California State Parks Foundation is continually blown away by the commitment of exceptional champions who have helped us protect and preserve parks through the years.
Tanisha Gupta may only be 14 years old, but she’s already a trailblazer for parks. In 2018, she and her family began volunteering with California State Parks Foundation to get outside and spend more time together in the places they love. Since then, she’s taken on even more responsibility as a volunteer Core Leader, helping run the workdays with help from her parents.
She loves to share the importance of why workdays matter and enthusiastically teaches volunteers how to perform tasks and use essential tools. It was only three years ago that she learned these skills herself, yet she’s already passing on the knowledge to newcomers.
Since Gupta lives in Santa Clara, she volunteers most frequently at Half Moon Bay State Beach. Thanks to volunteer efforts in the park, she’s witnessed a visible difference in the landscape and enjoyed the fruits of her labor. “The improvements I’ve seen from planting new native plants and removing invasive species has been so great. Half Moon Bay is always going to have a special place in my heart because of leading volunteer workdays there – and I absolutely love the beach and the view from the dunes we work on,” she said.
Gupta is also hoping to attract more young people like her to volunteer in parks. “Sometimes teenagers just don’t know that these places exist and need to hear about the opportunities from other teens,” she said. Along with a handful of other youth volunteer Core Leaders, Gupta has formed a youth coalition within the volunteer program and is working to raise awareness of the places she holds dear.
Even outside of volunteer workdays, Gupta brainstorms ways to improve parks and help the environment. For her middle school science fair project, she created a machine learning software that can detect invasive plants in a field. She came up with the idea shortly after she began volunteering with California State Parks Foundation, thinking it would be helpful to park rangers. Her project was a finalist in the competition, and she hopes to continue exploring projects in which natural sciences and computer science intersect.
Like many other park-goers out there, she enjoys unwinding by going on long hikes “The serenity, calm, and peace of mind I’ve been able to find in parks is so important to me. Hiking gives me a chance to both clear my mind and have space for creative ideas. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m hiking.”
Want to join Tanisha in making protecting and preserving California state parks? Click here to find a volunteer workday near you!
First published in our membership Parklands newsletter Spring 2021.