Our impact at Roots of Success depends on the work, dedication, energy, love, and passion of our team, especially our volunteers. This week we are spotlighting Kathleen, one of our Roots of Success en Español team members. Read more to learn about Kathleen and her incredible work with Roots of Success.
Who are you, and what work are you doing with Roots of Success? 

My name is Kathleen Kanaley, and I am translating the most important parts of the Roots of Success website into Spanish. I am also producing a translation of the Roots of Success 10 Year Report that summarizes all the work that roots of success has accomplished from 2010 through 2020. And I’m collaborating with Ana and Florencia, who are translating the Instructors’ Manual and all of the video content that will go with the Roots of Success curriculum, as well as the Student Workbook.


What made you want to work with Roots of Success?

I really was drawn to apply for this position because it was the first opportunity that I had found to be engaging both with environmental literacy and with a program that incorporates both environmental education, and social and environmental justice. I think it’s really easy to get pigeonholed into one of those fields, and not have the opportunity or the ability to see connections between what’s happening on a global scale—with climate change and responses to climate change, and also with different governmental policies that are trying to respond to environmental injustice—and then what happens in the daily lives of citizens across different nations, as far as their engagement with environmental justice work, or the way their communities are impacted by environmental injustices. And the part that I think Roots of Success does very well is recognizing that people from communities who are most impacted by environmental injustice are also the people who the rest of us need to be looking to as leaders, and as voices to be listening to, if we want to collectively address these problems. And so Roots of Success, by delivering this curriculum to students who have been either failed by the education system, or students who are incarcerated and don’t have the same access to traditional environmental science, or environmental policy, lessons is really critical and is important now more than ever.


What were you doing prior to Roots of Success and what are you doing next?

Right before I started working with Roots of Success, I had just finished working with the Justice and Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco as a bilingual client advocate. I would answer people’s phone calls who were looking for pro bono legal assistance, and my primary focus was in consumer law and in housing law. I was also briefly assigned to the family law project. What I learned in that role is that there’s a really critical need for pro bono legal assistance, and there’s an immense barrier that many people encounter when they aren’t able to access information in their native language. That made me think about my own career goals in a very different way, because I am now approaching a Ph. D program in plant pathology. While it’s a hard science, and sounds very geeky and nerdy, it’s also a field that has a huge impact on people’s daily lives, whether you’re a farmer or just someone that eats produce. A huge piece that I see ignored in many scientific disciplines is communication between researchers and the public, about either the research that’s being conducted, or the implications of those findings. When I think about my work as a scientist, what I really want to draw on is that ability to talk to people across linguistic barriers, but also across disciplinary barriers about, for example, why I think it’s important to reduce the use of fungicides, and this is one way that I think we could do that. But I think more so, it’s not about just me explaining, it’s also about me being able to listen and incorporate the feedback from people I’m speaking to. That’s something that I think Roots of Success does really well— it builds on the legacy of knowledge and lived experience of students, and really makes the students into the teachers. It acknowledges that there are a lot of different forms of knowledge, that aren’t necessarily traditional or hierarchical.


Is there anything else interesting that you’re doing or working towards?

One of the things that I’m working on right now, speaking of language, is learning how to code for the first time in preparation for this PhD I’m starting! It’s going to be very computer science heavy. I need to learn how to code, which I have never done before, and it is pretty uncharted territory for me. I’m learning to code in a language called Python. And it’s totally different from learning Spanish, or any other language that I’ve attempted to learn before. But it’s exciting. And it’s kind of a project that I had never really envisioned for myself. 


What’s a goal you have for yourself? 

A goal that I have for myself is to very consciously, and on a very regular basis, seek out the knowledge and expertise of people whose backgrounds and opinions are very different from my own. Also, being open to being challenged about my own beliefs, values, and opinions, whether they’re in the field of science, social justice work, or politics. I’m very wary of surrounding myself with people who think too similarly to myself, and I think there’s a real danger of being siloed. 


What’s a hope you have for the world?

I think that it’s hard, because there’s so many things that we can all collectively work towards together. But more broadly, I think, taking the time to really listen to each other, and to identify actions to take to change the things we want to be changing in our lives. Whether that means finding a place to drop off compost, even if it’s gonna take 10 extra minutes out of your day, or maybe it means calling someone that you haven’t talked to in a really long time, because you value that connection with that person. It’s just taking the extra time to change things that we’re unhappy about, and not only talking the talk, or complaining, but really walking the walk. So if there’s an issue in your neighborhood that you feel needs to be addressed, not just complaining about it, but talking to your neighbors and then figuring out ‘okay, who’s my supervisor, and who might actually have the political power to make this change, or to help me make this change?’ And exploring those avenues that each of us has within our scope to address the things we feel are really important.


What are you most looking forward to accomplishing in your work with Roots of Success?

I’m really excited for the day when I go to the Roots of Success website, I click on ROS En Español, and there is this beautiful display of high quality, informative, and visually clear content in Spanish that I could send to anyone I know living in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, Spain, in Puerto Rico, etc. And that person would be able to look at it, and understand, and it would be very intuitive, and it’s going to provide real knowledge and access to information for people whose first language isn’t English.


What’s one fun fact about you?

Every year starting in 2019, I run a 77.7 mile relay with my cousins that takes us around Seneca Lake, which is actually very close to where I’ll be doing my PhD in upstate New York. And the idea is that the magic number is seven. So it’s seven people on a team. And the race is 77.7 miles long, and you each run three different segments of the race. And it’s really more fun than anything else. I don’t think any of us approach it as a race, but it was the first time that I had ever done something like that running-wise, and I really enjoyed it. It’s something that I hope to be doing every year into the near future.