Vanessa Barela

Co-Executive Director

Vanessa (she/her) was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where her family first ignited her love for nature. As a child, she spent much of her time fishing, camping, and hiking in the wilderness. While at New Mexico Tech, she started the Expeditionary Association, which took students on campus on hiking, backpacking, camping, rock climbing, and other outdoor trips. The club also began a gear library for the school, which still exists today.

Vanessa brings a wealth of educational experience working in classrooms, informal education learning environments, and in state-level administration. She uniquely understands how best to support youth, teachers, educators, and policymakers.

She has been in education since 2008 and has experience teaching students from preschool through college as a formal and informal educator in various positions focused on science and the environment. Her education includes degrees in Technical Writing, Environmental Engineering, Geology for Science Teachers and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction in Science. Vanessa has worked at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Sandia Mountain Natural History Center, Cottonwood Montessori School as Environmental Education Director, and most recently as the first Outdoor Learning Specialist at the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Vanessa is a 2023 NAAEE Civic and Environmental Education-Change Fellow, a Justice Outside Network for Network Leaders Fellow, serves on the Justice Outside Alumnx Advisory Board, Youth Conservation Corps PED Commissioner, and the GreenLatinos Urban Greening Advisory Board Member. She has previously served as the Secretary for Environmental Education New Mexico and currently volunteers as a leader with Latino Outdoors.

She enjoys spending time outdoors, bringing equitable practices into outdoor and environmental education, and spending time with her family.

I am motivated to continue fostering communities in civic and environmental education, which will further my global understanding of systemic issues due to climate change and how I can promote education at a local level.

I am excited to jump into the role of Co-Executive Director at Talking Talons Youth Leadership to create systems change, develop climate change curricula and programs, and help the program grow. In advocating for policy changes, there are fine lines to navigate, and learning to sell the story has made a significant impact; I am excited to empower youth to tell their story and the effects of climate change on them and their community. As my career path continues to grow, I am excited to work with the staff and youth at Talking Talons Youth Leadership.