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I am EENC: Battista Bennett, YMCA of Sampson County

I am EENC is a new series of quarterly guest-written blog posts where members share their journeys, passions, and accomplishments as environmental educators in their own words. By EENC members, for EENC members.


Greetings, I’m Battista Bennett. I was born and raised in Clinton, North Carolina which is in Sampson County. I currently work as an Afterschool Counselor at Sampson County YMCA. My EENC Membership level is Professional.

My passion for the outdoors began at a young age, with the encouragement of my

parents and three older siblings. Growing up we would spend hours outdoors hiking,

playing, and relaxing. I developed a love of tree identification and gardening from my

mom. I inherited my love for outdoor exploration and parks from my dad.

In Winter 2017, after listening to an intriguing monthly NC State Parks podcast, it gave

me insight, knowledge, and hope. I discovered myself. I knew it was time to take action

and pursue my true passion to fulfill my desire for outdoor recreation. With my

appreciation for the outdoors and education, in 2018, I decided to enroll in the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. While in the program I attended workshops and experiences throughout the state, to meet the requirements. In 2021, while interning at Jones Lake State Park in Elizabethtown, NC, I put my knowledge and skills to practice for my teaching hours. I gained the confidence to prepare and conduct educational programs and outreach popups. I also provided hands on activities for a Girl Scouts troop. I completed my NC EE Certification in Winter 2021.

Environmental education is exciting and very important to me because of my passion

and enthusiasm. I feel strongly about educating others and trying to make a difference.

While in high school I begged my teachers to have class outside to utilize the outdoor

spaces. As an adult, I understand the benefits of outdoor learning experiences and have

access to resources.

Sampson County wasn’t listed in the environmental education landscape survey. I feel

there’s a need for EE providers. Environmental Justice leaders in my community have

been bringing awareness about environmental education. EJCAN (Environmental

Justice Community Action Network) informs, educates, and empowers communities to

confront environmental injustice by advocating for change. They believe all communities

in NC deserve clean and safe air, water, and soil. Improving the indoor and outdoor air

quality, testing the water quality in Sampson County, and providing tours throughout the

county of toxic areas and the landfill is their mission.

I first learned about EENC in the Summer of 2018. I was answering questions for the

Basics of EE (NC EE Certification Program). On one section you had to match the

organization with the logo.

I was motivated to get involved and become a member for the connection with others, the professional development, and discounted registration prices for professional development courses.

My EENC membership has been beneficial for my professional and personal journeys. The EENC website has provided endless resources for me, especially webinar recordings and membership community calls. The social media posts share valuable news and spark engagement with interest. I'm grateful for the online courses and in-person workshops that’s been offered, and I highly recommend them. It has provided wonderful learning opportunities. It’s nice to have support from other professionals and be able to network and share ideas with those from my Eastern section and from other sections as well. One time the Eastern section had a hike at Turnbull Creek Educational State Forest, Elizabethtown, NC. It was a good hike meeting new people with a common interest!

Through EENC I met incredible people at workshops and conferences. My membership helped me with my current Afterschool Counselor position at Sampson County YMCA. I utilize the new user friendly EENC website for resources. I’ve been able to implement EE educational programs for students K-5 such as activities from PLT, Project WET, Project WILD etc. It’s also fun to incorporate learning by doing to increase participation and social skills such as making nature journals and learning about turkey vultures (NC Museum of Natural Sciences). As a nonformal educator it’s great to provide hands on learning experiences while exploring the natural world, when possible. With the support from other EE professionals, I was able reach out to outside organizations such as Becky Savage with NC Wildlife Resource Commission, Sampson County Beekeepers, EcoEXPLORE, etc. to bring new programs to the Sampson County YMCA.

I am Battista Bennett, and I am EENC because...
I care about helping people connect with nature.



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