Meet our new youth coordinator

Ashley, Kate

Ashley O'Neill Prada (left) will be our new youth coordinator in March, after Kate Clayton (right) steps away from the role. (Kate's photo by Dodd Demas)

Longtime youth coordinator Kate Clayton recently stepped down from her position after more than seven years of service to FMR. Kate is wrapping up her graduate education classes at Augsburg University in Minneapolis and will complete her student teaching this spring. Lucky for us, Kate has agreed to stay on as a program assistant until she officially departs this summer to become a full-time classroom teacher.

Congratulations, Ashley!

Ashley O'Neill Prado will become our youth coordinator in March. They joined FMR as an administrative assistant in September 2019 and became a programs assistant in February 2020.

In their office management role, Ashley made significant improvements to increase the flexibility and efficiency of our office systems for FMR staff. And as a programs assistant, they revamped our stenciling program to allow for no-contact options for the community during the pandemic. They also supported the adaptation of our youth curriculum modules onto virtual platforms, piloted new curriculum integrating equity and stewardship, and cultivated new relationships with schools and community members.

Ashley has a bachelor's in biology and environmental studies from Vassar College. Since graduating, they've been pursuing multidisciplinary interests in sustainable agriculture, music, biking and advocating for food and environmental justice. They also bring extensive experience in working with youth and community in developing urban farm projects in the Twin Cities.

As youth coordinator, Ashley will facilitate classroom visits and outings for youth groups. These programs focus on water quality and stewardship of our greenspaces in our watersheds.

Ashley is looking forward to “the exchange of knowledge that comes with youth work and being an educator. The best part about sharing my knowledge is how much I get to learn from others.”

Gratitude for Kate, outgoing youth coordinator

Kate brought her passion and skills as a naturalist, science educator and outdoor programmer to her role at FMR. When she wasn’t coordinating water quality education for classrooms and service outings with students, she was leading the volunteer outings for the Gorge Leadership Team and supporting our busy schedule of stewardship events throughout the year. (For a monthly calendar of FMR events in your inbox, sign up for Mississippi Messages.)

FMR staff ecologist Alex Roth raves, “Kate was a whiz at volunteer event organization. She and I worked so many events together — from public outings to group and youth events — sometimes multiple ones in a single day! She was so organized, and I could always count on her to have the gear we needed for each event. I'm going to miss recapping the highs and lows of events with her as we shuttled gear back to our cars and ate our well-earned granola bars!” 

Kate ensured all our educational programs aligned with state standards and introduced innovative new hands-on programming for youth throughout the Twin Cities metro area. She played a critical role in developing our youth-centered Environmental Stewardship Institute career development program for high school students, which is entering its third year. In 2020, she quickly pivoted due to the pandemic and worked tirelessly with our team to adapt all our curriculum to a virtual platform.

While Kate will be missed, she leaves a legacy of many thousands of youth, volunteers and educators she has inspired and equipped with knowledge and skills to enhance and protect our river and watershed. We can’t wait until she contacts FMR to plan a field trip or classroom visit for her own students!

Team up with our youth program!

FMR works with hundreds of youth every year to learn about and steward our river. To learn more, check out our menu of offerings or contact us at education@fmr.org to schedule your spring 2021 program.

Kate juggling
Kate brought her talents to the role of youth coordinator, and juggled many initiatives at once with skill and flare. We're grateful for her legacy.