RAY Program Mentors

Each RAY Marine Conservation Fellow has the opportunity to be paired with a mentor. Mentors are well respected, innovative, and passionate individuals from across the country possessing a wealth of knowledge in a wide breadth of topics. RAY Fellows meet with their mentors periodically throughout the course of the year to hone in on their passions, skills, and strengths while broadening their knowledge of the environmental sector at large. At the end of the year, fellows will have a clearer idea of their next steps post fellowship and will have access to the support of a broad network via their mentors, supervisors, colleagues, and RAY program staff. Mentors in turn have the opportunity to grow their skills as a mentor, learn from their fellows, and further develop their networks. Interested in being considered as a mentor? Contact: info@rayconservationfellows.org 



Kevin Bryan

Kevin T. Bryan is a Senior Policy Director at the Keystone Policy Center (www.keystone.org) in Washington, DC. Kevin has fifteen years of experience working with other professionals to design, convene, and facilitate multi-party problem solving interactions to build coalitions and resolve public policy problems of mutual interest.  Most recently, Kevin has provided strategic advisement and managed policy discussions for coalitions focused on federal land management policy, climate science policy, and health care issues. 

Kevin transitions from a 10-year association with the Meridian Institute (www.merid.org), one of the leading ADR organizations in the US.  As a Senior Mediator at the Meridian Institute, Kevin helped guide policy discussions and analysis for coalitions focused on climate and energy legislation and policy, public infrastructure investment, and sustainable consumption. He has led negotiations among stakeholder groups developing consensus policy positions on the economic impacts of climate policy, renewable energy and nuclear power issues, energy technology transformation, and international governance issues.

Prior to his time at Meridian, Kevin worked as Senior Coordinator for the National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC) at RESOLVE, Inc., working to identify opportunities for the NWCC to work with individuals and stakeholder groups on wind energy issues.  Kevin has worked with federal agencies to help establish guidelines for stakeholder involvement in environmental decision making; and with local governments to address issues and develop solutions for small businesses and residents to implement energy efficiency improvements in their facilities and homes.

Kevin is a member of the Board of Trustees for Arts for the Aging, an organization in the Washington DC metropolitan area focused on providing creative aging programming for seniors in our region, particularly for vulnerable and frail seniors. Kevin is the Vice-Chairperson for Strategic Partnerships and Outreach, a role in which he works with organizations and individuals around the region to establish new connections to build AFTA's profile.  Kevin received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Howard University in 1994 and received the Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowship in 1996 while undertaking graduate work there in public administration.  Kevin was selected in 2002 as a fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) and served on that organization’s Board of Trustees from 2005-2011, including a stint as Board Chairperson from 2008-2010.   Kevin has also served as a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution’s Environment and Public Policy Section Leadership Committee. Kevin has been a Washington resident since 1988, and now lives with his wife Rosie in the city.

Belinda Chin

Belinda Chin works for the City of Seattle Parks & Recreation Department as the Recreation Program Coordinator for Sustainable Operations overseeing the Good Food Program. The Good Food Program serves youth and adults through 135 community center programs, and involving more than one million square feet of gardens and orchards. She has served in a variety of positions in Parks & Recreation, most recently as an education program supervisor with the Environmental Education and Outdoor Learning Unit. She is active in equity and environment initiatives at work and in her volunteerism. She was featured in the November-December 2014 edition of WA Trails Association magazine as a NW Explorer. Prior to Parks & Recreation, she was a science teacher with Seattle School District, an educator for Seattle City Light, an education consultant for City of Renton and served as a National Park Service ranger. 

Jonathan Essoka

Jonathan D. Essoka is an avid urban environmentalist with an interest in promoting equity and sustainability in disadvantaged communities. He has an educational and professional background in engineering and environmental science and policy.  Dr. Essoka earned his Doctorate of Philosophy in Environmental Science from Drexel University, where he researched the effects brownfields revitalization projects on environmental justice communities.  For over 15 years he has served in an engineering capacity, as an environmental consultant and as a part-time instructor at several Philadelphia-area universities. 

Dr. Essoka is employed as an engineer and scientist by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in Philadelphia. He engages his professional passion by working in environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities to develop holistic environmental solutions for their residents. This includes administering multiple regulatory programs, applying sustainability principles, fostering partnerships and promoting environmental equity to encourage comprehensive urban watershed restoration. 

In his “free” time, while not raising his young son, Dr. Essoka is co-Board Chairperson for Earth Force, a non-profit organization which “engages young people as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities now and in the future.”  Jonathan also sits on the Environmental Leadership Program’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Network Advisory Committee and contributes locally as Vice-Chairperson for Cheltenham Township’s Economic Development Task Force.

Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš

Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš used to sell fish, now she saves them. An environmental justice advocate who began her career in the commercial fishing and aquaculture fields, Marce is the Founder and Director of Azul, which works with Latinos to protect coasts and oceans. Through her work, she has helped design and implement a statewide network of marine protected areas as well as a sustainability and marketing program for local California fisheries. As a leader in the campaign to ban single-use plastic bags in California, she has worked to reduce marine pollution and protect ocean wildlife. Recently, she participated in the first Congressional roundtable on Environmental Justice on Capitol Hill, and was the principal author of a white paper on Latino Environmental Leadership lauded as “a blueprint for diversity in the Environmental Movement” by Congress member Raul Grijalva, Ranking Member of the Natural Resources House Committee.

Marce has been recognized as an “Inspiring Latina working for a cause” by Latina magazine (2014), and as a Aspen Environment Forum Scholar by the Aspen Institute (2012). She’s a founding member of the Latino Conservation Alliance, a proud graduate of the HOPE’s (Hispanas Organized for Political Equality) Leadership Institute 2013 class, and currently serves as a mentor for the RAY Marine Conservation Diversity Fellowship as well as the advisory board for the Ocean Foundation. A native of Tijuana, Mexico; Marce now makes San Francisco home. 

Damon Lofton

I am Damon Lofton, and I grew up a native of Southern New Jersey. I spent most of my youth exploring the ocean, back bays, rivers, and marshlands of our beautiful state. I learned to fish from my grandfather, which is how I began to develop an appreciation for the natural environment and all of its inhabitants. I will always cherish the memories of sitting on my grandfather’s knee flipping through animal almanacs and learning from my “pop pop” what made each animal special. My grandfather helped plant within me the seeds that led to my lifelong passion for the outdoors as well as my sense of responsibility to pass on my knowledge, passion and appreciation of our natural environment.

At 16 years of age with my first job at Tull’s Family Restaurant/ Fish Market. I worked the fleet of boats and their nets that stretched across the Delaware Bay. I learned full circle the ways of fish harvesting and mongering from the ocean, to the market, to the kitchen, and ultimately the customers’ plates. Those memories are priceless!
I have many experiences from my youth-- boating with my family, netting fish with the restaurant, and eventually captaining my own 17 ft Boston Whaler at 21 years of age. However, I recall being treated many times as an outsider, a trespasser of sorts. I was the recipient of ugly looks and language thrown my way by people that thought I did not belong because of the color of my skin. These events stayed with me, reminding me that some children and families may not have a strong enough sense of self worth to stand this negativity by people, thus letting it affect where they choose to recreate.

In recent years, I reflected carefully on my personal life, remembering that I was often called “Everybody’s Uncle Damon.” I became accustomed to inviting and taking along extra children on our family’s outdoor adventures. Whether teaching my son, daughter, nieces, nephews, friends, or neighbors to fish, kayak, camp, or hike, the outdoors brought to them new experiences and lots of joy. My life’s passions, my ability and patience to teach children, combined with my past personal experiences have led me to my purpose my vision. Kids Outdoors, Inc. was born four years ago with the mission of connecting children from stressed communities to the natural environment. By providing affordable access and supervised instruction, we promote outdoor recreation. Children learn new activities alongside environmental stewardship.