NV Energy Foundation Donates $10,000 to Sierra Nevada Journeys


RENO, Nev. – December 28, 2017 — Sierra Nevada Journeys announces the $10,000 grant awarded by the NV Energy Foundation. The grant supports our Classrooms Unleashed program for northern Nevada students for the 2017-18 school year.

“We are so grateful to the NV Energy Foundation for its continued support of outdoor science education for elementary children,” said Karen Senger, Sierra Nevada Journeys development director. “NV Energy is an important partner in the work we do to get children excited about and engaged with science.”

Students will receive three hands-on classroom-based lessons and one field-study experience to help increase their understanding of science standards and their interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.

Classrooms Unleashed is aligned to state and national standards and uses experiential outdoor education as a framework for children to study, think and learn.

Nevada currently ranks 44th in the nation on the Science and Engineering Readiness Index. With support from partners like NV Energy, Sierra Nevada Journeys aims to improve these low scores and works diligently to ensure that all students regardless of their economic background have access to their high quality science education programming delivered by licensed teachers.

For additional information on how to support Sierra Nevada Journeys, visit www.sierranevadajourneys.org.


About Sierra Nevada Journeys

Sierra Nevada Journeys is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that delivers innovative outdoor, science-based education programs for youth to develop critical thinking skills and to inspire natural resource stewardship. Through multiple points of contact, our classroom-based programs, overnight science camps, professional development for teachers, and parent engagement opportunities surround students with resources they need to succeed. All programs are designed to foster higher cognition and build long-term student achievement.

2017 Golden Pinecone Sustainability Awards

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, Sierra Nevada Journeys was awarded Educational Program of the Year during this year's Golden Pinecone Sustainability Awards hosted by GREENevada. Vice President of Philanthropy and Community Impact for United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra, Lulleen Lamar, presented the award to our Education Director, Sean Hill. Sean may or may not have done a happy dance on stage when given the award for the success of our Classrooms Unleashed program.

Below was our nomination:

Sierra Nevada Journeys is celebrating their 10-year anniversary and 100,00th student served in 2017, over half of which are from low-income families. To put this into perspective, Sierra Nevada Journeys now serves 20 percent of the total elementary students across five counties in northwestern Nevada every year.

Classrooms Unleashed, one of Sierra Nevada Journey's school-based programs, is an outdoor science education program with three in-class lessons and one field study at a local nature area. It uses hands-on, experiential, and outdoor education as a framework for young people to study, think, and learn. Classrooms Unleashed is aligned to state and national standards and the Northern American Association for Environmental Education Guidelines for Excellence. External evaluation by the University of Nevada's Center for Program Evaluation showed that in 2016, five percent more students at schools that participate in Sierra Nevada Journeys' programming score at the proficient level on the State Science assessment than students at comparison schools. During the same year, the Classrooms Unleashed program was delivered to 6,800 students in Northern Nevada.

Thank you to all who have helped grow our Classrooms Unleashed program - staff, volunteers, community and financial partners, and our trustees. Congratulations to all the other outstanding individuals and organizations that were nominated!

Enjoy a few photos from the night!

2017 QARE Award Recipients

On Nov. 3, we celebrated yet another year of success educating youth in Northern Nevada and California by testing our bowling skills at Grand Sierra Resort.


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 excited to announce the four individuals who we thought best represented each value in 2017.

Pictured: Maribel Aguirre and Eaton Dunkelberger

Pictured: Maribel Aguirre and Eaton Dunkelberger

QMaribel Aguirre is a Grizzly Creek Ranch Campus Housekeeping Assistant and is our Employee of the Year representing the core value of quality. The ledger of Maribel’s daily work is a model of dedication to mission and commitment to excellence. There is not a single camper or guest evaluation that does not highlight the neat, clean and orderly image of the campus. Further, our American Camp Association visit this season documented the exceptional sanitary standards Grizzly Creek Ranch maintains. Of particular note, Maribel assumed leadership of all housekeeping functions during part of the season and oversaw Grizzly Creek Ranch service. Congratulations, Maribel!

Pictured: Brian Broumas and Eaton Dunkelberger

Pictured: Brian Broumas and Eaton Dunkelberger

A - Accountable fits this person to a tee. As soon as he started working with Sierra Nevada Journeys this year, he was fired up with enthusiasm and drive. He dove into learning about the organization and crafted our Sacramento growth story. He was on the phone within just a couple of weeks connecting with potential supporters. He knew if he could just share the Sacramento impact with people who had an interest in outdoor science education, they would be impressed. He was right. His persistence and follow-through have led to new funding opportunities for our science programs. Congratulations on all your hard work, Brian Broumas!

Pictured: Sheena Wong and Eaton Dunkelberger

Pictured: Sheena Wong and Eaton Dunkelberger

RSheena Wong is a Grizzly Creek Ranch Campus Residential Outdoor Science Instructor and is our Sierra Nevada Journeys Employee of the Year representing the core value of respect. Sheena is one of our frequently cited instructors for her mastery of our outdoor school curriculum and her unique teaching style. Sheena is also a thoughtful contributor to not only programs but also campus operations. She has offered and implemented campus improvements regarding emergency response and protecting and conserving natural resources and education. Sheena also has volunteered to advise and represent Sierra Nevada Journeys in a diversity initiative. Congratulations, Sheena!

ENatalie Pritchard brings 110 percent to everything she does. She is so passionate about the work we do and is always working to ensure that our programs are the best they can be. When developing training experiences for new leaders or revising lessons, she’s thoughtful and thinks critically about the experience of the participants and prioritizes their satisfaction and optimal learning. She’s an outstanding leader and a tremendous asset to the Sacramento team. Congratulations, Natalie!

Thank you to our entire team for a tremendous year! We're looking forward to what 2018 has in store for us!

Sierra Nevada Journeys Selected as 2018 Semifinalist for SVP Sacramento Fast Pitch

Contact: Brian Broumas
brian@sierranevadajourneys.org  |  916-601-0992


SVP Fast Pitch gives nonprofits $220,000 of in-kind support and chance to pitch at Golden 1 Center

SACRAMENTO, CA — Nov. 30, 2017 — Social Venture Partners of Sacramento (SVP), a network of engaged philanthropists focused on improving Sacramento-area education, announced today that Sierra Nevada Journeys has been selected as a semi-finalist for SVP Sacramento Fast Pitch, to be hosted at Golden 1 Center.

“The value of Fast Pitch can be measured quantitatively - 66 total nonprofits supported with over $600,000 in follow-on funding since 2015 - but the real value of the program is in the magic of each nonprofit cohort. Since 2015, 98 percent of participants have rated SVP Fast Pitch as a valuable experience that allowed them to make nonprofit and corporate connections they otherwise would not have connected with. We’re so excited for 2018!” - Bree Cahill, Executive Director of SVP Sacramento

SVP will provide Sierra Nevada Journeys with more than $11,000 of in-kind consulting and support from industry leaders and professionals. In-kind services include peer-to-peer coaching, professional video content, educational services and donor relations support along with a chance to pitch at Golden 1 Center in March 2018.

“We are thrilled to be a semi-finalist for SVP Sacramento Fast Pitch,” said Eaton Dunkelberger, CEO of Sierra Nevada Journeys. “Our STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program growth in Sacramento elementary schools has been rapid and we are excited for the opportunity to improve on telling our story to the community.”

Sierra Nevada Journeys joins a semi-finalist pool of 20 nonprofits and a growing alumni list of 46 nonprofits throughout the Sacramento Region. The Fast Pitch program has led to over $600,000 in follow-on funding, numerous additional pitch opportunities for past participants, and several large one-time gifts ($50K+) for past participants.

The process spans four months, from Dec. 2017 through March 2018, as 20 nonprofit participants and 40 coaches work together through group and 2:1 coaching sessions to hone each 3-minute pitch. Nonprofits also take part in a series of workshops leading up to the final event. On March 8, 2018, 10 nonprofit finalists will take the stage at Golden 1 Center and pitch their stories of impact.

  • B Street Theater received a pledge of a new van and trailer from a donor the night of the Fast Pitch Event, allowing them to reach 30,000 additional children each year through their theatre program.
  • SAGE Global expanded their program to five new schools in Sacramento and added a new board member thanks to relationships formed through Fast Pitch.
  • Food Literacy Center used a version of their pitch in a video grant submission, earning them $20,000.
  • Fresher Sacramento received a $50,000 donation at SVP Fast Pitch, allowing them to bring on a new full-time staff member.

SVP Fast Pitch helps nonprofits craft their story. Forty business professionals are matched with 20 nonprofit leaders to build strategies, create scripts and develop a presentation. The pinnacle of Fast Pitch happens on March 8, 2018 at Golden 1 Center when 10 finalists will compete to win $30,000+ in prize money and awards. The 20 semifinalists each receive access to three workshops, a 30-second commercial quality ad, a 1-minute professionally produced pitch video, 2:1 mentoring and group pitch sessions, totaling more than $11,000 in value. Since 2015, SVP Fast Pitch has led to an additional $600K in follow-on funding for participants.

Sierra Nevada Journeys is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that delivers innovative outdoor, science-based education programs for youth to develop critical thinking skills and to inspire natural resource stewardship. Through multiple points of contact, our classroom-based programs, overnight science camps, professional development for teachers, and parent engagement opportunities surround students with resources they need to succeed. All programs are designed to foster higher cognition and build long-term student achievement.

SVP Sacramento unites local business leaders and philanthropists with educationally focused nonprofits, combining financial and capacity-building support with a passion for education. Since 2008, SVP Sacramento has invested over $1.3 million into educationally focused nonprofits in the greater Sacramento area. Investees include Reading Partners, Teach for America, City Year, Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), Powerhouse Science Center, College Track and 916 Ink.

Giving Tuesday: Engage Students and Families in STEM Education

giving tuesday family science night.jpg

This Giving Tuesday on Nov. 28, please support Sierra Nevada Journeys as we seek financial support for our Family Science Night program that we deliver to families in Northern Nevada and the Sacramento region.

Through STEM activities, Sierra Nevada Journeys is able to turn just-another-evening into a fun and educational experience for the whole family.

We are proud to announce that Microsoft Reno is committed to providing quality STEM experiences to the community and has donated $3,000 to kick-off our campaign. Please join us and Microsoft this Giving Tuesday to help raise an additional $5,000.

If you have a Facebook account, please donate here. When you donate through Facebook on Nov. 28 starting at 8 a.m. PST, your donation may be matched up to $1,000 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation!

If you're not active on Facebook, you can donate securely online here.

If you are interested in volunteering during our Family Science Nights, learn more and register with our volunteer coordinators.

100% Giving Board Award 2017

2017 100% Giving Board Certificate

2017 100% Giving Board Certificate

Special Note from Lauren Renda

Program Officer at Community Foundation of Western Nevada

I’d like to congratulate you and your board for having achieved 100% giving of personal, financial contributions, by your Board members in 2017. 

The 100% Giving Board Award recognizes the personal financial support each board member commits to the financial health of their nonprofit. This is an opportunity to go “above and beyond” in the scope of support and relationship between board members and the organizations they serve. This year, we are honoring 83 organizations whose boards have given over $2.3 million in personal financial support and your board is among them.

It has been incredible to see how the 100% Giving Board program has been woven into the culture of these organizations. We’ve been told that some staff members use this award as a tool to have a conversation with their board members about the importance of giving to the organization. We love to see that organizations and their boards have made it a personal commitment to stay on this list year after year.

Congratulations again to your organization and Board who support the cause and mission of your organization by making an annual gift. They understand their role as a board member, and are to be commended for their commitment.

SNJ ScienceFest, Presented by WETLAB

A Free Family Event to Celebrate Sierra Nevada Journeys' 10-Year Anniversary and 100,000th Student Served

(Reno, Nev.) September 11, 2017 — On Saturday, Sept. 23, Sierra Nevada Journeys is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with the northern Nevada community by hosting SNJ ScienceFest, Presented by WETLAB. SNJ ScienceFest is a free family event taking place at Washoe County’s Bartley Ranch Regional Park from 4 – 6 p.m. Families will have the opportunity to engage in hands-on science activities and experiments while enjoying live music from local band Boondoggle, and food and beverages for purchase from food truck vendors. Raffle prizes will also be available from generous businesses such as The Discovery, Peppermill Resort Spa Casino, Reno Bighorns and Reno 1868.


In partnership with Reno Dads, Sierra Nevada Journeys will be hosting a “Dress as Your Favorite Scientist” photo booth contest. Children can come in costume or choose from photo booth props to transform into a geologist, chemist, engineer, and more. Two winners will be chosen from two age categories based on a photo contest on the Reno Dads Facebook page. Voting will be open for one week starting Sunday, Sept. 24. One winner between the ages of 8-17 will receive a week-long summer camp experience in 2018 with Sierra Nevada Journeys at Grizzly Creek Ranch near Portola, CA, and one winner under the age of eight will receive a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) kit.

Thank you to our sponsors WETLAB, NV Energy and Alpine Insurance for supporting SNJ ScienceFest.

WHAT: SNJ ScienceFest, Presented by WETLAB
WHEN: Saturday, September 23 from 4 – 6 p.m.
WHERE: Washoe County’s Bartley Ranch Regional Park
WHO: Interviews will be available with:

  • Eaton Dunkelberger, CEO, Sierra Nevada Journeys
  • Karen Senger, Director of Development, Sierra Nevada Journeys
  • Megan Duggan, Marketing and Communications Director, Sierra Nevada Journeys

About Sierra Nevada Journeys

Sierra Nevada Journeys is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that delivers innovative outdoor, science-based education programs for youth to develop critical thinking skills and to inspire natural resource stewardship. Through multiple points of contact, our classroom-based programs, overnight science camps, professional development for teachers, and parent engagement opportunities surround students with resources they need to succeed. All programs are designed to foster higher cognition and build long-term student achievement.

31st Annual Project Learning Tree International Coordinators Conference

Sean Hill, our director of education, attended the 31st annual Project Learning Tree International Coordinators Conference April 24-27. He had a great time networking with State PLT Coordinators and learned about new online professional development opportunities for Nevada teachers!

He journaled his week for us below:

Greetings from Bourbon Country!

I’m here at the 31st annual Project Learning Tree (PLT) International Coordinators Conference. The conference provides an amazing opportunity to network with other State PLT Coordinators, outstanding educators, various program sponsors and partners and other education professionals from around the country and the world. It’ll be action-packed this week as I’ll be networking, attending workshops and brainstorming sessions as I collect great resources and best practices to bring back to Sierra Nevada Journeys and ultimately, Nevada teachers and students (stay tuned for upcoming announcements for new online Professional Development options for teachers as well as for information about exciting new classroom curriculum, the new PLT e-units).

Project Learning Tree is keeping our schedules busy with excellent speakers, including a great session on Tuesday by Judy Braus, Executive Director for the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).

Don’t worry – we also have time built in for exploring Louisville, Kentucky, including a trip to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory and a local arboretum.

I’m stoked to be here representing Nevada!

Help Support Science Education for Youth during Big Day of Giving on May 4

Sacramento, Calif. (April 25, 2017) — Sierra Nevada Journeys is participating in the Sacramento region’s fifth Big Day of Giving on Thurs., May 4. Sierra Nevada Journeys is new to the Sacramento area, yet has been growing at an incredible pace. To keep up with the demand, Sierra Nevada Journeys is seeking financial support to continue to deliver hands-on and engaging science programming to first through sixth graders.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) literacy is in critical demand nationwide. According to the Science and Engineering Readiness Index (SERI), California ranks 34 out of 50, which is considered to be below average, in educating students in science. Sierra Nevada Journeys’ mission is to improve these scores, and to create the next generation of environmental scientists, geologists, ecologists and engineers.

After evaluating pre- and post-assessment data after one of Sierra Nevada Journeys’ core programs, Classrooms Unleashed, 90 percent of the participating students show an increase in comprehension of state science standards. Classroom teachers love the program and educational practices to teach and engage their students.

“The engaging materials and lessons were designed in a way as to make them accessible, tactile, and therefore memorable and meaningful,” said Mike Pickering, a sixth grade teacher at William Land Elementary School.

Sacramento programming includes the school-based programs Classrooms Unleashed and Family Science Nights. Classrooms Unleashed is a blended in-class and field trip experience taught by Sierra Nevada Journeys, which has grown from 12 schools and 930 students in 2015 to 30 schools and 4,500 students this year. A Family Science Night is an interactive and rewarding way for students and their families to engage with their schools through STEM-related activities. In 2016, they hosted 25 Family Science Nights across the Sacramento region. Sierra Nevada Journeys growth can be greatly attributed to the dedication and leadership from Sacramento Program Director, Sarah Barnes.

“Our programs give kids an opportunity to problem solve, collaborate and connect with nature,” said Barnes. “It makes me feel like we’re helping to grow capable future stewards of our world.”

To support the work of Sierra Nevada Journeys and ensure an exciting future for students and community success, please support Sierra Nevada Journeys and science education during this year’s Big Day of Giving. Help build the next generation of leaders, scientists and stewards.

For more information or to donate, please visit: https://www.bigdayofgiving.org/sierranevadajourneys

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.