Nicole Jackson:

Or like we found this bird and like it had three or four eggs and its nest and it makes this call or, um, you know, this predator got to the nest and they have to make another one. So like those kinds of things, there’s just like, this is so fascinating. So then with the parks, recreation and tourism, um, major, I was able to explore more of being able to just teach that like teach the information versus being out in the field, which is kind of weird because environmental education, you have to be out there in front of people to people it’s like, Oh wait, I think I was trying to, I was really trying to avoid this the whole time. You’ve just like working by myself, doing my own thing. Not as much interaction with people. And now it’s like full circle, like, Oh my goodness. Like I have to put myself out there now what?

Gale Straub:

And you’re showing up as a leader.

Nicole Jackson:

Yeah. Yeah. So having to like change, change my hat that also like show people who I was and that I was serious. And it wasn’t just like, I’m just doing this for the heck of it. But like, I’m really interested in this stuff, but also still like having my personality, but in a more inviting way and not just being dismissive of people, but like really engaging with them in a meaningful way. Um, took a lot of work, took a lot of patients, but I’m glad nature had showed up in my life when it did, because I have so much patience now.

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’ll hear about the impact Black Birders Week had on Nicole after this.

 

AD BREAK: OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY & DANNER

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’re back a few episodes ago, we had Daniel Belany on to talk about black birders week a week, organized by the collective BlackAFinSTEM in response to the racist central park birding incident. I asked Nicole what impact the week had on her life as an environmental educator and communicator.

Nicole Jackson:

So the week for me, it was just showing me like I, before that it wasn’t using my Twitter a lot, no interaction engagement every now and then I would look at it just to see what other people were posting, but I wasn’t posting a lot from, uh, from my page. And just to see how much people have reached out and like supported and like, Oh my goodness, I saw your article or one of the members articles about their experience. Thank you so much for sharing that. Or you’ve inspired me to birdwatch or you’ve inspired me to do these other nature things. I was just like, this is amazing. I, I love stories of triumph. I love stories of people stepping outside of coming out of their shells to do what they’ve always wanted to do, and like sharing that with other people is so awesome.

Nicole Jackson:

So to be able to witness that and like real time through, through tweets and through messy messages, whether it be from the group or from Twitter or Instagram, or even, you know, people emailing me was very inspiring and uplifting and knowing that you can have a group put that message out and, and have it be so well received of, you know, this should have happened so long ago, but it’s, it’s, it’s here now. It’s happening now. And there’s purpose in it. You know, it’s not something that was just like, Oh, let’s try this out. And like, we were really committed to getting that message of these events are, are happening around racism and white supremacy in our communities, in the media. And it’s toxic and it’s draining and it’s tiring, but we want to celebrate each other. Like we are doing these awesome things every single day and we don’t get credit.

Nicole Jackson:

We don’t get validated. We don’t get heard. We don’t get seen. It’s a space for us to just say, Hey, we’re out here and we’re even still discovering each other. Like, we’re still trying to figure out who’s who and who like where everybody is and what their interests are. And trying to make sense of what that means, because we know there are other people like us out there. It’s just because we don’t get that recognition. We kinda stay in the shadows. And sometimes it’s not intentional. And other times it’s very intentional because you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself to speak for a whole group of people. That’s what people are looking for. Just like you can speak for us, you know, but that’s not what we’re trying. We’re just acknowledging that we all have these different talents. We all are intelligent beings.

Nicole Jackson:

We’re experts in certain fields and we want to make our communities better. We want to continue loving and supporting them and celebrating them. And we want other people to do that with us. And, you know, our white counterparts can take that opportunity to engage more on amplify, who we are and speak out against racism. Like anti-racism is like so much a part of it just as, as much as the celebrating of who we are. Absolutely. It’s another network that you’re a part of. Yes. All the networks, I would say there’s a good, like 10 that I’m a part of. And I try to keep track of all them, but, um, it, sometimes it can be very difficult. And, and this past week has reminded me of that too, of being entered into another space where you’re giving your time, your energy, what does that mean?

Nicole Jackson:

You know, is that something you want to commit yourself to full time, a little bit of time? How do you want to contribute? How does that tie into the rest of your life and things that you’re doing? So there’s a lot of reflecting, I think on my end to just, you know, cause they’re not robots, like we’re still human beings at the end of the day and we’re only one person. We only can give so much to one thing at a time. So it’s like each day is different. Like it’s really different. And it’s been very, like, this is the most I’ve been engaged on social media, but it’s felt good at the same time, just knowing that I can communicate with a whole different group of people now about my interests and just hoping like, there’s, there’s more, that’s going to come from this. Like, there’s no doubt that there’s going to be so many more opportunities for people that look like me and for youth, specifically Black youth, to see these spaces in media, in the news or whatever. And just be like, I can do that too. And then just do it.

Gale Straub:

And do you, do you think, like when you look back, do you think that might’ve changed your trajectory? Like if you had had more people like in the media represented who are Black to, to look to?

Nicole Jackson:

Yes. That I feel like that definitely would have changed things for me. And I’m sure I probably even would have had a different career path, but not feeling like, okay, this is going to take, it’s going to take me forever to get to this point of finding someone or group of people that I can connect to that has similar interests to me. And it’s just this like long journey of finding self, like, because your identity is tied up in that too, of who you feel like you are, is based on who shows up in your life and how they show up in your life. So I, and how society presents them to you. So that’s, so that’s a lot for one person to process I would imagine.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things that you said you hope for is that there’ll be more opportunities for youth within the STEM fields. Are there any other hopes that you have, like in terms of specifically BlackAFinSTEM, like growth of that organization?

Nicole Jackson:

Yeah, definitely in the world of academia, we have there’s, there’s so many people who are actually doing research right now have Alex Troutman who are actually out in the field doing the work and they need funding. They need jobs, you know? So even that has to be considered in these situations of, you know, we’re, we’re doing this amazing work, but we also need to be paid for it. We’re also experts, you know? So acknowledging that and knowing that we haven’t created enough opportunities or enough resources and not even to say we haven’t created enough, I feel like they’re out there. They’re just not being given to us. It’s just, it’s so much more work to get those resources that should just be automatically there. But yeah, I think, yeah, the, the, you know, funding to continue their research and to mentor other youth and other students, whether it’s like getting your master’s degree or your PhD and seeing that you can be a person that can help the next generation of STEM educators, you know, scientists, whatever that may be. But knowing that there’s layers to these issues around, around racism, there’s so many different layers and we can’t tackle them one at a time. Like we have to do it simultaneously.

Gale Straub:

If we do it one at a time often like nothing ends up happening. Right. Or is it?

Nicole Jackson:

Yeah. Yeah. And it’s just this long drawn out process. It’s just like, okay, there’s no, there’s not a light at the end of the tunnel. But knowing that you can have those support networks that really understand what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re needing like your needs. I was thinking about this with interpretation, nature, interpretation, and talk about this and courses, um, hierarchy of needs and very basic, you know, when you take someone out to a park and you’re doing interpretation, like first, you want to ask them just like their biological needs of water, bathroom, food. Like those are very basic things that we all need, but then it progresses to the needs of, you know, the group societal, I guess, needs community needs. Um, and then like your, your self needs, like your emotions, your feelings, your attitudes, your values, um, need to be considered as well. So there’s different layers to that, um, that we need to think about. And in a lot of these situations where we’re all gonna be working together in these spaces, we have to figure out a way to make that better

Gale Straub – Narration:

Racial equity within the workplace is actually something we go into more detail on in next week’s episode featuring Rocío Villalobos. But before we wrap up, as I often do, I asked Nicole if there’s anything I missed, any last thoughts on nature and connection:

Nicole Jackson:

I’m continuing my journey as Nicole, but I also want to speak to just the perseverance of the people and the BlackAFinSTEM group. Like they continue to just push through all the chaos, all the darkness, all of the frustration and the racism in terms of it just being embedded in our society. They always find a way to push forward, which I commend so much. And I just, I just want to mention that I’m on this next chapter of my life journey of creating more spaces for, for women of color, to challenge themselves and to take that time, to get to know them because we’re important. We need to take better care of ourselves. We need to know that we’re strong, even when we feel weak and that I want to work towards creating more opportunities and spaces to explore that for women of color. So that’s kind of the next journey path that I want to take for myself.

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