Juan Telles: SHIFT

The five­ day Shift Summit was another mind altering experience with The Natural Leaders Network. I am grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with Juan Martinez, CJ Goulding, Sarah Walker, Kimberly Contreras, Michelle Piñon, and Eduardo Gonzalez. They all have amazing personal stories, knowledge, and experiences. Now, they are family.

The “Power of Place” was a subject of importance at SHIFT because of the location of the conference: Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We stayed 40 minutes from the town; the Natural Leaders slept in the cabins of the historic Murie Ranch. We had engaged conversation and two tours about the legacy of the Muries. This was my first time learning of the pioneers of the conservation movement. I could see why they would want to protect nature by observing the wonders of the park.

The Grand Teton National Park filled my body with peace and astonishment. We must have dedicated at least two hours, in total, during the trip to looking at the mountain range. The fondest memory during the trip was looking at the stars and mountains while in a group hug. In that huddle, we made a pact to come back and climb the Tetons.

As a Natural Leader, we were tasked to train the youth delegation on facilitation skills. I have had plenty of experience as a facilitator, but I had never trained or been professionally trained. I felt the natural leaders did a great job engaging the youth delegates and working together as a team. The best part of the morning training was the icebreakers. We were very successful using the experiences the youth leaders brought to the table to nurture those with little facilitation experience.

During the conference, there were many talks and panels. The diversity piece was a hot topic. The biggest take­aways from that discussion were:

  • Don’t set young people of color up for failure in outdoor recreation (be consistent and teach them to do for themselves) and
  • Stop talking/over analyzing about diversity (just do it!).
On the third night, I sat in on a discussion around food and its role in climate change. Mark Bittman defined food and poison and spoke about how the Western diet and agriculture is killing people and the Earth. A week and a half has gone by and I have changed my diet by adding more greens and less meats.

The other kind of talking involved networking. The Natural Leaders were on their game. We networked with everyone. I connected a friend with a translator job, introduced my org, Latino Outdoors, with many groups and individuals, and made a friend or two.

The experience blew my mind and I am extremely grateful. I heard many words and as I'm home I am pushing for the action. I will be going back to Wyoming with friends and family to enjoy the powerful place and one day to hopefully climb the Grand Tetons. I am thankful to the Muries for their work in conserving natural spaces and the Natural Leaders Network and everyone who made my journey to Jackson possible. 

- Juan Telles

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