Nature connection makes kids ‘smarter, healthier and happier,’ Wilderness Youth Project says.

Nature connection makes kids ‘smarter, healthier and happier,’ Wilderness Youth Project says. (Courtesy photo)

Wilderness Youth Project (WYP), a nature connection organization in Santa Barbara County has added Devon Azzam and Teresa Romero as board trustees. Their leadership will support WYP’s efforts to deepen opportunities for local youth to connect with nature.

Operating summer camps, an outdoor early childhood program, after school-nature based programs, and a subsidized program called Bridge to Nature in local low-income public schools and at community partner sites, WYP brings nature connection to some 1,000 kids a year on a weekly basis.

The program builds on the fact that nature connection makes kids “smarter, healthier and happier,” WYP said.

“Devon and Teresa both have impressive histories of working in their communities to provide access and support for environmental education and nature connection,” said Dan Fontaine, WYP executive director. “Recruiting them to the board will help us serve local children even more fully.”

WYP Board members oversee governance, finance and fundraising, and act as ambassadors to the community. The Board of Trustees also includes Amy Schneider, April Price, Brook Eiler, Carrie Kappel, Chris Ragland, Graciela Cabello, Kyra Rogers, Laura Russell, and Lena Morán-Acereto.

Azzam is a graduate of UCSB where she majored in environmental studies and cultural anthropology and stayed earned her multiple subject teaching credential and master of education.

Azzam taught in a traditional classroom for eight years, then worked with schools in San Diego and Orange County to develop school garden programs. She was co-founder of a nonprofit aimed at greening schoolyards and supporting school gardens and worked as an outdoor education consultant.

In 2019, Azzam and her family returned to Santa Barbara. Her two children have participated in WYP programs. Through her work as assistant director of outreach in the Gevirtz School of Education at UCSB, Azzam has supported WYP’s Bridge to Nature program.

Most recently, Azzam has taken on the role of regional director of the California Global Education Project at UCSB and is a beginning doctoral student. She hopes to bring the benefit of her career experiences to early childhood, nature connection, and school environments.

Romero serves as the environmental director for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians; is an enrolled member of the Coastal Band of Chumash, and is a member of Syuxtun Plant Collective, a traditional plant collective focusing on tending, gathering and preparation of traditional plants.

She has served on the MPA Statewide Leadership Team as a Southern California tribal representative since 2019; serves on the executive committee for the Central Coast Climate Justice Network; and is an elected representative for the Region 9 EPA Tribal Caucus and the steering committee for Central Coast Climate Collaborative.

Romero has worked for over 20 years assisting tribal communities on projects, such as acquiring lands for the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, protecting Treaty Rights (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians), and preserving traditional cultural knowledge for her Chumash community.

Romero has deep ties to her traditional homelands and resources. Romero, with three other indigenous women, created a nonprofit, the Native Coast Action Network to help West Coast indigenous communities build capacity and assist in implementing cultural and environmental initiatives.

The mission of Wilderness Youth Project is to foster confidence, health, and a lifelong love of learning for young people and families through active outdoor experiences and mentoring. For more information, visit, or contact WYP at 805-964-8096 or