A Tribute to Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way

A Look at Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way Three Years Post-Release: A Reflection on Connections, Shared Power, and Lasting Change

Reflections by Eileen Everett, January 2024

From an early age, I saw the everlasting need for connection – the sense of belonging we get when we understand ourselves and build relationships with others – and the magnifying effect we receive when we seek those connections with the land, the spaces around us, the wildlife, the feeling we get outside of human-built structures.

The calling I felt in my twenties and first part of my thirties was to facilitate connections between young people and the outdoors. As an environmental educator, I had the honor to work with thousands and it became clear that my next calling would be working with adults on connections to help grow opportunities for younger people to make their own authentic, meaningful connections to the outdoors. 

In my later thirties and into my forties, I was given the chance to lead a statewide network of environmental educators and from the get-go, connections were always top of my mind. Like all Executive Directors, I spent the first couple of years getting my feet really under me and just when I felt like I was beginning to hit my stride, our biggest funding source at the time, a federal contract that had been initiated at the end of the Obama Administration, was eliminated during the Trump Administration. It was devastating on a variety of levels. And when I didn’t know what to do, I went to those connections that had never let me down. I looked inward, spent time on the trail, and sought guidance from those I trusted. The message was clear: Do what you do best – create space for connections.

For a long time, I realized that I wanted to support a statewide space for co-creation, one where people with many experiences would feel valued and build connections within themselves, to each other, and with the land. It was crystal clear that this space needed to feel open and inclusive of all people who connected youth with the outdoors, not just environmental educators. I also knew this would take a lot of time and resources, and it would require finding others who were like-minded with complementary expertise to support the space. It would require years of planning, fundraising, and finding the right consultant and facilitator to co-design the space with.

After two years of holding statewide spaces for community conversations, environmental literacy summits, and events like New Mexico Proud: Exploring Equitable Education Outdoors, it was time to provide the space for deeper connections. This would take the form of a fellowship. The first cohort of fellows was tasked with creating a shared statewide vision and framework for supporting equitable environmental learning and access to the outdoors. That document would come to be known as Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way: A multi-year shared vision and strategy to provide daily equitable access to the outdoors and environmental learning for all New Mexico kids and was released in early 2021. The first cohort of fellows was supported for an additional year after the release and a second cohort of fellows was supported for 18 months to continue implementation and advocacy efforts laid out within the document.

The name Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way was in itself a result of connections. “Every Kid and Every Day” came from a conversation at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Denver with my counterpart at the time from Colorado, a representative from the North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE), and myself. We had spent many hours in conversation about the concept of supporting all kids equitably, “Every Kid”, and there was a spark that day about the need for regular access to the outdoors which led to the “Every Day” part. A few months later, as a group of us were co-creating a joint tri-state virtual summit, my then-counterpart from Maine suggested the addition of “Every Way” to represent the many and diverse ways we all can connect with the outdoors, honoring the ways that go beyond only environmental education. So even the framework’s name was the result of many people working together, and was the direct result of connections that had already been formed and deepened over the years.

The purpose of this piece is not to get into the details of the Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way framework, but rather what is built into it and the intentions behind it, including the hidden intention of connections. Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. It was such a hard task because it required taking the ideas, experiences, perspectives, thoughts, values, and dreams of hundreds and weaving in all the incredible systems thinking the fellows had contributed. Although it is only thirteen pages, every word and every graphic had a lot of thought behind it. It required sharing and listening to feedback and rewriting and doing the cycle all over again.

When Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way was released, a bill directly linked to the recommendations was introduced into and successfully passed the New Mexico legislature. A year later, the largest bill related to outdoor learning ever attempted in the state also successfully passed the New Mexico legislature. Both made it through in their first year of introduction and as I used to say with incredible sarcasm, “It’s almost like someone planned for all of these things to happen.” There were both strategic and tactical decisions made to move the goals and recommendations forward in Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way, but that wasn’t the point of the document. The power of Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way does not lie in the document, the object itself, but rather in the connections that were made through the process. It was those connections that allowed for progress to be made with the recommendations.

Although I tried to explain the idea of shared power and connections as the fellowship was being planned, I also knew that people don’t often understand things until they experience it. What was woven into the fellowship and all of the community-centered work I was a part of were two main principles: shared power and connections. Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way was the first attempt in the country to create a shared vision on a state level of not only environmental educators, but anyone who supported young people in connecting with the outdoors. It required moving slowly, and was ultimately the culmination of multiple years of work. “Move at the speed of trust”, so well explained by adrienne maree brown in Emergent Strategy1, was a foundational piece of all that went into Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way. This meant going outside together, sitting quietly while being retrospective, being vulnerable with ourselves and each other, sharing meals together, and leaning on one another through a global pandemic. Although there was a goal to create a document, that was not the main intention in the work. It was always about the people and the connections – helping people reconnect to their true selves and power, build and deepen relationships with others, and better understand and share their own connections with the land. I’ve always known this is where the changework lives: within us.

I have since left the role I was in while writing Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way. Over time I have watched how the connections and experiences of shared power have emerged in many ways; some that were expected, and others that were surprising. These connections and experiences showed up as new friendships, exploring new projects and endeavors, and even career changes for some who have found jobs that allow them to live more fulfilling lives. That is where the true power exists and where the lasting change lives on. It’s in all the new and deepened connections that Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way lives on. It’s in the friendships that continue, the new nonprofits that have begun, the new ideas explored, the new spaces launched for connection, and those that never viewed themselves as leaders who found their voice and power in the process. 

Movements require all of us. We each play a role and have a shared responsibility to move different pieces forward. Connections and shared power are a way to set these things in motion and let them grow, transform, and continue the work well beyond what a document ever could.

For those that have held onto the document, including those that have tried to claim it as their own, they have missed the point and lost the chance to see that the power lives outside of Every Kid, Every Day, Every Day and always will. Lasting change was always built into Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way, it never lived in the document but rather in the process, which placed the change in the connections and in the people. It was always designed to be about connections. I thank all of those who were part of the connections and continue to build, deepen, and transform connections in support of equitable access to outdoor and environmental learning for all of New Mexico’s young people.

  1. brown, adrienne maree. Emergent Strategy. AK Press, 2017 ↩︎

Read more thoughts from TOTAL NM’s Executive Director and Board Chair on Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way and looking ahead!