My Journey as a 2018 NAAEE Community Environmental Education Fellow

By Ryan Pemberton


In February 2018, an application came across my desk to be a part of the North American Association for Environmental Education’s (NAAEE) Community Environmental Education (EE) Fellowship program.  As I read through the program requirements and goals, it became abundantly clear that many of their goals and objectives align with what we are trying to do at Asombro:


  • use innovative and creative education strategies;
  • tackle community environmental issues through education; and
  • emphasize community engagement, sustainability, and resiliency.


So, I applied on a whim and crossed my fingers.


The 2018 ee360 Community Fellowship cohort during their retreat in Virginia. Try to spot Ryan (hint: he is near the “L”)!

Three months later, myself and 31 other individuals from around the world were selected to be a part of the 2018 cohort.  All fellows are expected to design and implement an Action Project in their community that targets a specific, community, environmental issue and increases environmental literacy.


After acceptance into the program, I drove across the country (along with my dog) to attend a week-long Leadership Institute in Warrenton, Virginia.  While in Virginia, I got to network with amazing people from all corners of the United States (as well as four people from different countries) who share similar goals and ambitions as me.


They have a wide variety of skills and expertise which I was able to learn from. I also received some valuable professional development in community engagement strategies and targeted marketing that could directly benefit Asombro.


Also, it was refreshing to spend a week in my beloved eastern pine forests that I left a little more than three years ago when I moved to New Mexico to begin my career with Asombro. It was also a wonderful reminder that summers may be very hot in New Mexico, but at least they don’t include 97% humidity on a daily basis.


The next steps for me as a part of this fellowship are:


  • to put the final touches on my Action Project (with the help and support from mentors I was able to meet in the Leadership Institute);
  • implement it with students around Las Cruces; and
  • present on my project and fellowship experience at the annual NAAEE conference being hosted this year in Spokane, Washington.


So, come October 9-13, if you can’t find me, I will be in Spokane representing Asombro and the wonderful education programs we deliver to tens of thousands of New Mexico students every year.


Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of this amazing professional opportunity without the support and encouragement from my coworkers and Asombro’s awesome Board of Directors.  From letters of support and words of encouragement, to a list of contacts along the road in case of car trouble – thank you for everything.


To find out more about the fellowship program or to read more about the projects being implemented by all fellows, follow this link:



P.S. Libby, I know you are reading this. Want to grab some coffee in Spokane?


Ryan is a Science Education Specialist at Asombro. He hopes that participating in the ee360 Fellowship will give him the tools to be a more effective educator and leader in his community