In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots in 2016, we're featuring 25 current and former Roots & Shoots leaders whose stories inspire us. Ready to start your own Roots & Shoots story? Sign up!

Beatus Kessy

Moshi, Tanzania

Teacher, Ministry of Education Science and Technology

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2009-2016

Positions: Roots & Shoots Group Member & Volunteer Coordinator


"Roots & Shoots as a global family has enabled me to interact and meet with different people worldwide sharing experiences and different issues pertaining nature, conservation, and culture.


Being in the Roots & Shoots family has enabled my studies and helped me to gain various field and theoretical experience on environment, conservation and community at large."

Caitlin Kara

Oakland, California 

Singer-Songwriter, Prairie Daughter

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 1999-2016

Position(s): National Youth Leadership Council Member

"I am who I am today because of Roots & Shoots. It has empowered me with the belief that every individual matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference. It has made me aware of the interrelated structure of our world and my purpose in it: I am an advocate for animal rights, a steward of the earth, and a proponent of human rights, specifically the rights of refugees. Roots & Shoots so beautifully illustrates the idea that each individual has worth and can contribute to the worth of all. This idea of interdependence has supported an entire generation of young people, like myself, to understand that we share an emotional, ecological, and moral responsibility to all living things: the environment, animals, humankind. Those who join Roots & Shoots discover, as I have, that when we work together, we can do so much to positively impact our world."

Roman Velazquez

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Student, The George Washington University

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2007-2015

Positions: National Youth Leadership Council Member

"I've come to realize through my experience with Roots & Shoots, that being part of a larger community is what makes an idea take hold. In order to be part of a larger community, we have to make ourselves heard, the trick to good leadership is being at once introspective as well as vocal, that is what Roots & Shoots has taught me."

Right: Roman meeting Dr. Jane at 8 years old.

Pippa Biddle

New York City


Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2010-2016

Position(s): Roots & Shoots Youth Leadership Fellow 

"Roots & Shoots taught me the power of my voice and the potential that I have, when I use my voice correctly, to create positive change in the world."

Raquel Ireifej

Greenwich, Connecticut

Student, Manhattan College 

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2010-2016

Positions: Roots & Shoots Group Member, Group Leader & National Youth Leadership Council Member

"Roots & Shoots is the foundation on which I have built my life and humanity. It taught me to focus my energy on something more positive; when I went through difficult times, I went to Roots & Shoots and was able to help make someone else's day and life better. Through helping other people, I was ultimately able to help myself. Even when I was having a bad day, I still had the power within me through Roots & Shoots to make someone's day better. Roots & Shoots taught me that everyone has a voice and the importance of speaking for those who have been silenced. I have not only grown as a leader, but as an individual and member of society."

Laurel Watkins

Arlington, Virginia

Youth Programs Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator, the Jane Goodall Institute USA

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2003-2014

Position(s): Member, Rancho San Diego Roots & Shoots; Co-founder and Co-leader, Jamacha Elementary “Go Green” Roots & Shoots; Youth Leader, California Youth Leadership Council; Youth Leader, National Youth Leadership Council; Youth Leader, College Council

"Roots & Shoots has supported and influenced me since I joined in the third grade. As a child, frustrated by the dismissal childhood often invites, Roots & Shoots provided me a place where I felt respected. Not only did the Roots & Shoots family respect my opinions and ideas, they taught me how to use my ideas to effect positive change.  It helped me as I grew up by encouraging and initiating curiosity and community problem solving.  The skills I learned from my years in Roots & Shoots have gone far beyond their initial purpose. I have applied the tools I gained whenever I explore other passions or new challenges. Roots & Shoots has played a role in my work with other grassroots organizations, my time in college, and even the major I chose.  I never expect to stop calling on my time as a member of Roots & Shoots."

Emily Romano

San Francisco, California

CCO & Co-Founder of Boomcast

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2004-2013

Positions: Roots & Shoots Group Member & National Youth Leadership Council Member

"It started out as something fun that let me feel like a 'big kid.' Attending my mom’s Roots & Shoots group meetings meant that as a third grader, I got to do projects with older kids at the middle school. We did all kinds of projects that benefited people, animals, and the environment- all things that made me happy – and I continued my work with the club when I reached middle school myself. It was incredible. I was able to make a difference, adults took me seriously, I ran my own projects, and no one around me doubted the strength of young minds. When I started high school, I wanted to provide kids with the opportunity I had. The most impactful thing you can tell a child is that they have the power to change the world." Read more...


Donna DiMassa

Milford, Connecticut

Retired Teacher, Environmental Club Moderator, Chair of Sustainability Committee

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2011-2016

Position(s): School Coordinator

"It is impossible to list all I have learned from Roots & Shoots! Therefore, I will use just one example: I attended the North America Training Summit in New Orleans in 2011. There, I accumulated many practices to pass on to my club members: how to achieve projects and goals using the S.M.A.R.T. strategy; how to use both traditional media and social media to promote projects; how to fundraise, and lastly how to increase the impact of projects by developing long-term service campaigns. These “skill sets” are what students need to harness their passion, compassion, and energy in order to accomplish meaningful actions that make a difference. Roots & Shoots taught me how to help club members grow from young women who care about issues to young women who can have an impact on those very issues."

Madison Vorva

Santa Monica, California

Board Member, the Jane Goodall Institute USA

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2007-2016

Positions: Great Lakes & National Youth Leadership Council

"Dr. Jane inspired me to follow in her footsteps and turn my passion into action. I would not be who I am today without her example and Roots & Shoots. Dr. Jane's belief in youth has given me, and millions of other youth hope, and in my opinion, that’s one of the most meaningful gifts one can receive."

Renee Shalhoub

Arusha, Tanzania

Volunteer Teacher

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2000-2012

Position(s): College Youth Leadership Council

"Roots & Shoots has enabled me to step outside my comfort zone and learn how to interact with diverse groups of people. I have also learned how to manage group projects and speak and present in front of large crowds. This includes experiences at youth conferences with the NYCLC, CLC and international venues such as the UN and embassies. I am teaching in Tanzania because of Roots & Shoots international volunteer program. I was lucky to be chosen for a two week cultural exchange in 2008 and was accepted for a six month internship in Moshi in 2010. Due to both experiences I fell in love with Tanzania. Roots & Shoots helped me to accomplish my life-long dream of living and working in Africa."

Mary Lewis

London, United Kingdom

VP, the Jane Goodall Institute UK & Assistant to Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 1990-2016

Positions: JGI Global Board member on R&S Global Committee

"Roots & Shoots has been in my life since the day I met Jane when she attended a luncheon in Az. hosted by Conoco the time Conoco Dupont was creating environmental education materials for Europe 'Understanding our Environment' and Jane mentioned Roots & Shoots. Countless JGI meetings held at Conoco's London offices and it was there that  Jane & her late Mother worked on the then Roots & Shoots logo! How we struggled to explain HOW and WHY Roots & Shoots could and would work. It was described as 'nebulous' and 'impossible' but of course Jane never ever gave up. Over the years I've attended countless Roots & Shoots festivals all over the world, the wonderful college and youth summits and seen first hand the power of Roots & Shoots to change lives and our world!"

Adrienne Bermingham

Buffalo, New York

Roots & Shoots Program Coordinator, the Jane Goodall Institute

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2010-2016

Position(s): College Youth Leadership Council, Graduate Fellow

"Roots & Shoots provided me with the greatest gift — the ability to turn my passion for animals and the environment into a day job. Through the program, I was encouraged to identify my strengths and explore how I might use them to work toward the future I wanted (for myself and for our Earth.) Now, every day, I get to collaborate with the next generation of conservation leaders about issues that are important to the future of our world. What a spectacular adventure I’m on."


Shawn Sweeney

Arlington, Virginia

Director of Community Engagement, the Jane Goodall Institute

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2004-2016

Positions: College Leadership Council, National Youth Leadership Council, Graduate Fellow

"When I started with Roots & Shoots, I was very narrowly focused on great apes. I wanted to do anything I could to protect them. Roots & Shoots helped me gained a broad perspective on the issues we're all facing, great apes, humans and all species alike. From that realization forward I know anything I do to help the world, will not only help great apes, but all species and the environment we share."

Idessa Butler

Chicago, Illinois

Community Relations Manager, Oak Street Health

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2004-2010

Position(s): Great Lakes National Youth Leadership Council

"Roots & Shoots helped me to grow as a leader and make being an ally for my community (Garfield Park) a lifelong passion."

David Chase

Las Vegas, Nevada

Campaign Manager, Ruben Kihuen for Congress

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 1999-2008

Position: New England National Youth Leadership Council and Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Fellow

"Roots & Shoots taught me from an early age that the world is run by those who show up."

Lauren Gibson

Stanford, California

Founder, Carmel Green Teen Micro-Grant Program

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2009-2014

Position(s): Great Lakes and U.S. National Youth Leadership Council, NYLC Representative to Roots & Shoots Canada

"Before joining Roots & Shoots as an eighth grader, I felt disheartened and intimidated by the world and the problems it faces. Although I cared about people, animals, and the environment, I neither had the awareness that one young person like me could have a significant impact on the world nor the knowledge on how to make that positive impact. Roots & Shoots changed all that. Roots & Shoots gave me the realization that each individual makes a difference, the inspiration to want to change the world, the skills to work towards positive change, and the network of incredible Roots & Shoots members and staff people to support me along the way. Because of Roots & Shoots, I now run a small nonprofit, pursue environmental science at university, and work every day towards creating a more sustainable world. I know that I can and do make a difference."

Anthony Vargas

New York City

Student at University at Buffalo; Explorer Assistant Chief for the NYPD Explorers Program

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2014

Position: U.S. National Youth Leadership Council

"Roots & Shoots has helped me build a network of amazing individuals that will be the future of this world. They have helped me in terms of development for projects and in methods to reach out to my community. I thank Roots & Shoots for all they've done for me and cannot be anymore grateful for the support of Roots & Shoots staff."


Poulyn Mukango

Kampala, Uganda

Assistant Regional Coordinator, Africa Youth Leadership Forum

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2007-2010

Position(s): School Coordinator

"Through Roots & Shoots, I have learned a lot about the envrionment and also how best I can be of influence to others in protecting the environment."


Mitch Paine

Lincoln, Nebraska

State National Flood Insurance Program Coordinator, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2005-2010

Position: College Youth Leadership Council

"Roots & Shoots taught me how to look around my own community and figure out both the problems and the solutions. At so many levels, be it your school or city, there are problems that need a champion. Roots & Shoots shows people how to do that and how to truly make meaningful change in your community. Not everybody can participate in writing international climate change proposals, but everyone can do something to make their own community a better place."

Xin Lu

Beijing, People's Republic of China

Teaching Assistant, British School of Beijing, Sanlitun

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2009-2016

Position(s): Group Member, Group Leader, and JGI-China-Beijing Staff

"My first experience with Roots & Shoots was during college when I started a club at my university. In 2014, I became a Roots & Shoots project coordinator for JGI-China-Beijing which helped me understand the core value of Roots & Shoots and gain knowledge about environmental education. During my time working in the Beijing office, I had also found my passion for education. I changed my career path and now I am leading a Roots & Shoots club at a school. My past experiences with Roots & Shoots have taught me how valuable a child’s heart is and how many things they can do in their life. Now, I am using all of my past experiences and knowledge to help my students follow their hearts."




Pam O'Halloran-Blevins

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Middle School Science Teacher

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 25+ years!

Pam and her late husband, Tim, were already leading a unique environmental program for young people in Tulsa when they met Dr. Jane in 1989. The three became fast, lifelong friends. As Pam recalls, "For the next twenty seven years, I worked with Dr. Jane on Roots & Shoots programs and student projects, wrote environmental curriculum with groups of educators across the United States, and walked arm in arm with Dr. Jane as we dreamed about how we could help make the world a better place. It was then we all began discussing, dreaming, and creating the North American Roots & Shoots environmental youth program twenty five years ago. 

"I have had the opportunity to have taught children in 1st grades through the 8th grades for the last 43 years. Words cannot describe the impact Dr. Jane and the Roots & Shoots program has had on me and my students over a twenty-five year period. Dr. Jane is my hero and I have received so much from our friendship. My hope has always been to share her love for animals and the environment, her words of wisdom, and her radiance of peace with not only my students, but with my family, and friends."


Jesus Terrazas

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico

Current: Santa Barbara, California

Student, Santa Barbara City College

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2009-2016

Position(s): National Youth Leadership Council

"With Roots & Shoots I have been able to accomplish things I never imagined I would be able to. Roots & Shoots also allowed me to set future goals for myself and be even more aware of the impact I can make on the world."

Katherine Kulik

Washington, D.C.

Energy Analyst, Alphataraxia Management

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2007-2011

Position(s): New England Youth Leadership Council

"The Roots & Shoots community has introduced me to some of the most supporting, inspiring, and genuinely good people that I know. Being involved throughout high school, I have also learned how to be a leader and how to motivate others towards a common goal. Furthermore, meeting and talking with Jane Goodall through Roots & Shoots events and retreats has motivated me as a young woman pursuing science as a field of study. Through Roots & Shoots I have had many wonderful mentors that have always encouraged me to pursue my goals and definitely helped me to grow as into a more confident and thoughtful individual."

Khalifa Stafford

New York City

Research Assistant & Student, Hunter College of CUNY

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2007-2010

Position(s): New England Youth Leadership Council

"I was in elementary school when I learned of Dr. Jane Goodall. From this day, my dream to become someone who could make a difference was planted. However, it wasn’t until high school, when I participated in the Roots & Shoots program, where the roots and foundation of this dream was made. Participating in the Roots & Shoots program ingrained within me the desire and passion for making a difference through the acquisition of leadership skills. By contributing to our New England’s Peace Through the Arts campaign, through participating in various youth leadership summits, to meeting other individuals who also desired to make a difference, and by visiting Tanzania where the Roots & Shoots seed was first planted by Dr. Jane, I learned about what it actually takes to become a great leader to make a difference in my community."


Chase Pickering

Asheville, North Carolina

Marketing Manager, Biltmore

Years Involved with Roots & Shoots: 2003-2014

Position(s): National Youth Leadership Council, First Youth Leadership Fellow, JGI Board Member

"Roots & Shoots was an important part of my life beginning when I first saw Dr. Jane speak at age 15 all the way through my early career at Disney. By being involved with Roots & Shoots, I built deep friendships with people around the world and connected with new cultures. My Roots & Shoots involvement gave me the feeling that I was part of a larger movement and that I could give back to my community in a meaningful way. Roots & Shoots also instilled in me a philosophy that each and everyone of us can make a positive difference every day. I also carry on a lifelong conservation value to respect the interconnectedness of people, animals and the environment."

We're releasing 25 Stories For 25 Years throughout 2016! Check back in a few weeks for more stories.