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Natalie Way

Natalie Way founded Kent County’s Environmental Justice Camp, a program that targets underserved students aged 10-16 in the county. In collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources, Delaware State University, and at least 22 other local businesses, the camp offers students the chance to gain real life skills as they explore social justice, volunteerism, aquatic habitats and environmental issues. In doing so, students get the opportunity to extend their exposure to STEM and literacy skills.

“We are all educators because we all have something to offer.”

Natalie Way
Founder and Coordinator, Environmental Justice Camp

In her own words…

Excellent public education is important because without it, there is little hope for our future. This is hope not only for us as a society, but as a nation. This is the wealthiest industrialized nation. To keep competitive, we have to make sure that we the basic knowledge to play on the same ball field.

My approach to my work is inspired by the examples of my parents, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. No matter the circumstances, we all have a responsibility to each other.

We are all educators because we all have something to offer. No matter the walk that one takes, there is something redeeming to be gained from that journey.

I work with the Environmental Justice Camp because it takes youth outside of the classroom setting and gives them hands-on practical experiences that help increase their understanding of their community, builds vocabulary, and encourages volunteerism and stewardship of our natural resources. In addition, it provides youth with a platform to help springboard career exploration. Through the program, Delaware students receive exposure to potential careers while engaging in fun activities and also learning. In five days, students learn math, science, geography, Delaware history and add exponentially to their vocabulary.

The most exciting thing that others can learn about this program is that that youth are eager to learn and explore. One of the students who participated in the inaugural program stated that she had learned more in one week than she had a whole year of science class. That is profound! Not only that – students, during their debriefing on graduation day often ask for “just one more day.”

My proudest moment as a champion of education comes in seeing youth with whom I have had a direct impact, overcome the challenges and obstacles. They have risen to the occasion to become productive members of our community and they in turn have undertaken a consciences decision to give back and help others who may have been in a similar situation they were in at a critical time of their development. One student in particular comes to mind. He had dropped out of school and was adamant about not going back into the public school system. With failure not an option, we signed him up to receive his adult diploma. He finished the program with honors, went on to serve our country with three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is back home, giving back to his community.

Pushing the envelope means doing what’s required, assessing the outcome and then finding ways to go one step further.

My most memorable moment as a student was when I was attending Delaware State University (then Delaware State College). I was a mother of a five- year-old daughter and one-year-old son, working full-time and attending school full-time as a Chemistry Education major. During the summer sessions, I was attending a class entitled Marriage and the Family. My professor Dr. Blay would challenge me at every juncture to do my best and then do better. He explained to me that as a women going forward in the profession I was seeking, that I would have more obstacles placed before me than the ones he was providing. And that by doing our “exercise” he was preparing me. This was in 1987, and I can remember our conversation as if it happened today.




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