Candice Dickens-Russell raises her family in L.A., where Candice herself grew up. Having served as the regional director for environmental education for the State of California Department of Education, on the Blueprint for Environmental Literacy Taskforce and on the board of Friends of the LA River where she now works, she understands the significance of the L.A. River to our community and our environment. We recently spoke with Candice about her new role at FoLAR, how families can get involved with the L.A. river and where her favorite L.A. spots to explore with her family.
Please tell us a little about your new position at the Friends of the LA River (FoLAR).
I am the new President and CEO of FoLAR. My job is to support and lead the team as we build an inclusive movement to realize our vision of the L.A. River as a vibrant, functioning and supportive ecosystem. I bring a perspective that combines sustainability, environmental education and equity to our work. I’ve been involved with FoLAR as a supporter and board member for many years so this is a wonderful opportunity and I’m excited to be in this role.
What is RIVER FEST?
River Fest is a free open-air festival celebrating the L.A. River’s deep connection to art, environmental justice, community health and climate adaptation at the scenic L.A. State Historic Park. There will be food trucks, a live DJ, short environmental films on a 45-foot screen, raffles and interactive booths from FoLAR and our partners. It’s a celebration of our year and it’s going to be lots of fun!
How can kids and families get involved with Friends of the LA River?
Our largest audience is children. Every day our education programs bring students to the river or the river to students in the form of our River Rover. We’re dedicated to sharing our work with young people who will ultimately be the ones shaping the river’s future. And there are so many ways families can connect with the L.A. River. Helping our children understand that we have a vital river in Los Angeles that runs through and connects our communities is the first step. There’s also biking, kayaking, birdwatching, and just spending time along the L.A. River every day.
How do you think families take better care of our environment?
Start with figuring out what’s important to your family and how you can make changes in your life to protect the things that you value. And when you do this, include your children. Let them know the reasons behind why you recycle, or don’t use plastic utensils, or conserve water, or plant native plants in your garden – whatever it is! It’s easy to just do these things and not talk about them. Give our children the opportunity to see us engaged in the practice of protecting the environment and invite them to take part.
You grew up in L.A., tell us a little about your growing up experiences in and around Los Angeles? Fondest memories?
My family loved going to the movies (my dad always insisted we watch ALL of the credits at the end), fishing, and spending time at our neighborhood parks. I think we were at the park every day, involved in one activity or another. I have so many memories of afternoons and evenings with my brother and sister in our neighborhood parks.
Did you have a mentor growing up? And what role did that person play in your life and your career?
Growing up I really looked up to my grandmother. She supported her children through college and then went herself to become an RN. She had so many great sayings and I find myself quoting her every day. My grandmother thought I could do anything and I believed her.
Best life advice you received growing up?
More wisdom from the ancestors – my grandfather used to say, “What’s wrong with now?” meaning go ahead and get it done. It’s our family version of carpe diem. I embody that!
How has parenthood changed you?
It has certainly made me more patient. I’m a big planner but I’ve learned that not all things can be planned in parenthood. I would often say when my daughter was very small that as soon as I felt like I got into a groove, she would change. She would drop a nap or change in some other way. Parenting has taught me to live in the present with patience and joy.
When not working, where will we find you?
In our garden relaxing in the hammock reading a book with my daughter. I’m a beekeeper, my husband tends our vegetable garden, and my daughter has a fairy garden. We basically live in our yard.
Best advice on parenting you’ve received?
I once read that our children come through us, not from us. I really loved that! My daughter is 100% her – not half me and half my husband. It’s such a gift to recognize and honor that. She and I are very different. It is so fun to watch her grow up and celebrate who she is and who she’s becoming.
What are some of your favorite spots and activities in and around L.A.?
Our family loves to travel. Locally, we’re big tidepoolers, and we enjoy gardening and camping. The Natural History Museum is a family favorite – our daughter has basically grown up there. We have taken a picture of her in the same spot over the years which has been fun. We have also spent many afternoons exploring the Arboretum, visiting the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and going to the Farmers’ Market. And of course spending time on the River!