Kelsey Johnson, Program Director/Founder: As the founder and director of In My Backyard, Kelsey brings her experience as a current park ranger with the National Park Service and passion for sharing the outdoors to supporting and strengthening the program. She is an 11-year veteran of the NPS, with experience in interpretation, education and cultural and natural resource management. Kelsey has a Master of Science degree in Resource Management from Central Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism/International Studies from Western Washington University. Her graduate research project entitled, The Elwha River Restoration: Landscape Change, Salmon and Sense of Place, analyzed stakeholders perceptions of landscape change and their connections to natural resources, such as salmon. While earning her graduate education, Kelsey was a University Fellow Participant in the CWU WATERS Program – a National Science Foundation funded project that focused on science communication and integrating environmental research topics into local, under-served schools.
Learn more about Kelsey and how she became a park ranger!
Jimi Hightower, Program Assistant: Jimi has been involved with In My Backyard since the summer of 2014. Initially, she was a volunteer for the program as a mentor, assisted in taking photos and documented the growth of In My Backyard. As of June 2015, Jimi has worked at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park as a Student Conservation Association Centennial Volunteer Ambassador Intern and will continue to work with In My Backyard. Jimi earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and a Master of Arts in Museology from the University of Washington. Her master’s thesis entitled, Trailblazing the Concrete Jungle: Museums Utilizing Interpretive Nature Trails in Urban Communities, highlighted the benefits of incorporating interpretive trails to supplement environmental education.
Read more about Jimi and find out where her favorite museum is!
Current Intern Cohort:
Molly Winslow, Community Outreach Mentor: Molly just finished her first year with the UW Museology Master’s program with a focus in collections management, the ethics of collecting, and community engagement. She also works part-time at the Burke Museum of Natural History as a collections assistant in the Ethnology department. There she assisted in developing a partnership with members of the Hmong Association of Washington. The program provides a space for Hmong community members to research Hmong objects in the Burke’s collection. This offers valuable information for the museum and an opportunity for members of the Hmong community to engage more deeply with their own cultural heritage. During her undergraduate years she majored in Sociology and focused on refugee and migrant studies. She completed a thesis which addressed barriers to integration for Bhutanese refugees living in Dayton, Ohio. Since moving to Seattle in September she’s enjoyed getting to explore a new landscape, one that’s extremely different from Ohio. Molly has a love of museums, Harry Potter, kayaking, and old taxidermy.
Rose Thompson, Community Outreach Intern: Rose is a sophomore pursuing a major in Environmental Studies at Seattle University. Growing up in Colorado with a family that loved road trips, she has had the opportunity to explore countless national parks all across the country. When she moved to Bellevue, WA 5 years ago, she was struck my how the scenery contrasted that of her southwest home but recognized the beauty in each landscape. Her passion for the outdoors and being in nature drives her to protect its beauty for generations to come. Growing up, she has enjoyed exploring many national parks all over the country, her two favorites are Bryce Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park. When she’s not working with her fellow passionate interns at Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, you can find her hiking through enchanted forests or rock formations, playing sports like volleyball or tennis, or determinedly learning pieces of music on the piano. National parks have the space and beauty to inspire anyone who sets foot in any of these refuges. Rose is excited to work with the In My Backyard interns this summer to progress toward the ultimate goal of extending resources to urban youth and expanding their access to these amazing natural preserves.
Rachelle Urquhart, Teacher: Rachelle teaches AP US History and Honors English at Eastlake High School and is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. As the 2013 Teacher-Ranger-Teacher for the National Park Service, she worked closely with Kelsey to create several lesson plans, including a problem based learning project. Her class worked closely with Kelsey and other rangers to connect the NPS to the urban community, thus, laying the foundation for Kelsey’s In My Backyard Initiative. Rachelle is a University of Washington Adjunct lecturer for the University of Washington in the High Schools Program. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Ethnic Studies, focusing in African American Literature with Minor in Law Society and Justice from UW. Her passion for multicultural education and diversity of social justice pushed her to earn her Master’s degree in Teaching from UW with the intent to make positive change in her community through the education of others. In 2012, Rachelle earned the Teacher Recognition Award from the US Presidential Scholars Program.
Leila Mirhaydari, Program Mentor: Leila has been involved with In My Backyard since the summer of 2014. She began as a visitor center volunteer at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, shortly after joining the In My Backyard team as a mentor. Assisting with the documentation and professional growth of the interns through photography and short videos, she also enjoys being a great reference and point of support. Leila earned her Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Science from Washington State University. Leila has a great affinity for wildlife, leading her to choose a degree in Wildlife Ecology. She hopes to continue inspiring others to enjoy and cherish the natural world around them.
Read more about Leila and her journey!