Kelsey Johnson, Program Director/Founder: As the founder and director of In My Backyard, Kelsey brings her experience as a current youth and volunteer coordinator with the National Park Service and passion for sharing the outdoors to supporting and strengthening the program. She is an 14-year veteran of the NPS, with experience in interpretation, education, and cultural and natural resource management. Kelsey has worked in seven different national parks, including the National Park of American Samoa, Olympic National Park, San Juan Island National Historical Park and Oregon Caves National Monument. She is passionate about youth engagement with public lands and making change within the NPS to be a more inclusive and equitable place to work and experience. Kelsey has a Master of Science degree in Resource Management from Central Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism/International Studies from Western Washington University. She loves her rescue dog and kittens and can found most weekends exploring the outdoors and playing with the pets. Learn more about Kelsey and how she became a park ranger!
Allison Burdick, Community Volunteer Ambassador: Allison has been involved with In My Backyard since the fall of 2014 as an intern. She volunteered with the program again in the summer of 2015 after graduating from the University of Washington with a B.S. in Environmental Science & Resource Management. As of February 2018, Allison has worked at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park as the Community Volunteer Ambassador through Conservation Legacy. Allison is excited to support the IMBY team in a leadership role, and help the intern teams implement our first summer mentorship program, A Place at the Park.
Amanda Hsu, A Place at the Park Program Assistant: Amanda is currently a junior at the University of Washington pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Resource Management with a Minor in Mathematics. She started at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in the summer of 2016 as the Exhibit Intern for In My Backyard–designing a mobile park dedicated to engaging urban communities and evoking a sense of belonging within federal lands. Her work and personal connection with a sense of belonging within National Park sites has garnered her publications in various media outlets. In fall of 2017 she began her position as Every Kid In A Park Field Trip Coordinator and is excited to be taking on her role as Program Assistant for A Place At the Park. Amanda is fiercely dedicated to working towards greater inclusivity, sustainability, and accessibility to environmental education and National Parks for all. In her free time, Amanda loves exploring new places, trails, and eats–as well as videochatting with her cat Kimchi in her home state of California.
Megan Young, Community Outreach Mentor: Megan is currently enrolled at the University of Washington and graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree and a minor in Urban Design and Planning. In the summer of 2017, Megan was an In My Backyard intern and then continued working as a Marketing and Visual Communication Designer through February for Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. As of March 2018, Megan is now the Community Outreach Mentor and is extremely excited to continue working with the National Park Service. Megan is looking forward to meeting new people, working with others, and kicking off the new summer mentorship program, A Place at the Park. When Megan is not at the office, you can find her taking photographs, eating queso dip, and reading fashion magazines. She loves her family and friends, her two miniature schnauzers, Chloe and Gertie, as well as exploring new places.
In My Backyard Mentors:
Aron Yohannes, IMBY Mentor: Aron is from Skyway, Washington and is a senior at the University of Washington. He is majoring in Environmental Science with minors in Mathematics and Climate. He’s interested in learning about how the changing climate will impact Washington ecosystems. One of his goals for the A Place at the Park program is to make underrepresented youth find a sense of belonging in the outdoors and develop environmental stewardship. He hopes to use his own mentoring/tutoring experience and educational background to contribute to this program. In his free time, he enjoys attending Sounders matches at Centurylink Field, traveling, and reading science fiction novels. His favorite books are the Ringworld series, The Forever War, and Ender’s Game.
Sydne Dresser, IMBY Mentor: Sydne is currently a senior at the University of Washington and is graduating this spring with a double major in International Studies and Spanish. She is a new IMBY intern as of April 2018 and is excited to hit the ground running along with the other new interns. Growing up in Washington has given Sydne a deep love for the outdoors and all that nature has to offer. She is passionate about environmental conservation and justice as well as equity and equality for all. In her downtime, Sydne loves to play Nintendo, hike around Washington, eat sushi, and take frequent naps.
Shannon Urabe, IMBY Mentor: Shannon Urabe (pronounced ‘oo-raw-bay’) was born and raised on the island of Oahu, and spent her last four years in New York City studying Sociology with minors in Asian American Studies and Media at Hunter College. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, Shannon decided to move to Seattle to pursue a career within the Chinatown/International District. She currently works full-time at The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience as their Visitor Services and Events Assistant Manager. Through her work, Shannon has connected with many different organizations, such as the National Park Service, and has found how a strong community can truly create impactful changes for the neighborhood’s future. Through the In My Backyard program, Shannon hopes to teach high school students about the importance of the intersection of community and history, and engage them in pursuing community work. She’s excited to be a part of the first year of launching A Place at the Park and can’t wait to meet new people! If Shannon is ever not working, she enjoys finding opportunities to volunteer at food events, playing her ukulele and binge watching a lot of comedy shows.
Auriza Ugalino, IMBY Mentor: Auriza grew up in Kitsap County surrounded by the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula. She graduated from the UW Sociology program and completed an honors thesis on the Asian Pacific American experience–focusing on interactions and intersections of identity. After graduation, she moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where she had the honor of meeting all kinds of people and traveling to several different countries while practicing photography. Now back in the U.S., she wants to promote anti-racism efforts and diversity in her community. She looks forward to A Place at the Park as an opportunity to expand our understanding of how we experience the outdoors and to create a fun summer experience for local high school students.
Jimi Hightower, Program Assistant: Jimi has been involved with In My Backyard since the summer of 2014. Initially, she was a volunteer for the program as a mentor, assisted in taking photos and documented the growth of In My Backyard. As of June 2015, Jimi worked at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park as a Student Conservation Association Centennial Volunteer Ambassador Intern and continued to work with In My Backyard. Jimi earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and a Master of Arts in Museology from the University of Washington. Her master’s thesis entitled, Trailblazing the Concrete Jungle: Museums Utilizing Interpretive Nature Trails in Urban Communities, highlighted the benefits of incorporating interpretive trails to supplement environmental education.
Read more about Jimi and find out where her favorite museum is!
Chanara Andrews, Park Ranger Intern: Chanara came to Klondike Gold Rush NHP in the summer of 2017 through a competitive Greening Youth Foundation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities internship. She had just finished her first year at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Her goal for her internship was to foster a sense of belonging in the parks among youth, particularly youth of color and those from underserved communities. Many people in and out of the National Park Service have recognized the overwhelming whiteness of national parks and identified programs targeted at youth as the best way to change this. By teaching an appreciation of national parks at a young age, they want to inspire a new generation of visitors and leaders. Chanara agreed, but wanted to approach the problem from a more holistic angle: people need to feel comfortable in the parks before they will visit them, no matter how many beautiful postcards they see. Thus, A Place at the Park (a very intentional riff on A Seat at the Table) was born. Chanara is currently continuing to earn her undergraduate degree at Spelman College.
Rachelle Urquhart, Teacher: Rachelle teaches AP US History and Honors English at Eastlake High School and is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. As the 2013 Teacher-Ranger-Teacher for the National Park Service, she worked closely with Kelsey to create several lesson plans, including a problem based learning project. Her class worked closely with Kelsey and other rangers to connect the NPS to the urban community, thus, laying the foundation for Kelsey’s In My Backyard Initiative. Rachelle is a University of Washington Adjunct lecturer for the University of Washington in the High Schools Program. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Ethnic Studies, focusing in African American Literature with Minor in Law Society and Justice from UW. Her passion for multicultural education and diversity of social justice pushed her to earn her Master’s degree in Teaching from UW with the intent to make positive change in her community through the education of others. In 2012, Rachelle earned the Teacher Recognition Award from the US Presidential Scholars Program.
Leila Mirhaydari, Program Mentor: Leila has been involved with In My Backyard since the summer of 2014. She began as a visitor center volunteer at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, shortly after joining the In My Backyard team as a mentor. Assisting with the documentation and professional growth of the interns through photography and short videos, she also enjoys being a great reference and point of support. Leila earned her Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Science from Washington State University. Leila has a great affinity for wildlife, leading her to choose a degree in Wildlife Ecology. She hopes to continue inspiring others to enjoy and cherish the natural world around them.
Read more about Leila and her journey!