Melissa Cusack Striepe: A Young Woman for Nature

Julie Lopez, Digital Campaign Organizer at Nature Canada.

This blog was written by Julie Lopez, the Digital Campaign Organizer at Nature Canada.

Melissa Cusack Striepe is a Young Woman for Nature that first became involved with Ontario Nature, then with Nature Canada through the Young Women for Nature mentorship initiative.

She is currently a third-year student at McMaster University, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Engineering in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Sustainability. This summer she is completing an internship with the Water & Natural Environmental Department of Hatch, an engineering consulting firm in Burlington, Ontario.

From a very early age, Melissa was immersed in nature. Both Melissa’s parents are very connected to the environment, which resulted in her spending a lot of time being active and outdoors throughout her childhood and teenage years. From her experience in outdoor Kindergarten in Germany, to time spent at her family’s hobby farm, to canoe trips in Temagami and on the French River – Melissa shared that

“ [Nature] was my classroom, and it was where I learned from the very beginning.”

The Ontario Nature Youth Council came into the picture of Melissa’s life when she was in 7th grade – and wanted to attend the Ontario Nature Youth Summit. Despite not yet being in high school, Melissa was already keen to become involved and to meet others that were similarly invested in the environment.

For the next seven years, Melissa was a part of the Ontario Nature Youth Council. She partook in various projects and events in the Greater Toronto Area, and said of the experience that it was a “great opportunity to connect with people who cared about the same topics, and feeling like my concerns for the environment were real.”

It was from her active involvement in the Youth Council that Melissa was informed of Nature Canada’s Young Women for Nature mentorship initiative.  As someone that is always looking for opportunities to engage a larger network, Melissa applied for the opportunity to be a mentee, and much to her delight, was accepted.

Having moved away from her hometown to pursue a Bachelor’s of Engineering degree in Chemical Engineering at McMaster, Melissa is now occupying an advisory role for the Ontario Nature Youth Council. At the same time as she is providing guidance to the council, she has been receiving guidance from her Woman for Nature mentor for her own environmental endeavors in the engineering field.

Of the mentorship initiative, Melissa has said that some of the most valuable moments come from “ […] choosing to take those opportunities to build your network, and to build those connections that you can.”

She highlights the importance of active involvement and shares how doing so has enabled her to acquire more knowledge, learn new skills, and grow her network. Her passion for the environment and desire to learn are encouraging. Here at Nature Canada we are very excited to hear more about Melissa’s environmental endeavors in the engineering field, and to continue to see her growth within the Young Women for Nature mentorship initiative.


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