Ab graduated from Hennepin Technical College with a certificate in Urban Forestry. Before that, they completed a B.A. in Interpersonal Communications at the University of Minnesota. Ab has a background working in retail greenhouses as well as for the Conservation Corps. Their passions include plant identification, going to art museums, seeing plays at local theatres, and spending time with their loved ones.
Alayna graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences, Policy & Management and a minor in Sustainable Agriculture. After graduation, she worked as a Youth Education Intern for Growing North Minneapolis, where she mentored Northside teens on the importance of growing food in their communities. Alayna’s primary passions surround understanding, and sharing to others, the healing power of nature; this is exactly why Alayna is thrilled to be serving as a Greencorps member at Metro Blooms.
Aleli has a Bachelor of Arts in History of Ideas from Williams College. She has experience as a freelance writer, newspaper reporter and in publishing. Working for Metro Blooms has opened her eyes to the importance of the natural spaces in our urban environment. She has a great appreciation for the way Metro Blooms engages individuals to take action in their own backyards and motivates communities to work together to improve their landscapes.
Rebecca (Becky) Rice served as Executive Director of Metro Blooms starting in December 2007, and as President of Metro Blooms Design + Build starting in March 2021, until May 9, 2022, when she stepped back to direct the Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water program. She has an undergraduate degree in Business Finance and graduate work toward an MBA from the Carlson School of Management. She has a background in fund development and finance, with more than twenty five years in nonprofit management. Becky built her first raingarden after a neighbor shared the information he’d received at a Metro Blooms raingarden workshop. During her tenure as executive director, Metro Blooms has received multiple awards for citizen engagement, environmental initiatives, environmental excellence, and work with neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities Metro area.
Chris graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Master of Landscape Architecture, class of 2021. He also has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Nairobi, Kenya. Before relocating to the United States, he ran a landscape design-build company in Kenya. Chris is interested in green infrastructure and how it can be a critical component in climate change adaptation and resilience.
Deborah has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and has completed post-grad work with licenses in Special Education and Family Education. She joined the Metro Blooms team in 2008. She has 30+ years of experience as an educator in public and private settings and formerly worked full time for the St. Paul Public Schools as a Special Ed teacher. Her background serves her well in collaborating with team members and responding to staff and client needs. She was inspired by Metro Blooms to install a raingarden on her property. She enjoys outdoor activities, has interests in music and yoga, and sings in a community chorus.
Jacqueline discovered Metro Blooms through a community engagement project in partnership with the University of Minnesota, where she was a student. She studied marketing at the UMN Carlson School of Management, graduating in May of 2022. Jacqueline is a creative with a background in art, digital media, and communications. She specializes in digital marketing with a focus on strategy and accessibility. When she is not working, she enjoys cuddling with her two dogs, painting, and enjoying nature. She hopes to continue to grow in her role at Metro Blooms and help amplify Metro Bloom’s mission.
Jaiden is a senior in high school and a North Minneapolis resident. She became an environmental and social justice advocate to make communities of color more aware and more educated on climate change. In her free time she loves planting trees and traveling the world. She can’t wait to continue to make a difference within her community.
Jennifer has a Bachelor’s Degree in Plant Science + Sustainable Agriculture from Cornell University and a Masters of Landscape Architecture from North Carolina State University. She has worked on merging ecological and aesthetic principles in site design for 16 years, including commercial and public projects at CLH Design in Raleigh, NC, as well as stormwater-focused residential and commercial design in North Carolina and Minnesota. Her work at Metro Blooms combines her passions for plants and planting design with engaging and educating people about creating resilient and beautiful landscapes. Jen leads the design team at Metro Blooms Design+Build, ensuring that equity principles are incorporated throughout company culture and projects. She has a strong passion for this work, leading design on numerous affordable housing projects, ensuring that design processes and implementation center resident voice, values and needs.
John graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. with majors in International and Environmental Studies and Philosophy. He worked as an educator in the Mid-Atlantic region for a few years—savoring every opportunity to help students draw connections between themselves and a greater world—before joining Metro Blooms as a Minnesota GreenCorps member in 2015. John enjoys reading, cooking, fixing things, every sort of people-powered movement, and the way atmosphere and stellar bodies play together to paint the sky. He is a certified Minnesota Water Steward.
Laila is a senior at Robbinsdale Cooper High School lives in North Minneapolis. She’s been interested in environmental justice and social justice for almost four years because she loves to know what’s going on in her community. Because she’s a member of the BIPOC community, she think it’s important to learn about these things that are not taught in school. In 10 years she hopes to be in a teaching career, and maybe to open a safe place for kids and teens to hang out in and provide things they don’t have at home. A fun fact about her is that she loves to travel.
Laura became President + Executive Director in May 2022, after 10 years serving in other roles at Metro Blooms, most recently as Associate Director + Director of Fund Development. She first joined the organization in 2012 as a MN GreenCorps member. She has a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology from the University of Minnesota, as well as a minor in Spanish Studies. Learning on the job, she combines a deep understanding of green infrastructure design, implementation, and care with a community-centric approach, fostering the expansion of supportive relationships to heal our earth. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, spending time at the lake and camping with her family.
Makayla is a high school senior and a resident of North Minneapolis. Her passion is environmental justice and becoming a leader in the movement. She is an apprentice in Youth N’Power, a community organizing program working through the lens of environmental justice. Working with Metro Blooms is a great opportunity for her to be engaged in her community and make new connections, and also to add bioswales, gardens and trees in her neighborhood, and more.
Mike graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Bachelor’s degrees in Botany and Conservation. He spent several years with the US Forest service in California conducting botanical surveys near Yosemite NP, before moving to the Twin Cities and starting a small landscaping company. Mike joined Metro Blooms in 2017 and is also currently working on a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota. He can usually be found in the garden with his chickens during free time.
Nikolai Fjelstad De Santiago
Rich Harrison is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Minnesota. His work focuses on sustainable design, place making, and community development. Rich has worked on water quality issues for 21 years, including research at Mankato State University, working for the Met Council studying non-point source pollution, and research at University of MN focusing on transit-oriented development and organic Infrastructure. For Rich, on-site treatment of stormwater is the best way to prevent pollution and preserve our precious water resources, and he has focused his career on design. Rich believes that education and facilitating the understanding of how our actions impact our natural environment is critical to successful design.
Taj recently graduated high school and loves to longboard around the city. He discovered Metro Blooms through the Step Up work-readiness training program in 2019 and returned for a second season in 2021. He loves the fine detail work of beautifying raingardens and planting. Taj grew up in Minneapolis and loves working to make the rivers and lakes healthier.’
Yirga is currently a junior at Hopkins High School and is graduating in June of 2023. He has completed a sustainable landcare training program with Blue Thumb. Yirga has taken advanced math and science courses and wants to study engineering in college. Yirga is interested in the biology of plants and environmental justice. When he is not working, he enjoys cuddling with his dog, bingeing shows, playing lacrosse, and listening to podcasts. He hopes to learn more about plants and learn about environmental justice and equity while working with Metro Blooms.