Introduce yourself! What should the world know about you? 

Hello, world! My name is Nicole Rawlinson. I am a mother, spouse, child, sibling, and friend. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio but my curiosity, independence, and love of adventure has taken me to many places I’ve been fortunate to call home for periods in my life. I am also a military spouse and have moved with my partner and our family over seven times in the last ten years. Because I have called so many places home, I have had the joy to experience the world within many different communities — each one being different, but holding a space in my heart. What brings me joy is looking at or creating art, taking care of plants, sharing in my children’s interests, and spending time on or near water. I love stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming, and finding waterfalls.

What are you passionate about? 

I’m passionate about the power of community impact — and that a shared mission can create exponentially better results for people and their lives. I’ve dedicated my career to working with families, youth, and community organizations, seeking to provide greater access to the resources that can positively impact the conditions of our communities.

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

As a multiracial woman of Afro-Caribbean and European descent invested in reshaping the narrative of who the outdoors are for, I believe that my story is a testimony to the lifelong value of outdoor connectedness. I’m shaped by my youth, my family, and my experiences, but am also shaped by the histories I’ve been told and the inequities I have seen. I grew up in a community surrounded by green space and valued access to nature as a path to shape healthy communities, bodies, and minds. I have relied on outdoor access to connect to my new surroundings, but I understand the hesitation of using public lands because of the history of exclusion we face in both access and representation. I’m driven to create opportunities to connect to nature, which is why I share my experiences to intentionally invite families of color outdoors while shifting the narrative of who belongs in these spaces and who needs this connection.

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

I have the passion for connecting people to nature, but it is an endeavor into a new professional space. Participation in this fellowship will provide engagement with other professionals in the field who are working to provide access, opportunity, and engagement to members of their communities who have not always seen themselves or felt a sense of welcome and belonging in the outdoors. Through this fellowship, I look forward to support and mentorship from leaders in the field and connections with other emerging leaders to define paths to increasing more equitable access and outcomes in the outdoors through the power of Rethink Outside’s shared narrative.

I’m curious to know-how leaders in the field are making strategic decisions about the types of partnerships they make, efforts they endorse, and opportunities they seek. I am also looking forward to being in community with other Black, Indigenous, and people of color in this field and learning how to shape my own story in a way that will connect with those I am looking to partner with as well as communities I am inviting into outdoor spaces. Lastly, I want to learn how, through storytelling and narrative creation, we can encourage people to find their space outside, no matter where they live, and how we can shape the conversation around connecting to the outdoors anywhere.

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? 

This Fellowship will support my ability to effectively position the systemic barriers to Black, Indigenous, and people of color with strategies to increase more equitable outcomes of this movement. I believe that through this experience, I will gain the skills to align and support the shared narrative of Rethink Outside™ and increase the impact of this call for action through my work in my own community. Rallying around a shared narrative and understanding of a concept creates a more concrete and unified statement of value, strengthens the call to action, and supports shared definitions that are accepted and understood throughout the field and our spheres of influence. When we approach the need for all people to have access to a connection and relationship with nature from the same platform, we can strengthen the message in a way that is amplified to those who need to hear it most, the decision-makers and stakeholders who are holding the most power.

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

Spending time on the water with my paddleboard and taking nature walks with my family.

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