By David Simon
What do marketing for Green Foothills, studying international affairs, and training people to do COVID investigations have in common? Don’t worry, we’re not giving up local conservation to work on intercontinental contagion. These, actually, are all past and current activities of Cherise Orange, who currently volunteers as the chair of our Marketing Committee and as a member of our Advisory Board and of our Leadership Academy Advisory Committee.
Cherise moved here from Maryland in 2015 to learn and explore life in the Bay Area. She said to herself: “I think I can do this. Let’s take a chance on something new!” She landed a job at Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department in 2016, and although environmental consciousness was second nature to her, “I knew nothing of the passion of environmental advocacy that comes in California. You will never really understand environmental planning laws until you’re in California. I had to learn about environmental advocacy quickly.”
Cherise came to Green Foothills through the Leadership Academy’s class of 2019. She hadn’t heard of our organization, but Advisory Board member Melissa Hippard encouraged her to apply. “I was very unsure if what I was doing was right,” says Cherise of her job here with the county. “I had been a military planner for most of my young career, and county politics was new for me. I needed to know how to better navigate county politics and community engagement.”
Cherise flourished at the academy. After graduation, Green Foothills’ Executive Director Megan Fluke asked her to join the Advisory Board and the Leadership Academy’s Advisory Committee. Cherise accepted because, “When I met anyone at Green Foothills, it was warm, inviting, exciting. I felt like I belonged. I look for the energy of a space, and I’ve always found good energy here.”
Later, on top of juggling her full-time job at the county and running You Just Got Oranged, her marketing company, Cherise added our Marketing Committee to her portfolio. Her bachelor’s degree in finance and international business and economics made her seem a natural choice for this.
The Marketing Committee is working on a strategic plan to broaden Green Foothills’ connection to more people. The biggest issue is to break through the past image of the environmental movement as “monochromatic.” “People of color hike too,” she says. “How do we get them to come to us?” When the plan is ready, Cherise will work on the implementation. She wants to make sure that everyone talking about Green Foothills—staff, board members, volunteers, donors — can serve as effective ambassadors for the organization.
Here’s Cherise’s one-paragraph summary of wisdom about advocacy. “One thing you’ll learn is that you have to know who the other person is to have a conversation. Find things that touch on them. Make them the hero of their own story. This applies to politicians as well as to people who you want to switch to reusable bottles. Make people see that they have an impact on the full story.”
“I am so thankful to have Cherise and her experience, expertise, and good humor on our team,” says Megan. “The organization is better for it.”
And we’re sticking with local conservation.