Parks in Focus® kicked off the 17th summer of connecting youth to nature through photography with an annual summer staff training at Grand Canyon National Park. Joined by a team of park rangers from Grand Canyon, the new team spent five days learning the ins and outs of the Parks in Focus® program, including our unique photography curriculum and best practices for leading trips and working with youth.
Working alongside our park and youth organization partners, the new team will put their skills to use next week and provide hundreds of youth with their first opportunity to visit, explore and camp in some of the nation’s most celebrated public lands throughout the summer.
Please welcome our 2015 team and look for weekly updates on our programs in Arizona, California, Michigan, Montana and Oklahoma.
MEGAN ANZUINI, California Trip Leader
Born and raised in California, Megan has developed a strong appreciation for the state’s diverse habitats and wildlife. She has enjoyed sharing her passion with others through her work leading nature hikes as a docent for Natural Bridges State Park and Filoli’s Nature Education Program. Megan has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies with a minor in education from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and recently has been working as a garden-based educator.
JACOB BRAINERD, Tucson Trip Leader
Jacob is an avid outdoorsman, spending much of his free time exploring the wilderness surrounding the University of Arizona, where he recently graduated with a B.A. in English education. During his three years at the university, Jacob was closely involved with the volunteer nonprofit group Camp Wildcat, which takes underserved Tucson youth on cost-free camping trips to promote general success and college as an attainable goal. Jacob is looking forward to continue serving Tucson youth through Parks in Focus® while completing his master’s degree in teaching and teacher education.
MICHELLE HAAPALA, Michigan Trip Leader
Michelle is a visual arts education and studio art graduate from Grand Valley State University. She has been teaching in and out of the classroom for three years, both in school systems and at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. She has acquired a passion for photography, printmaking, and place-based teaching through the visual arts. She is eager to combine her art-making knowledge, teaching experience, and place-based education interest through this opportunity with Parks in Focus®.
SAMANTHA HARSH, Grand Canyon Trip Leader
As a musician and avid photographer, Sam is excited to share her love of photography with kids and to explore how the arts can be used in conservation and environmental education. Originally from Toledo, Ohio, she has grown up on Lake Erie and has worked on the Lake Erie islands for the past two years with Ohio State Parks. She intends to use her experience working in state parks and her background in interpretation to create memorable and meaningful experiences for the kids she’ll be working with this summer. She has a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and a minor in history from Ball State University. Sam is a 2014 Udall Honorable Mention.
LOUISE JOHNS, Montana Trip Leader
Louise graduated in 2014 from the University of Montana with a degree in photojournalism. She is a photographer based in Missoula, telling stories and covering issues throughout Montana and the west. She loves the outdoors and is passionate about nature and environmental issues. Her favorite part of photography is sharing it with others and developing relationships with people, places, or animals. She has worked with kids in various ways throughout her life and is excited to share with them her passion for photography. If not seen with a camera in hand, she is most likely riding a bike, running, or enjoying the mountains in some form or another.
SEBASTIAN MEJIA, Grand Canyon Trip Leader
Coming from Ohio, Sebastian has driven across the country, camping in various national and state parks. He is studying evolution and ecology with a minor in global public health at The Ohio State University, with hopes of improving the quality of life for others through the medium of nature. Playing soccer, climbing and hiking are among his hobbies and where he incorporates his passion for photography.
BRET MUTER, Program Manager
Hailing from Michigan, Bret has nearly 12 years of experience in leading outdoor and environmental education programming. He has been involved with Parks in Focus® in a variety of roles since 2006 and, to date, has helped coordinate and implement Parks in Focus® programs in nine states. He has a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology from Ferris State University and a master’s degree in fisheries and wildlife from Michigan State University.
COLIN ZINK, Oklahoma City Trip Leader
Colin spent most of his childhood enjoying the outdoors of central Kansas, and later lived in San Diego during his enlistment in the U.S. Navy. After nine years away he returned to the Great Plains to enroll in Oklahoma State University, where he earned a degree in urban & community forestry and is working on his master’s degree in environmental education.