Women of Wednesday: Angelou Chiles Ezeilo on Connecting Youth of Color to Careers in Conservation

WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.

Angelou Chiles Ezeilo, 46, CEO, Atlanta

1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.

Greening Youth Foundation is an international environmental non-profit organization whose mission is to engage underserved youth and young adults while connecting them to the outdoors and careers in conservation. This work is important to me because I know that most communities of color are not being represented in the environmental field: they are not aware of the opportunities and joy that the outdoors bring to people. I fell in love with the outdoors as a young girl and that love is what motivates me to ensure that other brown children have access to similar experiences. Further, the love inspired me to create an organization that focuses on educating underrepresented youth and communities about careers in natural resource management. If I had not been exposed, I never would have known this need existed!

2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?

The biggest challenge to date has been managing the level of passion that I have for the youth we serve. As a business owner, it gets hard at times to not be so personally connected to the youth we are working to connect to opportunities, especially when I look at program participants in the environmental sector and there are so few students of color. I am inspired by my Shero, Dr. Wangari Maathai — she tirelessly fought for women to have access to enterprises and sustainable practices that improve the lives of all. I am confident that the work we do at GYF will inspire an entire generation to do what is best to protect our environment. The work we do at GYF is frustrating at times because of the lack of funding to develop programs. The funding we receive is so restricted that is leaves little room for innovation. As such, identifying new funding sources stays on the forefront of my mind.

3. What do you need in order to continue your work in the way you envision?

I need access to capital to continue the work in a way that allows our brilliant team to work unencumbered and innovatively. I also need access to mentors and other people that are interested in talking about big ideas and changing systems.

4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?

You can help by simply spreading the word about the work we are doing. I believe that the more people are aware of our work, the more they will want to support it.

5. What is your favorite quote?

“You can not protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they MUST protect them.” — Dr. Wangari Maathai