Introduce yourself! What should the world know about you? 

I’m Alliyah Lusuegro, and I’m a first-generation Filipinx immigrant and daughter of the ocean. I am a relative, a storyteller by prose, and lifelong learner and lover of our world.

My roots are in the Philippines, but I come from many homes. Chicago, IL is my home base and the epicenter of my learning where, as a teen, I endlessly read fiction books in my local public library and spent summers deep in animal conservation research at Lincoln Park Zoo. I went on to attend Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania as a QuestBridge College Match Scholar, where I studied environmental studies, biology, and gender while engaging in sustainability and leading my network of first-generation peers. Currently, I’m an early career professional and Roger Arliner Young (RAY) Fellow at Ocean Conservancy in Washington DC, working on fisheries policy and storytelling.

I’m a visionary, a guide, a weaver. I thrive and am most creative in coffee shops with a sci-fi novel in hand. I love lo-fi music, chasing sunsets, and spending time with loved ones.

What are you passionate about? 

I’m all about strengthening cultural connection via food, stories, and the arts. I’m passionate about my family and friends, as well as holistic health. To renew and feel most alive, I write past, current, and emerging worlds primarily in the form of short stories and personal essays.

I’m passionate about understanding our social and biophysical world through our multitude of knowledges and ways of living. Justice is a value in everything I do, and I believe that everyone has the right to a healthy, happy, and safe home, particularly those who have been historically (and still are) dispossessed and disenfranchised. My environmental work manifests most in the lenses of food sovereignty, race and gender, immigrant rights, and ocean-related policy.

What drives you as a person, a leader, and a storyteller? What or who shapes you?

I am who I am because of my parents, my siblings, and my ancestors, especially my matriarchs. They’ve taught me values of integrity and undying loyalty. They’ve instilled within me an indulgence toward the simplest joys of life, to savor every moment of a tropical rainstorm or a home-cooked dinner. My lineage is the reason I am growing as a leader, to heal from the consequences of colonization and to fulfill my responsibility of cultural preservation and natural conservation for our descendants.

My storytelling is the compilation of all that I’ve absorbed from mentors, peers, and the lessons of my homes. I am honored to have two great academic influences, Dr. Dorceta Taylor and Dr. Giovanna Di Chiro, who believe in me and share teachings that are the foundation of my innovation and creation. My peers and my homes hold me and inspire me as I’ve lived in islands, cities, and suburbs and met folks from different walks of life.

Why did you apply to the Rethink Outside™ Fellowship? What are you hoping to learn from this experience? 

The Rethink Outside™ Fellowship draws me in for its incredible resources and trainings, as well as the collaborative, creative pursuit of a mini-grant that connects Black, Indigenous, and people of color to the outdoors. I’m excited to connect with a cohort full of brilliant people from diverse backgrounds, to meet new leaders and key funders of the environmental field, and to receive insight on how ideas become actionable and supported. I’m eager to learn about brand development and partake in leadership coaching, both areas I’m new to!

How will the Rethink Outside™ Fellowship experience help you address the systemic barriers for access to, and representation / leadership of Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the movement to connect people and nature? 

My guiding value to Rethink Outside™ is to disrupt the binary of nature vs. culture and embrace ways to integrate human affinity for the environment into our day-to-day lives. Through this fellowship, I hope to strengthen my storytelling to uplift the diasporic stories of immigrant communities who feel a sense of belonging outdoors, by archiving the paths of our migration and affirming cultural salience in new roots. Immigrant communities carry countless experiences and practices of love, joy, and humor that are worthy of our stake to be wherever we may be, from cities to coasts. With values of respect, curiosity, consent, and consistent acknowledgment of the Indigenous lands that we reside on, I am hoping to learn where this fits in with existing work and where there is potential to raise our narrative in the media and public discourse.

What is your favorite activity / place which connects you to nature and the outdoors? 

Take me to the ocean, and I’ll never leave. I enjoy digging my toes in warm sand and watching sunsets by the shoreline, or you can find me treading and sunbathing in deep waters. When I’m by the water, I feel peace, wholeness, gratitude, awe, exhilaration all at once, and I wish I could stay forever!

Get to know all of the 2021-2022 Rethink Outside™ Fellows.