Meet Our Team
Meet our dedicated staff and board of directors, who work tirelessly to ensure that our project leaders and students are equipped with the knowledge and tools to preserve our planet.
Amy Higgs, Executive Director
As a kid, Amy developed a love for nature from her woodsy dad on a lake in Maine. From her mom, a teacher, Amy saw how educators can shape lives. In college, Amy put these passions together co-teaching environmental education in elementary schools with her now-husband. At the University of Michigan, Amy got Masters Degrees in Education Leadership and in Natural Resource Management. She managed an international network of environmental educators at Conservation International, co-founded the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network, and was Vice-President of a community engagement firm. Ten years ago, she became an Eco-School Network parent volunteer, where she was motivated to make change by an inspiring community. Now she gets to care for that community each day. Amy plans and oversees programs, raises funds, and builds relationships for the Network. After work, she is a sometimes-successful handy-person, a scrappy crafter, mediocre pianist, and with her husband and teen kids, a weekend chaser of water, snowflakes, and sunsets.
Rachel Willis, Program Manager
Rachel calls several places “home” – the piedmont of North Carolina, the foothills of the French Pyrénées, northwestern Pennsylvania, and now Portland. She has a deep love for this earth, which has guided her studies and professional life. She holds a BS from Allegheny College in Environmental Science, and a MS from Portland State University in Leadership for Sustainability Education. Rachel has spent the last 10 years advancing sustainability in K-12 schools and on college campuses, and she comes alive when she works with changemakers encouraging us to rethink our relationship to our environment. At the Eco-School Network, Rachel leads outreach and recruitment, facilitates leader trainings, supports our leaders, manages operations, and advances equity. Outside of work, Rachel loves backpacking, taking cold plunges in the ocean, dreaming about Pedalpalooza, testing new recipes, and has recently started embroidering and playing with watercolors.
Celeste Lewis, Volunteer Program Coordinator
Celeste grew up in an Air force family, living in six states and two foreign countries. In high school, she had the good fortune to work with the Youth Conservation Corps in the Oakanogan National Forest, creating hiking trails and reconstructing a “log-cabin” county courthouse. This experience, along with family camping trips, would leave an indelible love of the out-of-doors. After receiving her Bachelor of Architecture from Washington State University, she settled in Portland and started her own architecture firm, which she led for 20 years. With the birth of her daughter, she reconnected with her passion for living closer to nature. She completed the Center for Earth Leadership’s Agent of Change training, and joined the Eco-School Network, leading the Green Team at her daughter’s school. As a Master Recycler and a LEED accredited professional, Celeste continues to advocate for sustainable solutions everywhere.
Karina Hershberg Mershon
Karina moved to Oregon as a baby when her parents decided to head west towards the trees, mountains and coast of the Northwest. She’s couldn’t imagine calling any other place home. Karina is an electrical engineer at PAE whose work focuses on advancing sustainable design practices in the building industry. She took the Agent of Change class and has been involved with the Center for Earth Leadership and now the Eco-School Network ever since. As a parent of three young children, Karina enjoys helping them discover and appreciate the beauty, power and wisdom of the natural world. During the occasional moments when she isn’t designing innovative Living Buildings or wiping schmutz off little faces, she loves to read books about permaculture, women environmental leaders and hopeful visions of the future.
Mary Lynn O’Brien
Mary Lynn grew up on the East Coast, calling Boston home but moved to Portland in 1974. She was a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente for over 20 years, and considered it an honor to be a part of so many children’s and families’ lives. When she semi-retired in the early 2000s she became the first Chair of Stand for Children and worked important issues like school nutrition. This passion to enhance children’s health by improving nutrition that led her to the Eco-School Network. She has 13 grandchildren (including step grandkids), who keep her active! Mary Lynn’s activities with them include hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, and cheering them on from the sidelines at their sporting events.
Ann hails from the Pacific Northwest, and our region’s natural resources and schools have each played instrumental roles in her life. Although she has always loved being in nature and learning, Ann looks back at the opportunity to attend outdoor school in sixth grade as an experience that cemented her understanding of how schools can contribute to a lifelong appreciation for the environment. Now a corporate attorney with Perkins Coie, Ann was serving on the executive committee of the Oregon State Bar’s Sustainable Future Section when she first learned about the Eco-School Network. In serving on the Eco-School Network Board of Directors, Ann helps create opportunities similar to the one she had – for younger generations to learn about sustainability and the environment. In her spare time, Ann can be found exploring the region’s trails, whether in the rain, snow, or sunshine like a true Oregonian!
Dharshini spent her childhood in Africa where she feasted on the outdoors and the books of the naturalist, Gerald Durrell. This early love of all things nature-related led to a resolve to protect the environment in all its forms. Her family has invested in a solar roof, drive electric cars, and strive to live a plastic-free lifestyle. While a parent at Forest Park elementary, she helped set up the school’s first lunch recycling and composting program and when her son moved on to the French American School, she co-led the school’s Green Team and became involved with the Eco-School Network, where she currently serves as Board Treasurer. Her education in finance and previous career in corporate banking make this position a natural fit. Her interests include gardening, hiking, and traveling the world with her family.
Jeanne is a life-long Oregonian who became passionate about the environment in 1970 after seeing a photo of Earth from space. She worked several years on air quality issues and then on waste reduction, founding Recycling Advocates and writing a reduce, reuse, recycle column. In the 1990s, she and her husband Dick founded the Northwest Earth Institute, which offered discussion courses to motivate citizens to be leaders in forging a sustainable future, and The Oregon Natural Step Network, which had a similar mission for businesses. In the 2000s, they founded the Center for Earth Leadership, which developed the Agent of Change training and spawned the Eco-School Network. Understanding the importance of children spending time in nature, Jeanne worked with co-board members Celeste Lewis and Briggy Thomas to keep making Outdoor School available to all Portland sixth-graders. Her favorite activity of all time is backpacking in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Julie Young Shulga
Julie was born in Tacoma, WA. Her father was in the Air Force and when she was three he was stationed to Johnston Island, an atoll in the Pacific. It was a mile long and had an air strip, one palm tree, and a quonset hut for the school. After three years the family returned to Tacoma, then to Portland, and finally to a five-acre plot in Beaverton. She grew up learning about organic gardening from her parents and she has an extensive garden, and no grass – just flowers and vegetables. When she attended the launch of the Eco School Network she was thrilled to learn that she could focus her volunteer time supporting such a powerful program when she retired from her career as Executive Director of Chess for Success and other nonprofits. Julie loves to take long walks in the woods, bicycle the Vernonia Trail, cook with her husband, and play with her grandkids and her four dwarf goats.
Alan is a registered architect and sustainability enthusiast with over 33 years of professional experience. After spending the early part of his career in traditional design practice, for the past 20 years he has served as a sustainability and building performance consultant for built environment projects throughout the Americas. As a teacher and facilitator, he has presented at workshops and conferences on three continents and served on the U.S. Green Building Council LEED Faculty. Alan is currently a Senior Consultant with the Intertek Building Science Solutions team: he explores the intersections of sustainability, wellness, and resilience in the design and operation of buildings and communities. In addition to the Eco-School Network, Alan serves on the boards of Solar Oregon and the Design Museum Portland. He volunteered on Winterhaven School’s Parent Teacher and Student Association board for 12 years. And although it never seems to happen often enough, he enjoys hiking and biking with his two daughters.
Gerald was born in Chicago and graduated from PSU in criminology and history. He received his MA in Education in Madison, Wisconsin. With teaching certificates in social studies and special education, he has been in public education for ten years at the secondary level. He is currently teaching AP Human Geography and US History at Grant High School. There, he volunteers as a co-organizer of the Environmental Justice Club. Last year, he led his student Climate Justice Club to Salem to lobby for stronger diesel standards. Gerald joined the Eco-School Network board to work on broadening the diversity of people who have access to sustainable practices in our schools and at home. He is also a certified yoga teacher, instructing at Flex and Flow in North Portland and mentoring people through other health and wellness programs. He enjoys trail running in Forest Park and traveling with his wife and two children, who attend Portland Public Schools.
Briggy grew up in rural Wisconsin in a log house surrounded by corn fields, lakes, prairies, and forests. A biology degree from Lewis and Clark led her to fascinating jobs including inventorying cloud forest birds in Ecuador and teaching science at Outdoor School. Her next job at the Portland Water Bureau, leading tours and doing field work in the Bull Run Watershed, turned into a multiple-decade career, sharing Portland’s amazing drinking water story with school kids and adults. When Outdoor School was cut from Portland schools’ budget, she and Jeanne Roy spent hours of quality time together fundraising for the program. She is proud to serve on the Network board and support school communities in changing the world, one school at a time. What she loves: birds, swimming in lakes, old things, road trips, and spending time with friends and family, especially her home full of boys—her husband and two sons.
Sarah Brody Webb
Sarah grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and moved west to attend Stanford University. She worked in the tech industry in Silicon Valley for more than a decade before stepping out of the corporate world to focus on raising three children (now 22, 20, and 17.) During that time her family relocated to Portland (more trees, less traffic) and she has had a love affair with the PNW ever since. She soon took the “Agent of Change” class and got involved with the Center for Earth Leadership, starting a green team at Bridlemile and then co-teaching Eco-School Network classes and mentoring parent leaders. Sarah is a violinist with the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra, where she has also served on the board, and has recently started acting and modeling. She is an avid hiker and is learning to ride horses (English) alongside her daughter who is a show jumper.