A Letter from TOTAL NM’s Board Chair Eileen Everett on Legacy Work and Looking Ahead

Years ago, I learned of the idea of legacy work, viewing the work you do today as living long beyond this time and rooting intentions in the legacy you’d like to leave rather than the glory you might seek in the moment. It was with this idea of legacy that I began the first fellowship of its kind in the country bringing together those from interconnected interests in supporting equitable, inclusive access to the outdoors for youth through my role as Executive Director at Environmental Education of New Mexico. I knew at that time that I could never imagine all that would come to be from bringing people together across interests and identities, providing the opportunity for connection, allowing people to lean into their own definitions of leadership, and creating the space for the sharing of ideas and working together to realize those ideas. At our first fellowship gathering in February 2020, I spoke about legacy, that the conversations and ideas shared in those days at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center would affect the lives of children yet to be born. I meant it and I believe it holds true as so many ideas, solutions, and collaborations were first begun in that room four years ago and many lasting legacies like the creation of the Outdoor Learning Program at the Public Education Department were born there and will have an impact long beyond all of us who were present in that space.

Four years later, it is incredible to see all that came out of those gatherings among fellows and all of the connections that were made during the dozens of community gatherings that also led to the collective work within Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way. There is much to celebrate in all of the amazing change work that has already been realized in support of the recommendations in Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way. There are many individuals, organizations, schools, agencies, and other collectives that have contributed to the variety of recommendations related to new curricula and professional development and outdoor gear library planning and even the specific recommendation for accessible outdoor classrooms, now the focus of TOTAL NM. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the legacy!

Time again, I have articulated that I believe leadership is how you show up and the actions you take, it is not a job title. My role as a leader in outdoor and environmental learning has grown and evolved as I as an individual have grown and changed. There are times when I have stepped up to lead big actions and create space for big ideas to emerge and be realized. There are times, like now, when I like bringing my skills, knowledge, experience, and ideas to work in the background and support others in their own leadership growth. A consistency in all of my approaches as a leader has always been the focus on working in power with others, in collaboration. Working with Allison Martin as a leader is one of the things I am most excited about with TOTAL NM. In the EENM Fellowship, I saw firsthand Allison’s leadership which is filled with enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, intentionality, and resourcefulness. I hope it is already evident to all of you, as it is to me, that Allison is an incredible Executive Director (read more about Allison’s journey to TOTAL NM here) and under her leadership, accessible outdoor classrooms will grow in ways we have yet to even imagine. This is why we need leaders of all kinds who show up in all different ways and work together to realize the kind of systemic level of change our world calls for. 

All of the above is why I chose to become Board Chair of TOTAL NM, to work in support of accessible outdoor classrooms with all of you. Through my years of learning about systems change for outdoor and environmental learning, it became more and more clear that a way to have significant impact in increasing access to the outdoors is through providing quality green spaces in local communities where youth and their families can regularly access those outdoor spaces. And, I strongly believe that communities and those using these spaces need to be the ones who define what is quality for them. Outdoor classrooms are one of the best investments to be made to address inequities in the outdoors and it’s been really exciting focusing my energy specifically on supporting this aspect of outdoor and environmental learning.

In A Look at Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way Three Years Post-Release: A Reflection on Connections, Shared Power, and Lasting Change, I share more thoughts about the intentions and so much of what went into Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way as we celebrate all of the wins, big and small, that have come to be over the last three years. As is stated in the document, “When the recommendations in this report are carried out at all scales, long-lasting change and impact will be achieved for current and future generations of kids. Through a shared, coordinated effort over the next several years, the Land of Enchantment will become a model for supporting equitable access to the outdoors and environmental learning for youth, families, and communities.” We at TOTAL NM see our role as growing accessible outdoor classrooms across the state and look forward to seeing how others are moving all of the other recommendations and ideas forward.