YES! staff work intensively with teams to assess community assets and needs, create action plans, identify and involve community partners, and link teams with further funding resources to match the students’ passion with a real need and opportunity in their community.
As Program Director of YES! (Youth Eco Solutions) I enjoy working with the amazing staff, students, teachers, and partners to bring this program to schools across Minnesota. I earned my MBA in Sustainable Business from Marylhurst University my BA from Gustavus Adolphus College with a major in Communications. I have had a passion for the environment since I was a young girl and am honored to be part of this program that works to reduce our ecological footprint each and every day. Before coming to PWELC, I worked with the Alexandria School District as their Sustainability Specialist, produced environmental programming for Twin Cities Public Television, and worked with a variety of local businesses to create sustainable business action plans. I enjoy kayaking, biking and sailing in the summer with my husband Sean and our 3 sons Manford, Kagan, and J.J.
I graduated from St. Cloud State University, studying Planning and Community Development and Environmental Studies. I chose these degrees because of my deep love for everything green. Ever since I was a small child I have always loved being outdoors whether it was helping my grandma in her garden or searching for snakes and frogs with my brother. I have always cherished the sense of place I feel in my small town, New London. I feel that in order for a city to be sustainable, it needs to involve community members, especially our youth. Getting our youth involved in projects that will make our communities sustainable and enjoyable to live in is what excites me about my job.
I joined the full time Prairie Woods team in November 2013, after volunteering and being a part-time staff member the prior three years. I wear many hats at Prairie Woods as office manager, “as needed” challenge course and environmental education instructor, as well as time travel program leader. One of my many office manager duties is to help support the YES! teams on the business end. I gained my “many hat” experience through working for outdoor education centers in Hudson, WI and Battle Creek, MI. Growing up in Door County, WI is what built my love of the outdoors and a good Midwest winter.
Before joining YES! in September 2019, I worked for 20+ years as an educator in formal and recreational learning settings in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Most recently I taught youth and adults about fishing and aquatic resources with the MinnAqua program at the MN Department of Natural Resources. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a master’s degree in human dimensions of natural resources (2001) and a bachelor’s degree in resource management, majoring in biology and environmental education / interpretation (1995). My husband Rob teaches high school science and is passionate about electric vehicles; we live in North Mankato on a bluff overlooking the Minnesota River Valley. Standing in the prairie I grew on, you might catch a glimpse of bison grazing across the river at the Minneopa State Park! In my spare time I practice and teach encaustic painting, a technique that involves fusing layers of melted beeswax to a wooden board with heat.
Aleta Wild, Contributing Editor
I was born and raised in Northfield, Minnesota and graduated in 2011 from St. Olaf College with a degree in biology. While at St. Olaf, I had opportunities to explore many areas of biology including science education and interning at a hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I joined YES! in April of 2011 and have had many roles supporting the great work of the YES! teams. I have worked as the Southern YES! Coordinator, YES! Communications Consultant, and now as a Contributing Editor. I look forward to continuing to work with the great people who make YES! happen and continue to watch YES! grow and impact more and more students and their communities. When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband Sam and our two cats. We enjoy cooking, biking, bird watching, and exploring Minnesota!
Tom McDougall, Contributing Energy Expert
I have been passionate about protecting our environment since my teenage years of camping, hiking, and canoeing, which planted in me a deep admiration and a need for understanding our natural world. I proceeded to study and practice water resources and hydrology as a Civil Engineer, then moved into the field of Architecture to design sustainable and low energy consumption buildings for the last 30 years. Now, being recently retired from professional practice, my quest is to use my experiences to assist today’s youth to develop their own ecological literacy, priorities, and ethics to guide the next generation of environmental sustainability and resilience. The student and staff energy inside the YES! program is unbelievable and I am just happy to be a part of it.
Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (YES! Host)
12718 10th St NE
Spicer, MN 56288