Employee Spotlight

Sierra Nevada Journeys Inspires Student to Pursue Outdoor Education as a Career

Melissa Mazzuca, a 3-year employee at Sierra Nevada Journeys, was the 2016 Senior Scholar recipient for the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno. This is one the most prestigious awards at the University. It is given to students from each school or college who meet exceptional program standards. During the reception, Melissa spoke about how Sierra Nevada Journeys inspired her to pursue outdoor education

We were able to connect with her during finals (of all time) to talk about her Sierra Nevada Journeys experience.

You just received your BS in Environmental Science. What's next?
I am excited to take a much needed breather for a few months this winter and spend some quality time with my family at home. I am also taking a trip to the east coast to visit friends and explore! In April, I am extremely excited to be moving to Oregon to continue my work in environmental education at Camp Tamarack Outdoor School.

How were you introduced to Sierra Nevada Journeys?
One of my freshman professors required our class to attend a natural resources career fair. It was there that I met Sean Hill, the Education Director for Sierra Nevada Journeys. I immediately applied to work as a counselor at Grizzly Creek Ranch.

How long have you been involved with Sierra Nevada Journeys and in what capacity?
I have spent an incredible three years with Sierra Nevada Journeys in numerous roles. I started up at campus as a cabin counselor for summer camp. I immediately knew that a few weeks of summer camp was not enough for me and reached out to Kristen Fenstermacher, the campus director at the time, and asked her how I could get more involved. She brought me on for the fall as a part-time instructor where I got to come to campus on the weekends and facilitate the challenge course with leadership programs. Still seeking more involvement with such an amazing organization, I applied for an internship in the Reno office for the following spring. For the next few years I worked with the Classrooms Unleashed program as a field instructor.

My second summer with Sierra Nevada Journeys I took on two new roles. First, I was able to move up to campus a month before summer programs began to finish out the outdoor school season as a Residential Outdoor Science Instructor. Then once summer began, I had the pleasure of being the Arts and Crafts Specialist for all summer programs. I had such an incredible second season with Sierra Nevada Journeys that I went ahead and continued my same roles for a third!  

What were some of your favorite moments with Sierra Nevada Journeys?
I absolutely loved being the Arts and Crafts Specialist over the summer. One of my favorite parts of the position was when the older girls would come and we would all craft together and sing Taylor Swift; it was beautiful. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know all the campers really well, not just one cabin.

I also really enjoyed working the registration table at check-in. I loved getting to experience camper’s very first impression of Sierra Nevada Journeys or seeing how excited the returners were to be back at camp.

A specific favorite memory was during a very stormy day of summer 2015. The campers probably spent more time inside than out due to the weather that week, but you'd never be able to tell based on their spirits. As a special rainy day activity, a few counselors planned a lip sync battle. No one anticipated how into it all the campers would get with elaborate dances and costumes. I even got to take on the role of Katniss Everdeen as a judge. Every camper and staff member had an incredible time despite the weather and it is one of my favorite summer camp memories to date.

How has Sierra Nevada Journeys helped you personally and professionally?
I have grown so much since I started with Sierra Nevada Journeys in 2013. I am more confident, social, and open to trying new things. Sierra Nevada Journeys is like a home to me and I feel like it’s where I really found myself. It’s also where I found what I like to call “my people.” From my incredible mentor Kristen, to my camp mom Debbie, to all my amazing friends, I have never felt a greater sense of belonging. I believe this sense of belonging is what really made me feel and act like my true self.

I have also gained a long list of professional skills to grow as an environmental educator. My growth is due largely to the amazing people that I have been surrounded by at Sierra Nevada Journeys. I have received an incredible amount of guidance and support for the last three years. I have had the pleasure of learning a ton about teaching, challenge course facilitation, and just working with children in general from observing and being in the company of my fellow instructors. I genuinely loved being the baby of the staff because I had the opportunity to learn so much from my peers.

If I haven't already communicated it, Sierra Nevada Journeys really has meant the world to me. I’m sad to be moving on, but I am incredibly thankful for the growth that I have experienced through Sierra Nevada Journeys and am eager to apply it to my next adventure.  

Sandra A. Daugherty Foundation receives 2016 AFP Outstanding Foundation Cornerstone Award

Sierra Nevada Journeys was ecstatic when one of its generous and committed funding partners, the Sandra A. Daugherty Foundation, was named the 2016 Outstanding Foundation by the Sierra Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals at its Cornerstone Awards & Philanthropy Day luncheon on Friday, Nov. 11.

The Outstanding Foundation award recognizes a foundation with an established track record of charitable contributions in the community, one that promotes innovation and sound management practices in the nonprofit sector, and is a true community partner.

Since 2001, the Daugherty Foundation has been tirelessly committed to improving science, technology, engineering and math - or STEM - education and supporting excellence in the teaching of science and medicine. In line with their mission, the Foundation has initiated and funded numerous innovative pilot programs in our area.

The Daugherty Science Internship is a partnership between the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Education, the College of Science and the nominating group, Sierra Nevada Journeys. This internship program provides high-quality, deep science education and scientific research practicum to six University of Nevada, Reno student teachers annually.

The Foundation also began a state-of-the-art STEM and Art (or STEAM) Program with the Nevada Museum of Art and Sierra Nevada Journeys.

The Daugherty Summer Science Experience program exposes middle school students from low socio-economic backgrounds to science and scientists. Participants spend a week on the University of Nevada, Reno campus with College of Science faculty and graduate students. The program also serves as professional development for Washoe County school teachers as they accompany the students during the week-long program.

Also recognized at the event was Christina Hale, volunteer field educator with Sierra Nevada Journeys. Christina was named a Spirit of Giving honoree for her enthusiastic dedication to providing science education to children.

2016 Governor's Points of Light Awards

Sierra Nevada Journeys’ volunteer, Marlys Pryor, was one of the prestigious finalists honored at the 2016 Governor’s Points of Light Award Ceremony in September at Bally’s Las Vegas.

Marlys was one of only three finalists in the Northern Nevada Individual Volunteer category. Sierra Nevada Journeys nominated Marlys because of her passion for sharing science with children as a volunteer field educator. As a retired aerospace engineer, Marlys knows first-hand the importance and fulfillment of science, technology, engineering and math and the exciting work that comes along with those fields.

In her video recorded for the ceremony presentation, Marlys said, “I start with the kids. What are you interested in?” If a child is interested in music, for example, she explains you have to be good at math to be a good musician. She is committed to getting as many children as possible interested in science-related fields.

2016 Golden Pinecone Awards


On Nov. 1, 2016, Sierra Nevada Journeys was awarded nonprofit organization of the year during the Golden Pinecone Awards hosted by GREENevada. Dave Stockman, one of our long-time trustees and financial partners, welcomed Eaton Dunkelberger, our CEO, to the stage. It was an exciting moment for the organization as we are about to celebrate our 10-year anniversary in 2017. We are also expected to serve our 100,000th student next year.

Below was our nomination:

Sierra Nevada Journeys (SNJ) is a 501(c)(3) organization that uses the unique outdoor classrooms of the region to deliver robust outdoor science and collaborative problem solving education to promote long-term student achievement. They accomplish this through the Whole School Model, an outdoor education program that ensures the teachable moments inherent in outdoor education are extended both across the school year and through a student's elementary grade progression. SNJ's Whole School Model uses outdoor science education supported by in-school lessons and teacher professional development to maximize student inspiration and achievement across science, technology, engineering, math, reading, and collaborative problem solving.
Since their start in 2006, they have served over 75,000 students and 4,500 educators with residential outdoor science programs, field and school based programs and teacher professional development. SNJ has more than doubled the students they have served over the past 3 years; SNJ now serves 2/3rds of elementary school in Northern NV with outdoor science programs; and SNJ will serve over 50 schools with Family Science Nights in the coming school year.

Thank you to our staff, trustees, volunteers and financial partners. Thank you to our community of teachers, parents and students. We couldn't have done this without you.

Congratulations to all the other Golden Pinecone winners! We are honored to be surrounded by such dedicated and talented individuals and organizations.

History of the Golden Pinecone

The Golden Pinecone Ball was started by Tod Bedrosian, Bob Fulkerson, Glenn Miller and Bob Loux in 1988 to bring the environmental community together as friends and initially to get the community excited about stopping the dump of nuclear waste. It was nicknamed the "conservation casual drab event" and the pinecone awards were handmade out of plywood, an ironic twist on formal award ceremonies to honor the environmental accomplishments of the past year.

The Golden Pinecone Awards and Ball is a legacy event run for more than 25 years by Environmental Leadership, Nevada EcoNET and more recently greenUP! In 2016, GREENevada took ownership for the vent as part of its environmental leadership mission. GREENevada has a strong reach throughout the environmental community and wanted to continue this important tradition of recognizing outstanding individuals and organizations for their achievements toward improving and sustaining the environment.

QARE Award Recipients

Last Friday, the Sierra Nevada Journeys team celebrated a successful year of serving youth from Northern Nevada and Northern California through outdoor science programming. We played a few rounds of bowling with our family and friends at the Grand Sierra Resort. We can't say we're as good at bowling as we are science, but we sure tried!

When we celebrate our successes, we remind ourselves each year about our core values which we call "QARE."

  1. We are committed to outstanding quality (Q)
    1. We strive to improve through rigorous evaluations of our actions
    2. We flexibly embrace change that makes our programs and operations better
    3. We celebrate actions that demonstrate our commitment to excellence
  2. We are accountable (A)
    1. We do what we say we’ll do for each other and for our stakeholders
    2. At all levels of our team, we set, commit to, and reach specific goals
  3. We respect each other and ourselves (R)
    1. We foster a respectful work environment by using supportive actions and words to positively impact our teammates and ensuring our co-workers do the same
    2. We work to understand the goals and challenges of our team, participants and donors, and integrate these considerations into our actions
    3. We believe that a diverse set of backgrounds and skills adds value to our organization
  4. We provide unforgettable experiences (E)
    1. We keep participants’ safety, education and experience at the forefront of our actions
    2. We recognize the uniqueness of our experience for our participants, and show up each day ready to deliver

We are happy to announce the four individuals who we thought best represented each value in 2016.

Q - Debbie Fairbanks, our Housekeeping Manager, represents the core value of Quality. She is always working to make our campus as clean and pleasant as possible, she accepts change with a smile on her face and she is a positive role model for all staff and clients.
(not pictured)

Olive Poulsen receives the 2016 Accountability Award.

Olive Poulsen receives the 2016 Accountability Award.

A - Olive Poulsen, Residential Outdoor Science Instructor, represents the core value of Accountability. We can always rely on Olive to meet our mission as well as the needs of her students. She will be coming back next season to lead our newest camp session "Counselor-in-Training" (CIT) as the CIT Director.

Greggor Manning receives the 2016 Respect Award.

Greggor Manning receives the 2016 Respect Award.

R - Greggor Manning, Sous Chef, represents the core value of Respect. He respects his co-workers, and listens to their questions and concerns and provides solutions when able. He understands that teamwork is essential. His family life and past experience in the food industry is invaluable.

Lourdes Calzada receives the 2016 Unique Experiences Award.

Lourdes Calzada receives the 2016 Unique Experiences Award.

E - Lourdes Calzada, Part-Time Educator, represents the core value of Unique Experiences. Lourdes has a positive attitude and a smile that brightens up the room. She provides unforgettable experiences to not only her students, but to our SNJ staff through the newly adopted culture committee.

Thank you to our entire team for a wonderful year! We couldn't achieve our mission without your hard work and dedication.

Sierra Nevada Journeys' Director of Development Awarded the CFRE Designation

Karen Senger, CFRE, Sierra Nevada Journeys director of development.

Karen Senger, CFRE, Sierra Nevada Journeys director of development.

CFRE International has named Melissa M. Davis (Carson Tahoe Health Foundation), Joan Griswold (Food Bank of Northern Nevada), and Karen Senger (Sierra Nevada Journeys) as a Certified Fund Raising Executives (CFRE). These ladies join over 5,500 professionals around the world who hold the CFRE designation.

Individuals granted the CFRE credential have met a series of standards set by CFRE International which include tenure in the profession, education, demonstrated fundraising achievement and a commitment to service to not-for-profit organizations. They have also passed a rigorous written examination testing the knowledge, skills, and abilities required of a fundraising executive, and have agreed to uphold Accountability Standards and the Donor Bill of Rights.

“The CFRE credential was created to identify for the public and employers those individuals who possess the knowledge, skills and commitment to perform fundraising duties in an effective and ethical manner,” states Jim Caldarola, CFRE, Past Chair of CFRE International. “As the certification is a voluntary achievement, the CFRE credential demonstrates a high level of commitment on the part of the individual, the fundraising profession, and, the donors who are served”

CFRE recipients are awarded certification for a three-year period. In order to maintain certification status certificants must demonstrate on-going fundraising employment and fundraising results, and continue with their professional education. Employers and donors who work with CFRE’s know they are getting a professional who is committed to the best outcomes for their organization and has the requisite knowledge and skills.

CFRE International is an independent organization dedicated to the certification of fundraising executives by setting standards in philanthropic practice. Governed by a volunteer Board of Directors and led by a small professional staff, CFRE International consistently meets the highest standards for certification excellence and is itself accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies.

As the premier global credential for career fundraisers, the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation is endorsed and supported by the world’s leading professional and philanthropic associations, including:

  • Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP)
  • Association of Fundraising Consultants (AFC)
  • Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)
  • Association of Lutheran Development Executives (ALDE)
  • Association of Philanthropic Counsel (APC)
  • Boy Scouts of America (BSA)
  • Brazilian Fundraisers Association (ABCR)
  • Canadian Association of Gift Planners—Association canadienne des professionnels en dons planifies (CAGP-ACPDP)
  • Council for Resource Development (CRD)
  • Educate Plus
  • European Fundraising Association (EFA)
  • Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA)
  • Fundraising Institute New Zealand (FINZ)
  • The Giving Institute
  • International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC)
  • Japan Fundraising Association (JFRA)
  • Kenya Association of Fundraising Professionals (KAFP)
  • National Catholic Development Conference (NCDC)
  • New England Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (NEAHP)
  • North American YMCA Development Organization (NAYDO)
  • Partnership for Philanthropic Planning (PPP)
  • United Way Worldwide (UWW)

CFRE International congratulates Melissa M. Davis, Joan Griswold, and our very own Director of Development, Karen Senger, for achieving the CFRE designation.

Retired Aerospace Engineer Volunteers for SNJ

Marlys Pryor volunteers at a Family Science Night at Caughlin Ranch Elementary School.
Science and math are critical to the future of this country and the planet.
— Marlys Pryor

When volunteering for Sierra Nevada Journeys, you become an integral part of our mission:

Deliver innovative outdoor, science-based education programs for youth to develop critical thinking skills and to inspire natural resource stewardship.

Our volunteers are looking for a way to make a difference in the world, share their love of science and the great outdoors. This is what brought Marlys Pryor to Sierra Nevada Journeys after relocating to Reno, NV in 2015.

Marlys is a retired aerospace engineer from Indianapolis, IN who worked for Rolls-Royce Aircraft Engines, Douglas Aircraft Company and General Electric Aircraft Engine Business Group, to name a few. She has her Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from New York University and her Master of Science in Business Management from the University of LaVerne.

She met Eaton Dunkelberger, CEO of Sierra Nevada Journeys, at a Soroptimist meeting soon after moving to Reno. They got to talking. All who have had the pleasure of talking to Eaton about Sierra Nevada Journeys and our mission become involved in some manner. As Marlys puts it, “I met Eaton and the rest (volunteering) is history.” She attends and lends her knowledge during our Family Science Nights at local elementary schools.

Volunteering takes time, dedication and a strong passion for an organization’s mission. When asked why Marlys volunteers for Sierra Nevada Journeys, she said “I am a staunch advocate of exposing young people to the sciences, whether it be relating to the outdoors or outer space. Science and math are critical to the future of this country and the planet.” We couldn’t agree more.

Marlys “definitely” recommends volunteering with Sierra Nevada Journeys to others because, “Children are the future. We need to impress upon them that if the planet is to continue supporting life in a sustainable manner, everyone has to care and exercise stewardship of our natural resources.”

Many thanks to Marlys and the countless hours she has put into the organization and the education of our youth.

Marlys Pryor (left) and Jennifer Robinson (right) at a Family Science Night at Caughlin Ranch Elementary School.

Marlys Pryor (left) and Jennifer Robinson (right) at a Family Science Night at Caughlin Ranch Elementary School.

We are always looking for passionate volunteers for our Outdoor Field Studies and Family Science Nights. If interested, please contact Jennifer Robinson at jennifer@sierranevadajourneys.org.

If you're unable to volunteer your time, please consider making a donation to support SNJ programs.