Paola grew up in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, surrounded by little brown babies and concrete sidewalks with cracks full of life. Growing up as a low-income first generation Xicana in the United States along with her educational background in Society and Environment and Ethnic Studies provides her with a deeper understanding of institutional barriers that prevent communities of color from being able to engage in and reestablish ties with la madre tierra.Her background as a campus organizer along with her work in outdoor education and engagement has focused on captivating and creating lasting relationships with communities. She has been recognized for her work in this field by receiving the North American Association for Environmental Education’s 30 Under 30 Award and hopes to continue in the movement towards self determination for communities without it.
“I do this work understanding that institutional injustices brought on by racism, capitalism, patriarchy, etc., have caused my urban communities to see themselves as separate from nature and to believe the environmental conditions that they live in can never be changed or improved. I do this work because these legacies of colonialism remain in my communities and will remain until we begin to dismantle the institutions that have allowed these conditions to occur. I believe that organizing in communities and doing work with marginalized communities is a step in the right direction toward environmental justice and conservation. What I learn from my community and the struggles they go through on a daily basis teaches me more about the world and my place in the movement to self-determination.”
Paola is a member of the 2017 Emerging Leaders Program.