October marks another transition at Green Foothills! After four years of service bringing the reimagined Green Foothills Leadership Program to life, Andrea Fraume Valencia is transitioning from her role as Leadership Program Director to pursue a career in the public sector. Please join us in welcoming a new staff member, Ben Estrada, as Leadership Program Manager.
Ben joins us from the San Mateo County Office of Education where he served as a School Transportation Equity fellow through AmeriCorps supporting grant administration, outreach, and educational events focused on health, equity, and safety. With six years of facilitation, education, and community service experience and a passion for environmental justice, Ben has a genuine appreciation for collaborative solutions and community-led change. Bilingual in English and Spanish, Ben is excited about the opportunity to make the Leadership Program more accessible to Spanish speakers and scale its impact.
As we welcome Ben as our new Leadership Program Manager, we reflect on Andrea’s contributions.
Gratitude to Andrea
Andrea joined Green Foothills at the end of 2019 as the first staff member dedicated solely to guiding the Leadership Program’s training and alumni engagement. Her experience and dedication have been instrumental as Green Foothills focused on our strategic priority of growing a more diverse and inclusive conservation movement. She not only shaped the program’s curriculum but also skillfully facilitated classes and provided essential support to alumni in their efforts to foster more inclusive, impactful conservation initiatives within our local communities.
Andrea oversaw successes including training 77 graduates, 40 of these individuals are now in community leadership roles. All of these graduates designed capstone projects and campaign plans to advance environmental justice, of which many came to fruition after graduation. For more information about our alumni, please visit our alumni impact page.
Also, this past year we took a significant step toward greater accessibility by introducing Spanish translation services for the program. As a result, six Spanish-speaking leaders proudly graduated from the 2023 cohort, driven by newfound motivation to champion environmental justice within their communities.
Here is what Andrea has to say about her experience in her role.
“Helping transform the Leadership Program a few months after the first COVID lockdown was wild! The Leadership Program has become an ever-changing, well-rooted, unique asset, not only of Green Foothills, but of the wider local conservation movement. Watching new and longtime advocates launch campaigns, make a difference, and support one another has been endlessly motivating.
Through it all, Green Foothills staff and leadership has done a phenomenal job grappling with, reconciling, and navigating the realities of an evolving conservation movement. We live in a time where more people than ever have accepted the critical need to follow communities of Color that are uniquely equipped to lead us through the climate crisis.”
Raised amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Colombian Andes, Andrea’s connection to nature and advocacy for its protection can be traced back to her roots in Manizales, Colombia, nestled within the ancestral lands of the Quimbaya and other Andean indigenous groups. There she fondly remembers the awe-inspiring Nevado del Ruiz, a majestic volcanic glacier that graces the mountains of her hometown. However, this symbol of pride and beauty has been slowly vanishing, its icy crown melting away year after year because of climate change.
It was Andrea’s hard working family, filled with educators, gardeners, artists, and steadfast advocates for the environment, particularly her grandmother, who instilled in her the legacy of environmental stewardship. Despite the risks and challenges of environmental activism in Colombia, the legacy of love and sense of duty for nature and the common good stayed with Andrea even after she relocated to the United States.
Before Green Foothills, Andrea worked at Bay Area Wilderness Training, connecting educators and youth workers with outdoor leadership resources. My journey with Andrea began at what is now Together Bay Area’s annual conference in 2018, then known as the Bay Area Open Space Council. Fate brought us together as mentor and mentee, yet in our very first conversation, it became clear that I had much to learn from her. Little did I know at that time of the countless conversations we would have about the historical exclusivity of the conservation movement, how individuals like Andrea often felt excluded from the environmental movement, and what needs to be done by every environmental organization to change this.
From there Andrea was accepted into our 2019 Leadership Program cohort. This experience soon after culminated in her assuming the role of Program Director, a position that allowed her to guide others in taking the necessary steps to effect the change they wish to see in the world.
We wish her every success as she moves on to new adventures. Her dedication, knowledge, and compassionate spirit have left a mark on our organization, and we are confident that her journey will remain a wellspring of inspiration for positive change.
Andrea, this isn’t goodbye; it’s heartfelt thanks and excitement for your future contributions.