• jungle trees

    Difference Maker Mentors

    10-month leadership positions for UConn undergraduate students. As Difference Maker Mentors, undergraduate students serve as program leaders of the CAP field experience and near-peer mentors to CAP teens.

About Difference Maker Mentors

Difference Maker Mentors are UConn undergraduate students passionate about...

  • Authentic community engagement
  • Culturally relevant environmental education and mentorship of teens
  • Environmental issues relevant to local communities

Difference Maker Mentors act as program leaders and near peer-mentors in our Conservation Ambassador Program. The goals of the NRCA DMM program are to:

  • Elevate diverse voices in CAP leadership
  • Support near-peer role models that promote teens’ STEM self efficacy and interests
  • Provide a pathway for CAP teens to continue their involvement in community conservation in a leadership capacity


DMM Pathway

The four elements below comprise the Difference Maker Mentor pathway.


Potential DMMs begin by enrolling in the Community Engagement for Environmental Action spring course (NRE 1250 sec 01) on authentic community engagement, culturally-relevant environmental education & mentorship, and critical community science and local environmental action.


DMMs then put their course skills and knowledge into action by co-facilitating the summer CAP field experience under the guidance of NRCA faculty and graduate student. DMMs help with CAP logistics, support CAP instructors, lead a subgroup of CAP teens, and lead 1-2 activities.


Following the CAP field experience, each DMM helps a small group of high school students as they design, develop and implement a local environmental action tailored to their interests and community needs. DMMs co-mentor teens from July to March along with an adult community partner.


DMMs help their CAP mentees prepare for and present their local environmental action projects at a showcase event each spring. This is typically done as part of a professional conference, making it an excellent learning and networking experience for both the teens and DMMs.

group session

Upcoming Events

Date Event
May 13, 2022 Application Due

Complete this short online application

May 20, 2022 Applicants Notified of Acceptance

Sent to your email used in application

June 1, 2022 Enrollment Forms Due

Mailed to your address used in application

Current DMMs

Alexandra Blas

4th Year
Allied Health Sciences

Paige Booth

3rd Year
Environmental Science

Aalyah Contreras

4th Year
Human Development & Family Sciences

Adriana Garcia Vazquez

3rd Year
Cognitive Science

Andy Zhang

2nd Year
Environmental Science and Economics

Ready to Join or Want to Learn More?

We are looking for undergrads from diverse majors and backgrounds who are interested in mentoring teens, working collaboratively on projects that benefit local communities and environments, and implementing culturally-relevant, equitable and inclusive environmental practices.


If you are ready to join, first enroll in the 2023 spring course, NRE 4695 (section 003): Leadership in Community-Based Conservation (1-credit). Preview the 2023 course syllabus. Contact Dr. Laura Cisneros at laura.cisneros@uconn.edu, if you have any questions or need a permission number.


If you want to learn more, join one of our info sessions by adding your name and email to the link below.


Past NRCA Interns and DMMs

Difference Maker Mentors

We've had the pleasure of integrating seven fantastic UConn undergraduate students as leaders in our NRCA program as Difference Maker Mentors (DMM). Each DMM mentored high school students as they carried out community-based environmental action projects. In addition, DMMs also lead a variety of other side projects and programs, including co-facilitating Urban Forestry Workshops in collaboration with Keney Park Sustainability Project and creating resources and materials such as this Camera Trap Reference Guide.

students stand in front of large ant sculpture 

Name Major Term
2022-23 Cohort (see team here)
Leilani Durate Natural Resources June 2022-April 2023
Leah Gichuru Molecular & Cellular Biology June 2022-April 2023
Ilana Goldner Ecology & Evolutionary Biology June 2022-April 2023
Erin Mckeehan Economics & Environmental Studies June 2022-April 2023
Sydney Seldon Environmental Science & Environmental Policy June 2022-April 2023
2021-22 Cohort
Celine Agbotey Applied Mathematics June 2021-May 2022
Michio Agresta Natural Resources, Human Rights & Spanish minor June 2021-May 2022
Margaret Sanders Natural Resources, Human Rights minor June 2021-May 2022
Caitlin Daddona Environmental Science June 2021-October 2022


NRCA Student Leaders

NRCA Student Leaders include UConn undergraduates who work on a variety of short-term and/or specific projects, including helping to prepare research manuscripts, co-designing future programs with community stakeholder input, and creating and organizing our database of participant conservation projects that now span 10 years.

students in front of sign

Name Major Term
Abigail Bar Mathematics June 2022-August 2022
Chelcy Htoo Human Development & Family Studies March 2022-August 2022
Honore Munyaneza Health Care Management March 2022-May 2022
Emma Morgan Natural Resources January 2022-May 2022
Tamashi Hettiarachchi Education - Curriculum & Instruction January 2022-May 2022
Sydney Collins Environmental Science June 2020-August 2020


Difference Maker Interns

Difference Maker Interns are NRCA alumni who are currently enrolled as UConn undergraduate students. Difference Maker Interns return to the Academy to help foster the NRCA experience for current students and contribute to NRCA program efforts. During the summer term, DMs serve as interns in the Conservation Ambassador Program's field experience. DMs work behind the scenes to make the field experience a success, support program activities, and aid in planning and execution. During the semester, they focus on participant engagement and science communication. DMs choose their focus area and contribute to significant initiatives, such as managing the NRCA's social media presence, creating multimedia content, communicating with current NRCA participants, and aiding in recruitment for NRCA programs.

Name Major Term
Margaret Sanders Natural Resources, Human Rights minor June 2020-May 2021
Tianna Felder Business Management & Marketing September 2019-May 2021
AJ Barthel Environmental Studies January 2020-May 2020
Amanda Hernandez Statistics September 2019-December 2019
Maggie Chafouleas Environmental Science & Journalism January 2019-August 2019
Ricky Moore Natural Resources January 2019-August 2019
Mari Cullerton Environmental Science June 2018-August 2018
Jenique Blair New Media Studies June 2018-August 2018
Hannah Curran Environmental Science September 2018-December 2018
Kenechi Nkwo Human Development and Family Studies September 2018-December 2018


Program Funding


NRCA’s Difference Maker Mentors (DMM) program is currently supported by a generous 5-year donation from the original private family foundation and from a grant (WAMS-2021-38503-34817) from the USDA Women & Minorities in STEM Fields. Additional support was provided to Dr. Cisneros through the NAAEE CEE-Change Fellowship. a partnership between ee360 and Cedar Tree Foundation to support leadership and innovation in civics and environmental education across North America.

Support future Difference Maker Mentors