Talking Talons was founded in the fall of 1988 by Wendy Crouch Aeschliman, then serving as school nurse of Roosevelt Middle School in Tijeras, NM. As a Registered Nurse with a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University and a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wendy often gave community wildlife presentations to teach others about the live non-releasable birds of prey in her care. The Talking Talons program began as a means of motivating and supporting a small group of youth who frequently visited Wendy’s office with complaints of stomach or head aches, but in reality seemed frustrated due to their inability to successfully cope with the social and academic pressures of adolescence. Talking Talons was conceived with the purpose of raising the self-esteem in these students, placing them in roles they felt were important.
With a small burrowing owl named “Bo” and a few other educational animals, Wendy and the students embarked on a remarkable and successful journey, resulting in program expansion to many other schools in the succeeding years. Youth were captivated by the Talking Talons birds of prey, and developed an active interest in learning about environmental science and public speaking. Youth were trained to be peer educators, teaching environmental and civic responsibility through wildlife presentations which reached approximately three thousand in that first year alone.
Wendy Aeschliman Today
Wendy and Dan Aeschliman retired from Albuquerque in 1998 and moved to a small lake in the woods of North Idaho near Sandpoint where they enjoyed a great deal of recreational activities, especially downhill skiing at Schweitzer Resort. In 2015 they relocated to Gaston, Oregon, an hour west of Portland, Oregon. They now live on the top of a densely wooded hill on ten acres, bordering 40 acres of Oregon green space, where they greatly enjoy the wildlife and especially a wonderful variety of birds. Two wetland refuges nearby allow hiking and photography of wildlife. They plan to be skiing, biking, and hiking with the Cascade Prime Timers Club of Portland. Wendy and Dan have two sons, two granddaughters and a grandson, which they see as frequently as possible. Their little miniature poodle, Rugsby, a shelter pup from Washington, accompanies them almost everywhere. Two parrots, a Red-lored Amazon and a Goffin's Cockatoo complete the family, now kept for more than 25 years!
TALKING TALONS THROUGH THE YEARS
The Talking Talons program at Roosevelt Middle School received the New Mexico Research and Study Council’s First Place Quality Education Award.
Talking Talons Youth Leadership was incorporated as a non-profit agency, under the initial guidance of Founding Board Members Catherine Foster, Jeanette Ricci, and Wendy Aeschliman.
Talking Talons Youth Leadership received a “Special Merit” award from Renew America, a national environmental organization based in Washington, D.C. Talking Talons was honored by leaders of the nation’s environmental community for its success in protecting the environment, inspiring others to take environmental action, and reaching community goals.
Talking Talons was one of 21 successful programs in the nation identified by the U.S. Department of Justice to be featured in their publication Youth, Drugs and Violence, Innovative State and Local Programs.
The first Talking Talons Leadership Center in Tijeras, NM, opened to house educational animals and administrative offices, as well as provide a location for field trips and other youth programming.
The Talking Talons Community Thrift Store opened its doors in Cedar Crest, NM, where it continues to sell local donated goods at low prices, with all proceeds benefiting Talking Talons animals and youth programming.
The Talking Talons Youth Conservation Crew organized the first annual WILDFEST event, a community education day featuring environmental educators, youth development organizations, live wildlife, and fun for all ages.
The national Center for Substance Abuse Prevention gave the Talking Talons program national recognition as an Exemplary Substance Abuse Prevention Program.
Youth Conservation Corps member Andrew Rominger was one of 10 youth in the country to win a 2003 President’s Environmental Youth Award in recognition of the environmental stewardship and advocacy skills he developed at Talking Talons.
“Model Program” status through the National Registry of Evidenced-based Programs & Practices. The NREPP ranking criteria are among the most rigorous in the nation for testing the effectiveness of youth development and substance use/abuse prevention programs.
member of Combined Federal Campaign member non-profit meeting federal criteria.
New Mexico State Legislature inter-session presentation for state legislators and community members advocating for and educating about state programs connecting youth to nature.
Fox 2 New Mexico’s Style fall and spring program features highlighting exemplary community projects that inspire and educate youth.
member of 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (USDA Forest Service initiative) committed to working in partnership to connect youth and veterans with job and training opportunities protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s natural and cultural resources.
New Mexico Governor’s Award for Youth Leadership for work while completing the multi-year USDA Forest Service Collaborative Forest Restoration Program (CFRP) project grant. Multiple CFRP projects have been funded in the Cibola National Forest. National attention is focused on these projects because this work should reduce future fire-fighting costs to federal agencies.
Programs - Over the Years
Talking Talons Youth Leadership has organized countless programs over the years in support of our mission to elevate youth and the community to become effective advocates and ethical stewards of themselves, wildlife, habitats and the environment. Click on the images below to see what we've been up to...
The Faces of Talking Talons
Just a few of the staff, volunteers and students who have contributed to, or participated in, various TTYL programs and projects over the years.
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