Jillian Rubio, executive director of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center, spoke to the Rotary Club of Los Alamos during the holiday season. Photo by Linda Hull
BY LINDA HULL
Rotary Club of Los Alamos
As the December holidays approached, Jillian Rubio, the new Executive Director of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC,) took time from her hurried hours to speak to the Rotary Club of Los Alamos.
Currently, Rubio said, she is working with staff on strategic planning, asking “Who do we want to be?” and “With whom do we want to partner?” “Partnerships are key,” she explained, because fulfilling PEEC’s mission, “enriching people’s lives by strengthening their connections to our canyons, mesas, mountains, and skies” is so important. With an average of over 40,000 visitors per year, PEEC’s partnerships with almost 30 different organizations allow PEEC staff to design programming appropriate for nature center visitors, school children, and the community in general. As Rubio says, “Partnerships are essential for us to reach beyond those who walk through our doors.”
Among its most popular community events are Earth Day, BearFest, Summer Family Evenings, and planetarium presentations. For school children, PEEC offers free programing for all Los Alamos District schools; school programming for neighboring communities is also available. There is a bird banding program given in partnership with Bandelier and a free NM Outdoor Pass program in partnership with the Los Luceros Historic Site in Alcalde.
In addition to partnerships, PEEC relies on its enthusiastic volunteers, 100 dedicated workers who log over 7000 hours a year to support PEEC’s many programs.
PEEC also depends upon the support of its members to operate the nature center, to build connections throughout the community, and to lend their valuable knowledge. The benefits of membership are many. Not only do members receive the Nature Notes newsletter, but there are reciprocal benefits with other nature centers. Members also receive a 20% discount on most programs and 10% off in the gift shop, a “hidden gem” many shoppers discovered while holiday shopping. Annual membership levels begin at $35 for individuals and $50 for families with benefits accruing as levels increase.
Other support includes “adopting” one of the resident animals that will remain cared for at PEEC. This “provides the fresh food, good lighting, clean bedding, and other improvements that help to keep the animal happy and healthy.” Gardens and outdoor areas are also available for “adoption.”
PEEC routinely offers opportunities to engage with our local environment through Nature Up Close, Gentle Walks, Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Nature Playtime, and a monthly photo contest. There are gardens, a Rotary Club of Los Alamos Treehouse and picnic tables, and a library with a nature observation window and comfortable seating.
Much of the PEEC facility, such as the planetarium and the classroom, is available for rental.
PEEC is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed Sundays and Tuesdays. There is no admission fee.
Jillian Rubio joined the PEEC staff as Executive Director in May of 2022, arriving here by way of Brooklyn, NY and Tucson, AZ, among other places. She describes herself as “an avid explorer, recent nomad, and everyday yogi” who is “readily distracted by birds, wildflowers and the beauty of the natural world.”
Her career of over 20 years in Environmental Education has included roles as Chief Program Officer at NYC Outward Bound Schools, Director of the Prospect Park Audubon Center in Brooklyn, Board Member of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), and President of the Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE).
She holds a BS degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from the NYU Wagner School of Public Service.
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos, through its 1312 Club Foundation, is a 501(c)3 non-profit and one of over 34,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary, which now has 1.5 million members, was founded in 1905; the local Club was chartered in 1966. Rotary areas of focus include promoting peace; fighting disease, particularly polio; providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; supporting education; saving and enhancing the lives of mothers and children; growing economies; and protecting the environment.
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos meets in person Tuesdays, 12:00-1:00, in the Community Room, Cottonwood on the Greens, at the golf course. A Zoom option is available by contacting Linda Hull, Rotary Club vice-president, 505-662-7950. Hull is also happy to provide information about the Club and its humanitarian service. The community is invited to attend meetings and become members.