What is the “Sierra Thrives” Facilitation Learning Series?

This is an exciting 4-week learning series, developed by BeWell in Nature, in partnership with the Sierra Club - Angeles Chapter and the Military Outdoors. During our time together, Outing Facilitators and nature stewardship leaders will practice helpful tools and strategies to cultivate inclusive, emotionally safe and supportive outing environments and experiences that enhance participant's social and emotional well-being. As a community, we will practice and integrate practical knowledge and skills to create meaningful, restorative, and transformative experiences for outing participants. Every single outing participant is integral to collective nature stewardship. 
Each in-person session will include a didactic portion of learning, combined with experiential activities. What does this look like? Learning will combine both informational and practical knowledge sharing to stimulate the mind, body and heart connection. To encourage a rich learning experience, we will engage in self and group reflection, group dialogue, simulation of common scenarios, and more.  Our aim is to collectively create a learning hub that is inclusive, feels emotionally safe and is most importantly, supportive of your experience as a committed participant of Sierra Thrives. 
Please note, participation in this learning series will satisfy some of the prerequisites for the Sierra Club’s Outing Leaders Training requirements. 


Research studies document the various benefits of nature on our physical, mental, emotional, and overall well-being: nature can lead to improved mood, less stress, a healthy sense of purpose and belonging, and much more. With such a tremendous power to heal the mind, body and heart, more people should be able to access and benefit from nature exposure in safe, supportive, and inclusive ways. Outdoor leaders play a key role in how people access these restorative benefits, and this learning series will help leaders enhance their “Emotional Wellness Kit” and gain the confidence to facilitate experiences that tap into nature’s healing benefits. The more that outing leaders and facilitators help foster healing in nature for communities, the more that communities can embody nature stewardship and help to sustain and advocate for our communities, public lands, and planet.


Are you curious to develop an ‘Emotional Wellness Kit’ as an outing leader? Do you know how to encourage a welcoming environment for people from different backgrounds? How do we help others connect to nature’s awe and wonder?Are you curious about leading mindfulness experiences during your community nature outings to support the mind, body and heart connection? What happens when the campfire conversation feels emotionally vulnerable and/or heavy? As a leader who supports others, how do you take care of yourself while sustaining the collective’s vision? 
Sierra Thrives is open to all in the greater community who want their nature programs, hikes, and outdoor adventures to be more intentional, reflective, and restorative. Ideal candidates are folks who lead or are interested in leading outings for Sierra Club or other outdoor organizations, programs, and communities. If you’re curious about these things, this learning series is for you!
The Sierra Club Military Outdoors program is committed to connecting veterans, military families and their communities to healing outdoor experiences. We especially want to welcome the participation of veterans and military families, as well as people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. 


  1. You are willing and interested in sharing the power of nature with your community, and upholding the Sierra Club core values of anti-racism, collaboration, balance, transformation and justice. 
  2. This leadership learning series is for individuals over the age of 18 years old who live in the Los Angeles or Orange County area.

This program is free to participants! We are grateful for funding from Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors program to offer this knowledge-sharing and capacity building experience to our esteemed community, to include veterans and all who are interested. 

Application Process 

Our first cohort has the capacity for 18 participants. We are looking to bring together a cohort of participants that are fully committed to this Learning Series, and who share the vision we have for a thriving, representative, and inclusive enrichment experience. 
Due Date: Tuesday, September 5th. Applications will be reviewed and selection confirmation will be announced during the week of September 11th.




Core Program Focus Areas 

Participants can look forward to building confidence and strengthening skills in the following five learning pillars: 
1) Social and Emotional Knowledge
  • Outing Leaders will acquire a strong foundational understanding of social and emotional concepts and principles. Participants will gain awareness of how these concepts emerge during Outings and how they impact the experiences of Outing Participants.
  • Outing Leaders will experience proficiency in utilizing regulation and attunement strategies to promote their own social and emotional well-being, as to support the social and emotional well-being of participants from an emotionally grounded place of being. 
2) Self Reflection and Critical Thinking
  • Outing Leaders will engage in reflective practices to deepen their understanding of their own emotions, biases, thought patterns and personal growth areas - with the understanding that these may impact relationship-building and interactions with Outing Participants.
  • Outing Leaders will identify ways to promote inclusivity and foster equitable experiences that support participant’s social and emotional well-being.
3) Skill Development and Integration
  • Outing Leaders will reflect on the value in building healthy relationships with Outing Participants, with the collective understanding that healthy interpersonal connections are vital to fostering a sense of belonging and community.
  • Through a strengths-based approach, Outing Leaders will identify and highlight opportunities for connection with and among Participants, as to cultivate inclusivity, equity and a felt sense of community. 

4) Sustainability and Collective Care

  • With self-sustainability being integral to collective care, Outing Leaders will practice engaging in self-preservation practices to help manage stress and promote their own social and emotional well-being - contributing to more fulfilling Outing experiences for both Participants and Outing Leaders.

5) Community Building

  • Outing Leaders will build authentic relationships with Participants to encourage a sense of belonging and community. By creating a supportive and inclusive community, Outing Leaders can holistically promote the social and emotional well-being of Participants. 

Tentative Facilitator Learning Series Itinerary 

Timeline: Four consecutive Saturdays starting September 23rd through October 21st 2023, from 9AM to 3PM for in-person learning sessions: 
Session #1 on Sept. 23 | Base Camp for Foundational Basics     
  • Location: Audubon Center at Debs Park
Session #2 on Sept. 30 | Ascent for Co-Regulation & Cultivating Relationships     
  • Location: Pending
Break on October 7 | Rest and Integrate.   
Session #3 on October 14 | Sierra for Brave Spaces       
  • Location: Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Center
Session #4 on October 21 | Descent for Rest in Community & Culmination     
  • Location: Franklin Canyon Park


We understand that committing to the four-session series is a significant undertaking. We value your dedication and also understand that life's commitments happen. For this reason, we're exercising flexibility, and up to one missed session is allowed. This will ensure that you receive the full benefit of this program, while also allowing us to maintain the highest level of engagement and learning that we strive to provide to all participants. 

About Us 

Rene Melara
Rene Melara, LCSW is a clinical social worker with 10 years of experience working alongside the Santa Monica community in various capacities, such as supporting families living in affordable housing developments, case management of under-resourced youth and families, and providing mental health services. Rene is a volunteer with Latino Outdoors as an Outings Leader, where he has organized various outings to help connect families to the outdoors. In this role, he has collaborated with various organizations in the LA region, including Sierra Club, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and Community Nature Connection. He is also a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles County and has been matched with his Little Brother for almost 7 years.
Growing up, Rene did not feel a strong connection to nature due to the various barriers that low-income communities of color face in urban settings. When he moved to Los Angeles in 2013, he began to experience the awe and wonder of taking in the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes of our beautiful natural world. These experiences changed him in profound ways by helping him heal from the stress of daily life while also helping him find meaning, purpose, and community. Because of these gifts that nature provided him, he feels a strong responsibility to help protect it and help others experience the life-changing benefits that he did almost a decade ago. 
Sunny Cho
Sunny Cho (she, her, 그녀) is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and also a CA- endorsed Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist. Since emigrating from South Korea during her early teen years, Sunny has always had a heart and passion to serve the community. After serving in different non-profit organizations, she began her career to focus on the social and emotional health of children and families. For the past decade, she served in different community mental health settings, providing assessments and clinical services to diverse community members. Sunny recently has founded Wonder Well Therapy, providing holistic mental health services to support families on their journey towards wellness and wonder. 
It’s truly ironic how the pandemic unexpectedly acted as a catalyst for Sunny and her family to develop a deeper relationship with nature. Growing up as a latchkey child of an immigrant family, Sunny had limited opportunities to explore the natural world. Through this newfound relationship, Sunny, her veteran husband, and 3 children experienced profound layers of healing, joy, and valuable life lessons. Becoming a student and a steward of nature has sparked a desire to bridge the gap between people’s urban upbringing and the wonders of the natural world, and to protect it for our future generation. 
Jenny Lopez
Jenny López (she, her, ella). Of Nuu Savi indigenous cultural roots, Jenny attributes the modeling and guidance of her Elders as the building blocks for her nature connection and relationship. For 13 years, Jenny has supported young children and families throughout L.A as a licensed clinical social worker and CA-endorsed Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist. Jenny is passionate about supporting healthier child, family, and community relationships that embody understanding, compassion and collective joy. 
In 2017, Jenny participated in the Nature for All Leadership Training Program, on a shared mission to help close the nature access gap. Jenny contributes to various community projects as a co-creator - dedicated to cultivating inclusive, emotionally safe and supportive Public Land community outings that inspire deeper connections to the natural world, to support social and emotional well-being. She believes that community healing is to happen together, in community and beyond the traditional therapy office.  Jenny is an Outings Leader and volunteer for Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors Program and enjoys meeting Nature Stewards from all walks of life.