Kelly McCandless

Hailing from Santa Cruz, CA, Kelly McCandless...

started adventuring at a young age. By the time she was fifteen, Kelly’s ambitions led her to self publish a book: The Budding Naturalist’s Guide to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. Her love for the outdoors  eventually brought her to the Riekes Center and today she gave us the opportunity to get to know her a little bit more…

Where are you from, what’s your background, what do you do now?

I’m from Santa Cruz, CA. I went to public school all throughout my elementary years. In 6th grade I started homeschooling, when I decided public middle school was not the environment for me. Starting homeschooling really helped me pursue my passions: music, art, and especially nature. I started the Riekes Nature Awareness program in 7th grade and that really took my love of nature even further. I’m still being homeschooled in high school and also taking classes at Cabrillo College.

What are some of your favorite things?

Books: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and Looking for Alaska by John Green.

Music: I really like the artists Radical face and Neutral Milk Hotel

Poem: “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver.

 your hobbies?

I really love doing art, especially watercolor, scratchboard, and pottery. I also like music and enjoy playing the ukulele, guitar, and double-strung harp.

How would your friends describe you?

“Outgoing, funny, loving, adventurous…”

Name one
 is unexpected.

I would be terrified walking down a city street at night but I could spend the night alone in the woods very happily.

When did you start coming to the Riekes Center?    

I started doing the Nature Awareness program in 7th grade.

Did you try something at the center that you had never done before? What did it feel like?

I started doing primitive skills for the first time with the Riekes Center, like fire by friction. Getting my first hand drill coal took over a year, but when I did finally get it, it was one of the most gratifying moments I’ve had yet.

Is there anything you want to add?

I feel a special bond with my Nature Awareness friends and mentors.  I'm very grateful that I was able to participate in the Riekes Nature Awareness program. Connecting with nature has been a life-changing experience for me. I wrote The Budding Naturalist's Guide to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum with the goal of encouraging young people to connect with nature. I think young people having a relationship with the natural world is incredibly important to saving the environment. The Riekes Center Nature Awareness programs helped me create this relationship with nature and I am looking forward to passing it along to others.