Jackie Latham always knew that she wanted to pursue a meaningful career path. “I wanted to do something good for earth and people, and I feel that the conservation world is doing just that.”
As the Grants Program Coordinator, Jackie works primarily to support the Open Space Authority’s Urban Grant Program, which funds access to nature in urban areas within the Open Space Authority’s jurisdiction. This means she supports current grantees, actively seeks ways to improve the Urban Grant Program, planning for future grant cycles, and she provides support for the agency’s 20% Funding Program where 20% of the Open Space Authority’s capital funds get set aside, and then allocated to participating cities and the County of Santa Clara. She also supports the agency’s work to receive incoming grants as well, a critical component of the Open Space Authority’s operations.
This competitive grant program, funded by Measure Q and Measure T, addresses the needs of urban communities, including areas that currently have limited access to preserves and parks. The grant program aims to fund projects that will improve the quality of life for urban residents. “Environmental justice is a crucial component of climate change work, so being able to integrate justice and equity into my job has been a really valuable part of this experience,” Jackie notes.
Jackie hiking with her husband, Neil, in the Pacific Northwest
Jackie grew up in southeast Michigan, where she developed her love of the outdoors at a yearly two-week camp and her interest in protecting the planet from negative impacts of climate change. She merged these passions by studying Environmental Studies at the University of Michigan, then moved to California to become an outdoor education instructor. Eventually she started exploring more administrative work, directing summer camps and managing after school programs, sparking an interest in the organizational aspect of the work of connecting people to the planet.
In 2019, she went to graduate school at Arizona State University, studying Nonprofit Leadership and Management with a focus on grants and development. “That education led me to my role at the Open Space Authority which I feel to be the perfect mesh of my environmental education background, my funding and development background, and my passion for working towards holistic climate solutions."
Jackie and one of her closest friends, Zoe, at a Pescadero Bike Party
When she’s not working on grants at the Open Space Authority, she’s delving into her passions. Whether listening to Steely Dan -- amongst her other favorite 70s music legends -- baking for her friends, dancing at a live show, spending time with her husband, making art, reading, or enjoying the mountains with friends and family, her free time is full of the activities that make Jackie who she is.
Three years into her job at the agency, she loves working with a variety of different community organizations on their urban nature projects and enjoys that there is something new to learn every day. Beyond that, the purpose of the work makes it that much better. “I like that we’re a small agency with a really big impact,” Jackie notes. “In some ways we’ve made huge strides we didn’t necessarily know that we could.”
Jackie with coworker and Volunteer Program Manager, Gavin Comstock
As for the future of conservation, Jackie feels hopeful and excited. “We have a lot of young people and new energy coming into the field thinking about solutions in a new way – and we’re focusing on diverse voices in the movement. That’s going to be so important for the next generation of this work.”
Enjoying an interactive exhibit at an arts and music festival