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The Positively Green Podcast

Feb 26, 2021

Youth programs are places where children and young adults find support and camaraderie, often looking to leaders of those programs as mentors and coaches. 

Sometimes those leaders have been through their own struggles and trauma and use their experiences to guide youth toward better habits and outcomes. One such person is Curtis Lee whose harrowing story about trauma, prison, loss and leadership have made him work with nature as a way of healing trauma, teaching kids about their connection to the larger world, and conservation of our natural spaces.

Curtis Junior Lee was born in 1966 in Fresno, California and has been an Oaklander since 1970. He was 1st runner-up for the 2015-2016 Jason Guinto Award, annually given to the top after-school coordinator working within Oakland Unified School District.

He formerly served on OUSD Continued Quality Improvement Leadership Team and trained other coordinators within the city on how to improve the quality of their afterschool programs.

Additionally, he served as the Aftercare  Director for Northern Light Middle School 2016-2017 school year and then went on to become its Physical Education instructor, Athletic Director, and Aftercare Director until the spring of 2020. He is currently the Program Manager for Higherground Neighborhood Development Corporation’s Outdoor Adventure/Distance Learning Hub.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Curtis’ story of being a youth community activist
  • How a series of decisions on one night, led to a life-altering event
  • Where prison time strengthened his connection to nature
  • His approach to calling out and healing personal and community trauma
  • How nature connections help at-risk youth recognize their role in conservation
  • How spending time in prison is only part of his story