Natural Connector

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Morgan Justice-Black Links People with Nature Experiences that Make Impacts

Our longtime supporter, San Diego Gas & Electric, has awarded us a $25,000 grant as part of their Environmental Champions program. Funding came earlier than usual, as SDG&E accelerated their giving after seeing how COVID-19 was impacting many of their nonprofit partners.

SDG&E Community Relations Manager Morgan Justice-Black, reflects, “One of my favorite things is connecting employees and their families with meaningful volunteer activities in the community. Whether it’s a one-day restoration project, or a board placement, connecting employees with the community is an amazing part of my job.”

Morgan was born and raised in San Diego. The topography, from coastline, mountains and desert, gave her a chance to explore and experience different forms of nature all nearby, she shares.

She graduated from UC Santa Barbara. When Morgan needed a study break she would run around the lagoon on campus and up onto Campus Point. “In those moments, I would forget about my final exam, or my next shift at work. Nature just does that, it helps to ground you. And since then, I try to get out and take a walk as often as I can,” she adds.

Morgan interacts with dozens of environmental organizations in San Diego and south Orange County. She remarks how she is “always inspired by the work that they are doing and the difference that they are making in developing the next generation of environmental stewards.”

Adjusting during these times has been a challenge for so many of us. For Morgan, she shares “it was hard to suddenly cease all face-to-face interaction with the staff and volunteers at our nonprofit partner organizations. Gathering for a volunteer event, a trail dedication, a fundraiser or an education field trip were frequent activities on my calendar, and always activities that I look forward to.”

Morgan and her husband attended a guided sunset hike with us (featured image). “It was great to see how many people from different backgrounds participate with Nature Collective. Families, individuals, retirees, young couples, even dogs!” adds Morgan.

Above: Morgan releases a small trout at Lake Miramar with elementary school students and Nature Collective partner, Escondido Creek Conservancy

“We also got to celebrate the rebranding of Nature Collective at the beach bash last year. From the sand sculpture to the drum circle, Nature Collective sure knows how to throw a fun beach party! And of course, who can forget the AWE! Gala. So, I guess we like the parties!” (Oh, and Morgan shares that she drinks coffee from her Nature Collective mug many mornings!)

It is important to note that SDG&E’s support for the evolution of our science education program began more than a decade ago. Today, Morgan cites that Nature Collective has a strong commitment to collaboration in nurturing school and nonprofit partners to develop continuity in outdoor learning year after year. This provides students with a foundation to develop a lifelong appreciation for the environment.

“During this pandemic, it has become evident that our community doesn’t just enjoy nature, we need it,” reflects Morgan. “Nature is calming and therapeutic. It’s also fun. I’m hopeful that these new relationships that people have developed with nature during COVID-19 will be long-lasting.”

About the Environmental Champions Grant

Students and educators in the Escondido, Vista, and Ramona School Districts will have opportunities to conduct fieldwork experiences at San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, when future social distancing guidelines allow. The students will also get hands-on building schoolyard native plant gardens, and can enjoy interactive after-school programming.

Students engage directly in climate science practices, and collectively take actions that help protect their community’s air, water, and land through waste reduction and recycling and water conservation. This unique program empowers students to act on behalf of watershed health and cultivates a community of environmental champions beginning with youth.

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