CJ Goulding was born and raised in a Jamaican home in Teaneck, New Jersey. He grew up in a place where “the outdoors” was simply an area with no roof above your head, the space that existed right outside his front door. It wasn’t in his culture to go hiking, and not in his family’s means to go skiing for recreation.
While he always had an inclination for exploration and adventure, his career in the outdoors began in 2011 as a participant in the inaugural National Park Service (NPS) Academy, a program designed to give undergraduate students an introduction to the country’s national parks through internships in an effort to diversify the agency’s workforce. Spending a week at the foot of the Grand Tetons has been the foundation of everything he has done ever since.
He continued to develop a connection to national parks during the summer 2011 which he spent as an engineering intern in Yellowstone National Park. Inspired by those experiences and the support from his growing network, he returned to give back as a mentor to the next class of NPS Academy interns at Great Smokies National Park.
In the summer of 2012, he took an opportunity to build his leadership and outdoor skills with the North Cascades Institute in North Cascades National Park as a trip leader. He spent the summer introducing teens to the outdoors, to backpacking and canoe camping in the national park, calling it his introduction to “the stewardship of people.”
Realizing his passion for mentoring and leadership with youth in the outdoors, he continued to serve as a mentor and leader with the NPS Academy, returning to the Grand Tetons in the spring of 2013. He continued on to work with the Student Conservation Association as a Community Crew leader working with high school students in the city parks and green spaces of Seattle.
In 2013, he attended the Natural Leaders Legacy Camp, where he met 50 other young leaders who were looking to make changes in their communities. This served as another building block in his budding career, connecting to a nationwide network of peers doing similar work. He returned again to serve as a trainer for the 2014 Legacy Camp and a peer mentor for other Natural Leaders.
In 2014, he took a position with the National Park Service’s Youth Office, further advancing his connection to national parks and working to manage programs that provide other youth an opportunity to do the same while continuing to grow in his passion for mentoring. This position allowed him to support the very NPS Academy program that gave him his start, continuing his trend of growing from participant to mentor to leader.
In 2015, he began to work with the Natural Leaders Network as the Lead Organizer, where he organizes leadership training, development, and continued support for over 200 millenials (18-30) who are working to connect their communities to the outdoors. In partnership with Islandwood, he also began a Masters of Arts in Education graduate program in Urban Environmental Education (scheduled for completion in September 2016).
He is passionate about leadership, connecting people, places, and ideas, whether it be through the written word, storytelling, or simply facilitating groups dynamics and interaction. CJ is an avid photographer and blogger.