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Nicole Jackson: Environmental Educator, Advocate, and Organizer (Columbus, Ohio)

Nicole Jackson, Black in National Parks Week founder, environmental educator, Maddron Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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.

I currently work as a program coordinator for the Environmental Professionals Network at The Ohio State University. I plan networking events for environmental professionals, students and faculty.

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 [2020] 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.

Nicole Jackson, National Park Rangers, Pullman National Monument, National Parks Conservation Association, environmental educator and advocate
Nicole Jackson with other National Parks Conservation Association members and National Park Rangers during the 2019 Pullman by Train event at Pullman National Monument (Chicago, IL).

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.

Educator, advocate, organizer, Black in National Parks Week founder, National Parks Conservation Association council member Nicole Jackson birding in Vancouver.
Nicole birding in Vancouver.

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?

In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.

Alice Walker

Find Nicole Jackson and her advocacy online:

Nicole Jackson personally…
Twitter: wildlifegirl09
Instagram: nicky.j10

Black in National Parks Week…
Twitter: BlackInNPsWeek
Instagram: blackinnpsweek

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Founder of Black in National Parks Week, co-organizer of Black Birders Week, National Parks Conservation Association advisory council member Nicole Jackson

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…

18 thoughts on “Nicole Jackson: Environmental Educator, Advocate, and Organizer (Columbus, Ohio)

  1. Happy to meet Nicole. She is very inspiring and I admire her work. Too bad I was not able to join her social media event last August. Anyway, I just followed her in IG and I am looking to learn more about her advocacy.

    1. That’s great that you followed her on IG. I hope it’ll be rewarding for you. She’ll probably share more opportunities we can participate in – even before next year’s Black in National Parks week. We discovered here because we followed accounts discovered during Black Birders Week. So one thing leads to another…

  2. What an interesting interview this is. I really like the quote at the end about nature. Nice post.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview. I didn’t know that Alice Walker quote either. Gives a great perspective on beauty…

  3. I would love to have a job like Nicole’s! I have always loved being in nature. I love her advocacy and I hope more and more people would be more caring to the environment, if not for us, but for the future generations to enjoy.

    1. It’s so true: we can’t just think of the environment and society as it is today but also how we want (and need) it to be for the future generations.

  4. LOVE this so much. Any job or anything that helps to promote nature and the outdoors is a massive yes from me x

    1. And your pro-nature attitude gets a massive yes from us!

  5. We have been keeping to the exploration of State Parks. Thanks for all the information it’s perfect to plan our trip!

  6. I love this feature. It was very empowering to read about her interests and advocacy. Thank you for sharing. I have been wanting to see the majestic greens, browns, and blues for some time, and I am a bit more motivated by Nicole here.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Wonderful to know you feel empowered by Nicole’s work and motivated to explore the outdoors!

  7. What a great profile of Nicole! She has an amazing job! I would also love to visit Stanley Park!

    1. Thank you for your comment. Hope you get to explore Stanley Park one day…

  8. It’s good and inspiring, to see a young woman actively involved in advocacy for the environment, to ensure the protection, enhancement, and enjoyment of natural and historic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

  9. Nicole sounds like an amazing woman! What an inspiration to get outside and enjoy nature. I’d love to know more about how she became interested in the outdoors and nature.

    1. Hi Bethan! For more context on how I came to love nature, please check out my She-Explores podcast episode. It’s really hard to put into a few words in a comment box lol.

        1. Hey Nicole! Thank you for chiming in and sharing the podcast.

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