When he was growing up in urban Teaneck NJ, CJ Goulding considered the outside “simply an area with no roof above your head.” Like so many city-dwelling people of color, his Jamaican family didn't hike or camp, and skiing trips were too expensive so he had no experience of the natural world.
HEADING FOR ENGINEERING
He knew exactly what he wanted and how to get there: he'd be an engineer and his math skills would get him the scholarships he’d need to train for that lucrative work.
A LIFE-CHANGING OFFER
Then the National Park Service’s Student Conservation Association offered him an internship—at the Grand Teton National Park. Goulding went west, the skies opened, the mountains soared, and everything changed. The magnificence of the natural world and its effect on the people he met in those mountains affected him profoundly.
He had a choice to make: Take the safe, stable pathway to a financially comfortable life in engineering, or launch into an uncertain life of helping young people like him have the experience he was having. Goulding chose the latter, earning a Masters in Urban Environmental Education.
SHARING HIS DISCOVERY
He set out to work with young people in cities, kids who, like him, thought the outdoors was just where there was no roof over their heads. And that he did, leading trips and working with youth-serving organizations in Yellowstone National Park, Seattle, and in Washington, D.C.
Goulding is now the head organizer for the Natural Leaders Network and Legacy Camps: He manages training and support for over 300 young people from around the country. He facilitates events, develops curricula, and mentors leaders.
THE PAYBACK IS JOY
It’s not the money-maker that engineering would have been but the joy of seeing other young people like he once was discover the environment and commit to protecting it is priceless payback.