NPCA advisory council member Nicole Jackson goes above and beyond in educating, organizing, and advocating to connect people to nature – and inspires us all to do more for the outdoors and each other.
Nicole grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, without much exposure to “the Great Outdoors.” When she did discover the power of being in nature, it was life-changing. She decided to help other people explore and embrace nature and all that it provides – and to help protect the environment by becoming an educator, advocate, organizer, and coordinator.
And Nicole definitely doesn’t just talk the talk… Besides her day-job as a coordinator for the Environmental Professionals Network at The Ohio State University, she is a Next Generation Advisory Council Member for the National Parks Conservation Association and a Natural Leader of the Children and Nature Network, helping connect children, youth and families to nature.
Last but not least, and the reason we discovered this inspiring woman: Nicole is the founder of the Black in National Parks Week (August 2020) and one of the co-organizers of the Black Birders Week (June 2020).
All these facts are impressive and inspiring enough. But that’s not even all. Let’s hear from Nicole in her own words…
Nicole Jackson – what do you do?
As an advisory council member and park advocate for the National Parks Conservation Association, I get to explore effective methods of engaging younger generations in national park advocacy and protection. Members of the council work closely with NPCA to ensure the protection, enhancement, and enjoyment of our natural and historic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
For the past 10 years, I’ve worked as an environmental educator connecting underserved communities. I am passionate about nature and want to pass on that love to others. I love being able to work outdoors in different ways to connect schools, nonprofits, and government agencies to fun nature experiences.
I decided to create Black In National Parks Week, a social media event meant to highlight, celebrate and explore the Black experience in National Parks, that lasted from August 24th – August 29th  in conjunction with the 104th birthday of the National Parks on the 25th. The event also provided an opportunity for white and non-Black People of Color involved in the outdoor community to listen, learn and grow from the experiences of Black people.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because I love nature, learning new things and getting to know other people and what their passion is. The more I spend time in nature, the more I learn about it and myself. I am then able to connect with others by sharing my love of nature and its beauty. Networking has opened up many opportunities for me to learn about the world around me. I can meet someone and learn something I didn’t even know existed.
General Happier Place category?
It’s difficult to select only one. I can get something different from different categories. For example, a river can bring me peace and serenity. A mountain can make me feel invincible and hopeful. A beach can help me feel grounded and centered.
Specific Happier Place locations?
Based off the places I’ve been so far, Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia…I loved the trees, the view of the mountains and the birds! There were Douglas Firs, Norway spruce and Sitka spruce. I believe there is where I saw my first American Coot.
The other place I think of is Rideau Canal in Ontario, Canada. Visited in October and it was gorgeous seeing all of the fall colors on the plane ride there. I also remember there being a ton of Black squirrels running around in the park along the canal. The last, very vivid thing I remember is the early morning fog resting on the Rideau River as I left for the airport. It was in the morning and peacefully quiet. I was sad to leave cause I instantly thought pictured myself sitting on a park bench enjoying that view with some hot tea.
What do you always bring out into nature with you?
I bring my gratitude for its presence.
Happier Place tips or hacks?
I like to listen to music when I’m out in nature. Music (without lyrics) provides another level of intimacy with the nature around me. I usually find a quiet spot or space that helps me reflect on life and slowly turn up the volume so I feel immersed in the feelings I’m experiencing when in nature. It amplifies my feelings so I can be more in tune with them in a space where I feel comforted.
A dream destination?
I have an itch to visit Acadia National Park in the fall. And I’ve always wanted to visit Madagascar to see lemurs.
Words of inspiration?
Find Nicole Jackson and her advocacy online:
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Let’s inspire and learn from each other!
Do you have any questions for Nicole?
Did you participate in Black in National Parks Week or Black Birders Week? Are you part of any advocacy groups or organizations you want to tell us about? Do you remember your first significant outdoor experience? How about your first visit to a National Park or Monument?
Please leave a comment below – inspired by these questions or whatever you’d like to share or ask…