NWF Emerging Leaders Training: We All Have a Role to Play

Guest Post by Kamilah Martin

What do you get when you put 17 random environmental “emerging” leaders and students in a conference room at a retreat lodge to focus on leadership and environmental stewardship? I’ll tell you what you get. What you get is a group of passionate, smart people who appreciate our natural world and who aren’t afraid to profess it! I guess that’s why it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when one among the group during the initial welcome activities shared, “…I have the urge to be outside,” prompting the organizers to pack up the flip charts and markers to move our meeting outdoors, and thus setting the tone for our five amazing days together as 2014 National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Fellows in the mountains of GA.

Kamilah receives a random act of kindness during the training.
I am the Associate Director of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, the global youth humanitarian program of the Jane Goodall Institute (and one lucky part of the group of 17) who had the honor of learning, growing, sharing, laughing, and planning together during this incredible five day experience.

The National Wildlife Federation Emerging Leaders Initiative is about engaging, empowering, and expanding a network of young professional leaders who want to live in a healthy world where they can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and enjoy a diverse array of wildlife and habitat.

Now I have been on both sides of this sort of program for about a decade now, and never have I experienced such an immediate sense of collaboration, leadership, participant presence, and “EQ” (emotional intelligence). Not only was it a tremendous growth experience and opportunity to collaborate with people who are already doing incredible things in their own ways for this planet we share, but it was also, quite simply, refreshing and re-energizing.

I attribute this to the group of people who serendipitously found ourselves going after this opportunity this year and coming together, but also the NWF staff (shout out Crystal, Courtney, and Kassie), and the insightful and talented facilitator, Barbara Wykoff, who encouraged and offered authenticity, big-picture thinking, relevant leadership training, and personal reflection.

Photo: Chelsea Roseberry
Photo: Chelsea Roseberry

We all came from different places and complete different parts of the conservation puzzlesome, like me, who are working to encourage and develop the next generation of conservation stewards, some who are in the public sector working with policymakers, some who are in the private sector and come from the perspective of how to monetize and incentivize “doing good,” and others who are on the ground working directly with local communities to make an immediate, tangible impact. The one commonality among us is that we all want this world to be around for a while and that we are all part of the formula that is necessary to make sure the resources, animals, people, and environment are here for generations to come.

The main takeaway I have from this experience is a philosophy that Dr. Jane Goodall has spent her entire life trying to help people understand: we all have a difference to make in this world, from our everyday life choices. After all, “every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” We are so fortunate to have programs like the National Wildlife Federation Emerging Leaders Initiative around to bring to the forefront the fact that there are so many of us out there working to do our part.

To learn more about the 2014 National Wildlife Federation fellows and our work, visit www.nwf.org/fellows

Kamilah is the Kamilah MartinAssociate Director of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, the global youth humanitarian program of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI). At JGI she works to develop programs, resources, and partnerships designed to support the next generation of conservation leaders who understand the interconnectedness between people, animals, and the environment. She presents to audiences nationally on youth-led service learning and youth achievement.

Kamilah is a graduate of CUNY, Baruch College’s National Urban Fellows leadership program, where she also earned her Master’s in Public Administration. She earned her undergraduate degree in Business Management from the University of Maryland, College Park. Kamilah was also one of thirty-five people awarded a New York University Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service.

During her NWF fellowship, Kamilah will be developing strategies to reach broader populations that are currently underrepresented in JGI’s growing efforts to introduce educators and young people across the globe to the Roots & Shoots service learning model.