Published October 24, 2022 by Rebecca Goldfine

Kellie Navarro ’23 Launches Environmental Storytelling Series for Students of Color

Navarro is organizing a three-part storytelling workshop, starting in November, to invite students of color to write down personal stories about their connections to the environment.
Kellie Navarro ’23
Navarro wants to pursue marine research, as well as encourage more students of color to consider environmental careers. Communicating about science will be woven throughout all she does, she says, to help inform policy, to inspire young people, and to support communities of color.

The writing workshop will be followed by two opportunities for them to to share their stories to make a bigger difference. Her program is part of a year-long celebration of the Environmental Studies program's fiftieth anniversary.

Navarro was inspired to offer the program to her fellow students because she knows the value of narratives, especially if you are trying to inspire environmental action and the participation of others.

In her own personal story she first recorded as a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar at the University of Santa Cruz, she recounts the affinity she developed for the ocean and the outdoors despite growing up in a New Jersey inner-city neighborhood.

"It's really impactful," she said of the Doris Duke program, as she saw how it amplified marginalized voices in a historically white-dominated field. "There are students who look like me who are doing this, who have different stories to tell."

Storytelling Workshop poster
The first event in the storytelling workshop is Nov. 5 at the Schiller Coastal Studies Center, following by a public storytelling event Nov. 17, 4:30 pm-5:30 pm, at Magee's Pub.

She explains in her story how she pursued her fascination for marine science through middle and high school, even as her family, who emigrated from Medellín, Colombia—a mountainous region far from the sea—expressed a few worries ("You could get lost at sea! You might get eaten by a shark!").

As the first in her family to attend college, she also has had to explain to her relatives why she is determined to pursue marine biology, a somewhat out-of-the-ordinary career path. 

Though city buildings were more prominent in her childhood than beaches and coral reefs, this year she'll graduate from Bowdoin with an environmental studies and biology degree. As a junior, she received two prestigious science scholarships

But storytelling, while its power is simple and straightforward, can be hard to do, Navarro said. So the three-part series will start with a storytelling workshop at the Schiller Coastal Studies Center in early November. The workshop will be taught by Senior Writer-in-Residence Anthony Walton.

"Anthony Walton has been great because he has been excited to help us, and he taught an environmental stories class in the past," Navarro said.

ES's 50th anniversary logo
Bowdoin's Environmental Studies program will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of programs throughout the year.

Walton said he was open to helping Navarro and other students work on "such an important project."

"The students are trying to expand the consciousness and discussion of environmental issues, as well as encourage awareness and articulation of how each of us has experienced those issues," he said. "The idea is that we all have a place, and a personal history whether we are conscious of it or not. And learning to think about and frame our histories in ways that others can understand is a useful and healing discourse at this time in our society."

The second part of the series will invite students to read their stories aloud at a public event the the Magee pub. The third session, which will be led by the student advocacy group Sunrise Bowdoin, will focus on turning environmental stories into letters to political representatives. Students can join one or all of the sessions.

Navarro specifically wants to encourage participants to describe their personal pathways into the environmental field as a way to inspire others who may have a hard time seeing openings for themselves. 

"We want to show students who haven't had access to the environmental field that there is a way to get into it," she said. 

Navarro is collaborating on the storytelling series with the Bowdoin Naturalists, the Sustainability office, and the Environmental Studies program.