Environmental Volunteers Executive Director Allan Berkowitz will leave his position effective June 30 after 17 years. His resignation, he said, will give the organization "opportunity for new leadership and new energies."
Environmental Volunteers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating elementary school students in the Bay Area on the environment and environment-related issues. Established in 1972 by a group of local mothers alarmed by the environmental impacts in the bay, the organization trains its 100 volunteers to teach natural science through over 500 classroom programs and 125 field trips. Each year, approximately 10,000 students participate in its curriculum, and 60 schools in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties receive its services.
Under Berkowitz, Environmental Volunteers received a Tall Tree Award as well as a Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, doubled its budget and increased its number of learners by 50 percent.
As executive director, Berkowitz successfully oversaw a number of projects. He led the organization in a $3.8 million capital campaign to renovate the Sea Scout Base into the EcoCenter, a "state-of-the-art public nature center in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve," according to the Environmental Volunteers website. He also facilitated the organization's Transportation Fund, which underwrites the cost of bus transportation for low-income Bay Area students so that they can attend science and environment-related field trips. The fund has sponsored 42,345 students since 2011.
His legacy includes Environmental Volunteers' Collaboration Model, a partnership between organizations, educators and funders. Berkowitz said he was inspired 12 years ago to connect nonprofit science-education organizations in a consortium that would deliver coordinated programs to local schools.
"Our collaboration work and the fact that it has ... increased science learning hours in local schools is something I'm very, very proud of," he said.
Marketing and Communications Director Kristi Moos Wilson described Berkowitz as "truly one of a kind because of his commitment to the cause."
"He really believes that our program can make a difference, so his commitment has allowed him to expand our programming to what it is today," she said. "It's a tall order to find someone so dedicated to making anything and everything happen in order for our program to flourish."
The organization has begun the search for an interim executive director, who will serve six to 12 months and assist in making the transition of leadership as smooth as possible. The board is currently lining up candidates and will hold interviews in June.
The recruitment of Berkowitz's permanent successor, who Wilson said must be able to "champion our values of inclusion, diversity" and environmental education, will officially begin after the interim director is hired.
Once he leaves Environmental Volunteers, Berkowitz will continue to pursue personal interests, including environmental work, equity in education and social justice issues. He said he will miss the community of volunteers and "the awesome dedication and commitment that they bring" as well as "the integrity and excellence of the organization."
"This is an organization that I love and ... I want the organization to thrive," he said. "If there's anything I can do, I'm committed to doing that, whether I'm on the payroll or not, whether it's six months from now or 10 years."