Escondido to Ithaca: Carol’s Watershed Journey



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Carol Montejo is one of our High School mentees and demonstrates for younger students how to be involved in nature.

Carolina Montejo will be making a big transition this fall. Growing up in Escondido and graduating this month from San Pasqual High School, Carol will attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Her major is Environment and Sustainability.

As the president of her school’s Environmental Club, Carol’s journey is inspired by the volunteer work she does to make nature + community a healthier place.

Above: Carol, center, enjoys park cleanups as president of San Pasqual High School’s Environmental Club.

“Through school, Nature Collective brought out all the opportunities we didn’t have,” shares Carol. “I got to learn things myself and educate others. It is nice to be mindful about how we impact the environment.”

We met Carol when she was a freshman, joining her older sister and club friends to volunteer for Family Days, weekend debris cleanups, and during the pandemic, our Virtual Connections series. It’s part of the Environmental Club’s mission to work within communities to inspire children to explore the outdoors with passion and care.

“I like to try new things,” Carol reflects. “When I was younger, I didn’t think I would be so involved in the environment. But after I tried it out I really enjoyed it. It’s good to put yourself out there for younger students.”

Carol and her sisters are the first generation in her family to go to college. “For me, coming from a low income household, at first I didn’t get a lot of opportunities to experience the ocean,” she adds.

With Nature Collective, Carol has journeyed from concrete culverts and natural flowing streams in her town — downstream to the estuary of San Elijo Lagoon — and beyond to the shoreline and tide pools of the Pacific Ocean. 

Carol knows how important it is to be a mentor for younger kids. Her advice is to research in general what you want to be involved in. “Educate yourself on how you can make a better impact on your surroundings,” she says. “We talk about how we can be better people, not to be selfish. Go out and learn all these impacts.”

Above: Carol, on the left, guides Family Days participants to make a healthy bird treat to bring home. Making these pine cone treats connects kids and families with nature care. (Photo taken year before public quarantine during pandemic.)

Last month Carol partnered with Nature Collective in our Virtual Connections series. For Seahorse’n Around, Carol and her sister, Jessica, guided the kids online with a seahorse craft using simple supplies of paper and cupcake liners.

 She came up with this project as a mindful way for children to think about ocean life, and how we can be more aware of our impacts on their underwater habitats.

Her club’s park cleanups are resuming in-person near school and Carol is glad to get back out and make a visible difference. We honor and congratulate Carol as she prepares for Cornell University!

Carol has made a lasting impact here on the land, in the water, and in the eyes of children who one day will be stepping in to become environmental leaders, as she continues to be.


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