What is Nature Niños New Mexico?


Nature Niños is an initiative formed in 2019 by the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. We are dedicated to creating opportunities for New Mexico youth of all ages to spend more time outdoors to be more physically active and interact with our natural world, in turn spending less time indoors on electronic devices.

The priority of Nature Niños is to connect underserved children and families with opportunities to have meaningful, purposeful, and personal experiences with our public lands and the natural world. Our initiative focuses on the social, mental, and emotional benefits nature connection can bring to one's health and wellbeing. We aim to connect youth, homeschool families, Title 1 schools, and other community members throughout the state of New Mexico by connecting to the "community within a community" of neighbors and community partners who wish to explore the great outdoors!

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation and the Nature Niños initiative is actively creating partnerships with national and local organizations that share this same vision. We hope that YOU will also join Nature Niños by sharing and encouraging this vision to reengage our youth with nature.

Please visit our Programs Page to see all the amazing opportunities that Nature Niños is offering our New Mexico youth, from PreK to High School.

Sarah Candelaria

New Mexico Wildlife Federation

Youth Program Director

Nature Niños Staff & Volunteers

Nature Niños is a team of New Mexico Wildlife Federation staff dedicated to encouraging nature experiences and broadening our youth's knowledge in environmental conservation and preservation. 

Sarah Candelaria

Youth Program Director


Sarah Candelaria, an outdoor enthusiast and educator, is the Youth Program Director for the federation. Sarah lives on a small urban farm in Albuquerque with her family. Some of Sarah's earliest childhood memories involve trout fishing and deer hunting with her dad in central Nevada. Sarah and her family spend their free time at their cabin in Pecos; fishing, hiking, camping and enjoying the great outdoors. She attended Chaminade University, in Honolulu Hawaii, and graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Early Childhood Education and is currently attending NMSU for a Masters of Social Work. She's traveled the world for many years helping to bridge the gap of international acceptance with high school exchange student programs across the globe. An advocate for ensuring that the families and communities here in New Mexico know the importance of providing kids with an abundance of time to explore high-quality outdoor learning environment

Laura Lewis

Project Manager


Laura Lewis joined the NMWF as Nature Niños project manager in early 2022. Her works on managing projects focused on youth and family engagement. In addition to duties with Nature Niños, she provides local coordination for the National Wildlife Federation's ECHO (Early Childhood Health Outdoors) program and for Project WILD environmental education. Lewis moved to Albuquerque from Northern California in 2011 to attend the University of New Mexico. Her passion for the outdoors was largely sparked and cultivated by her work for the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. There she worked on land management projects, such as fire fuel reduction and trail maintenance. Laura also worked with FoodCorps to assist integrating garden and food education in schools. Laura believes that food can be a connector between earth conservation, community relationships, and active participation in promoting healthy and accessible environments. Laura spends her free time exploring New Mexico, finding new trails to hike, reading, and cooking. She also continues trail work with the New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors.

Olivia Martinez

Albuquerque Lead Educator

Olivia is a former Pre-K teacher, working with young children ages 3-5 years old. She is currently a student at Fort Lewis College majoring in environmental science. Olivia was a Rocky Mountain Youth Corps member, providing services and training for New Mexico public lands. She was able to participate in a U.S. Forest Service Internship where she developed and taught life science curriculum for elementary school students. She loves teaching, exploring and nature!

Amy Mathis

Albuquerque Lead Educator

Amy graduated from Kutztown University with a BFA in Music and Theater and she also holds a BS in Geology from New Mexico Tech. Amy has been a lifetime outdoor enthusiast with a focus on camping, backpacking, and hiking. She has been a dedicated instructor for local Cub Scout and Boy Scout organizations on Maui and currently here in Albuquerque where she teaches Basic Scouting Skills, assists in leading High Adventure outings, and is a Merit Badge Counselor. Her other interests include birding, plant identification, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, and gardening. Amy cares deeply about the world around us and understands that our children are our future.

Adam C. Okoye 

Albuquerque Assistant Educator

Adam was born in Ankara, Turkey and spent his formative years living there and in multiple U.S. states. He has traveled to multiple countries and continents, learning much about various cultures and natural life. His education varied from private, public, international, parochial, as well as home schooling. After moving back to Albuquerque, he completed his high school education at Sandia H.S. and obtained an AA degree from Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, NM. His love of nature, prehistoric life and wildlife influenced his choice of college. While at Mesalands he was able to take paleontology and natural science courses as well as participate on dinosaur digs and volunteer at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum and Natural Science Laboratory. Adam has volunteered at the Albuquerque Biopark, Botanical Gardens, and Aquarium, and has also volunteered and received training from the Valle De Oro Wildlife Refuge. He is an Eagle Scout, and his interests include the outdoors, nature, conservation, paleontology and Anime. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and educating youth about nature and the preservation of endangered species. 

Monica Topham Rodriguez 

Southern NM Lead Educator

Monica Topham Rodriguez was born in Chihuahua Mexico and grew up in southern Utah, where she discovered her love for the outdoors. Her family moved to Deming New Mexico about 6 years ago. She loves to grow veggies and play with her chickens, but her favorite thing is to be outdoors enjoying nature and exploring.