The Coastal Watershed Council is committed to fostering the leadership of the next generation of environmental leaders. Throughout the year we incorporate leadership development into our environmental education program Watershed Rangers, we work alongside local high school students through volunteer experiences like River Health Days and we host interns from local high schools and colleges. This summer, we hoped to foster leadership in another way – through our first ever fellowship.

CWC’s Environmental Leaders Fellowship is designed to give an emerging leader the opportunity to research, design and implement a new or improved program that engages others in the preservation and protection of the San Lorenz River watershed. This is a paid position for three months in the summer that allows an emerging environmental leader to gain experience, develop leadership skills and take action for a cleaner, healthier river.

Nicolette McGuire was CWC’s first ever Environmental Leaders Fellow. Nicolette, or Nico for short, dove into this experience with enthusiasm, passion and dedication for protecting the natural world. The challenge that Nico took on – creating opportunities for business teams and community organizations to volunteer together, as a group.

Nico researched best practices for group volunteerism programs online and from community partners like the Homeless Garden Project and United Way of Monterey County. She learned from existing volunteers and interested groups what they were looking for out of a great group volunteer experience. Nico designed the program, which you can read about on our website here, and then began implementing it alongside CWC River Scientist Alev Bilginsoy through CWC’s River Health Day series. Nico brought volunteers from Dominican Hospital, Peace United Church Youth Group and WestMarine to take action for a healthier San Lorenzo River ecosystem.

We share our endless thanks with Nico for all of her hard work, her enthusiasm and her dedication to this work. We know that as Nico graduates from Seattle University this fall, she’ll excel in whatever challenge she takes on next. Hear from Nico herself about her experience as CWC’s first Environmental Leaders Fellow:

This summer, I was privileged to have had the opportunity to become a part of the CWC team. I was immediately inspired by their work, the goals that they strive for, and the impact they have across the Santa Cruz community. Working with Alev, Greg, Laurie, and Mollie was amazing; as I got to know each of them on a professional and personal level. I learned, from each of them, what it meant to be a part of a non profit organization geared towards building a closer community around watershed restoration and health.


I learned how to be a river scientist, to plan and execute projects, to reach out to the Santa Cruz community, how to design websites, and more. I was able to embrace this full bodied experience in a welcoming environment and a constantly adapting workspace that helped shape my environmental literacy, and guided me to becoming a more watershed-conscious person.


Working towards establishing a stronger group volunteerism program for CWC’s events was a new and inviting experience that allowed me to connect with diverse Santa Cruz community members. I became proud of my work at CWC as I began to witness new groups and individuals become aware of what CWC does, and become equally enthusiastic to make a difference. Even though the work was new to me, and learning how to operate in a new environment was challenging at times, I was always met with the perfect balance of mentorship and freedom to fully grow into my position.


Throughout the entirety of the summer, one of my daily thoughts was that I could not think of a better place, or people to experience such a fulfilling internship in every possible way. I would encourage every future intern to go above and beyond for the CWC team, and to absorb as much of their work ethic that revolves around intentionality and attention to detail. The fun, caring, and driven team has made CWC what it is today, and I am forever grateful to have been a part of it.

If you or someone you know is interested in working with the Coastal Watershed Council team through an internship or as our next Environmental Leaders Fellow in summer 2018, take a look at our internship descriptions and how to apply here.

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