News & Updates
October 8, 2019
Getting to Know You: Lil Milagro Henriquez
Today we get to know Lil Milagro Henriquez, the Executive Director of the Mycelium Youth Network (MYN), a nonprofit based in Oakland, CA. MYN provides high-quality Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) programming with a focus on ancestrally-grounded climate resilience that is free or low cost to Bay Area low-income youth, 3rd Grade through high school. MYN curriculum is hands-on with training that empowers young people to face the uncertainty of their future with skills needed to survive and thrive in a climate-challenged world. The curriculum blends the traditions and practices of local indigenous people and the technologies of today.
1. Tell us about your organization/business/group. The Mycelium Youth Network (MYN) prepares youth in the East Bay Area—who are most vulnerable to and already feeling the effects of environmental racism—for climate change. We use a merger of indigenous environmental traditions that emphasize youth environmental stewardship and relationship building alongside a rigorous STEAM curriculum that focuses on practical hands-on skills for climate resilience and mitigation that youth create and implement in their homes and local communities. We empower youth to grow as visionary leaders and budding environmentalists, connect with ancestral teachings, and trust in the wisdom of the natural world.
I named it after researching underground network of mushrooms and trees. It is the earth’s underground internet! The MYN is about talking to one another, sharing resources and support; mimicking what happens naturally in the earth through that network.
2. How did you get interested/involved/engaged? My family is from New Orleans and my dad was there during Katrina. We didn’t know if he was alive or dead for many weeks. The infrastructure there remains in need of repair. And then the Tubbs Fire happened. My daughter was a baby and we couldn’t go outside, and everyone felt helpless. In each of these situations I realized that we could not depend on outside forces to save us. We had to do it ourselves- be prepared, discover together. My son and daughter, ages 3 and 7 respectively, will grow up in a vastly different world than we the one we know today due to the changing climate. The MYN addresses and teaches how to prepare for this world—how to live, giving them tools so they don‘t panic and feel helpless. Our goal is to help them build a relationship with the earth, with nature, remind them about their ancestral traditions and knowledge that are an ancient source of surviving and thriving in a caring community.
3. What do you want to people to learn/do in your work with them? With the youth I want to help them know they have a deep history of ancestral wisdom and knowledge and offer a place to ask what they can bring to us. I want to radically change the structure of education.
4. Name one thing you have learned over the years. 1. How incredible and resourceful children are. They ask profound questions and think out of the box. This has helped me develop the curriculum to allow more wisdom to come in. 2. How to run a nonprofit!
5. A big failure that (you) turned into a positive. Leaving my PhD in Theology with only my dissertation left to complete. I went on to be part of the establishment of the Roses in Concrete Community School in East Oakland and worked there. I learned that those letters behind my name were not as important as giving children hope and tools for the future.
6. What is most precious to you? My son and I went to the Youth Climate March in San Francisco a few weeks ago. I felt so much love for the Creator and for humanity there, being part of creating something better. Working together breaks the isolation that is part of climate change work.
7. What do you most value in your colleagues? Their creativity! I love how they surprise me. They get excited about something, and I explore how I can support them.
8. Who are your heroes? 1. My best friend, Dara Burwell. She’s loving and gentle, and unabashedly strong and intelligent. She risks a lot to do social justice work. She inspires me. 2. My mother and grandmother. My mother worked two jobs to put me and my sister through school. 3. The Ancestors. 4. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez
9. What is(are) your greatest achievement(s)? 1. In my master’s program, I testified at a hearing that involved two professors who were involved in criminal activity; justice was served. 2. I founded a worker’s rights union. 3. Not backing down in the face of injustice.
10. What is the thing for which you want to be remembered? The Mycelium Youth Network; that I would stand for young people so that they were completely prepared for a world they couldn’t imagine.
11. What would you tell your younger self? Don’t kill yourself: the work was there before you and will be there after!
12. The one thing you have not done/achieved/experienced and want to do before you die. I want to travel more—to Europe (in a carbon-off-setting way!). I want to take MYE national, then global. I want to take up archery.