It is hard to believe it has been ten years since I joined KAEE as its Executive Director. It has truly been the best job ever, and I’ve been reminiscing on how fortunate I have been to have had this opportunity. I have met so many amazing and empowering leaders over the past ten years, both in Kentucky and across the globe. I have made some of my closest friends. I have never stopped learning and growing. Looking back on how much has changed--what an amazing journey it has been.
My first introduction to environmental education was a summer job I took working at Salmon Camp in Kodiak, Alaska, while I was pursuing my wildlife ecology degree. I still remember the faces on those kids when they caught their first salmon—the pure excitement and love of the outdoors. You can’t find that behind a screen. That is where I learned firsthand the value of engaging future generations in significant outdoor learning experiences where they are learning risk, discovery, imagination, and autonomy. I knew from this experience that I cared deeply about the mission of KAEE, but it wasn’t until I became immersed in this work that I came to understand how profoundly important it was to the future of our society. If there is one thing the current pandemic has taught me, it’s how quickly the world can change and how important it is to understand the interconnectedness of our manmade and natural systems if we want to be a more resilient society. That is why I work for KAEE and why I wholeheartedly support the work we are doing to ensure more Kentuckians have the opportunities to learn about these connections.
This job and the people I’ve met along the way have truly made me the person I am today. KAEE is more than a job or an organization; it is an amazing network of people I’m honored to know and work alongside.
Ashley holds a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida and a Masters in Nonprofit Administration from North Park University School of Business and Nonprofit Administration. A demonstrated leader in the field of EE, she has served as the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Affiliate Network Chair, is as a member of the NAAEE Advisory Council and is the Executive Director of the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEA) in addition to being the Executive Director of KAEE. She is also a Certified Professional Environmental Educator, a certified member of the NAAEE Guidelines Trainers Bureau, and a board member of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.