Zachary Robinson is a visionary leader, developing businesses and collectives that deliver solutions on today’s environmental and educational issues. He enjoys working with action-oriented youth and inspired industry professionals to forge paths that create positive change in individuals, families, communities and the world environment.
Zach was a founding board member of Spark-Y. He transitioned to Operations Director in 2012 and Executive Director in 2013, growing Spark-Y from an educational prototype to a thriving organization that provides programming and internships for over 600 youth annually. Zach infuses real-world sustainable entrepreneurship into his role as Executive Director, drawing on his experience as Vice President of Green Circuit, a top 100 commercial solar company he co-founded in 2007.
In his spare time, Zach enjoys mythology, climbing, alternative history, personal development study and traveling with his wife, Emma. He studies and teaches Aikido at Midwest Center for Movement, where he achieved the rank of Shodan in 2012.
Zach studied at the University of MN Duluth, the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, and graduated with honors from Indiana University, Kelly School of Business, with a B.S. in Business Management.
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Sam was first exposed to the Sustainability movement at Wheaton College in Illinois, where he studied Economics and Philosophy with a focus in agricultural development. Learning about aquaponics soon thereafter, he travelled to China to install a greenhouse in a rural mountain village. Returning with this experience, Sam joined Spark-Y in the Summer of 2014, working with schools and agricultural systems in a variety of roles and is now the Operations Director. In early 2016, Sam led the charge to bring to fruition our biggest project to date, the Urban Ag Lab. In his spare time, he will often be found fishing, cooking, or raising quail!
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Captivated by the the natural world, Rhiannon pursued a doctorate researching ecology and biogeography at UNSW Australia. But academia just wasn’t satisfying her drive to improve scientific literacy and environmental awareness in the wider community. She joined Spark-Y because she believes strongly in the power of education in empowering young people, and as a key step in the right direction for the sustainability of our way of life. She loves flowers, to grow and to cook food, and to explore this city she now calls home.
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Joe studied Art and Biology at the University of Minnesota and has
spent his time since graduation trying to bridge the gap between those two worlds. Through a series of internships, volunteer opportunities and certification processes, Joe has come to think that urban agriculture is that bridge! He finds the practices and ideologies of permaculture to be a lovely conglomerate of regenerative ecological efforts and functional design. Joe joined Spark-Y in the summer of 2015 and worked with a team to create custom-designed permaculture landscapes for GastroTruck (a local partner and food truck!). Joe has also been instrumental in the creation of the Urban Ag Lab here at Spark-Y. In his free time, Joe is adventurous and thereby aroma-rich (often describing himself as smelling like a dog rolled in mint leaves that has been feasting on garlic and coffee). Molly, his dog, approves.
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Jessica has been working with Spark-Y since she completed the Summer internship in 2014. With her background in restaurant work, she assisted Spark-Y in starting up their micro greens business, generating another stream of revenue for the non-profit. Her role since then has evolved to Education and Marketing Facilitator due to her interest in youth programming about sustainability, and her passion for empowering students to change their community. She graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a degree in Wildlife Biology. In her free time, Jessica loves to camp, garden, and hang out with her aussie/german shepherd mutt, Phoebe (and her newest pooch, Pablo).
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Elizabeth discovered her passion for sustainability while studying social justice, peace, and development at an institution in Southern India. Those values were strengthened by the completion of her majors in Environmental Studies and Political Science at Gustavus Adolphus College followed by a year living in an intentional Lutheran Volunteer Corps community. Before joining Spark-Y in 2015, Elizabeth worked for a Minneapolis neighborhood farmers market and a wildlife advocacy organization. She is thrilled to have joined Spark-Y and to be part of an organization empowering youth, promoting sustainable living, and fostering community here in the Twin Cities! In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys hiking, gardening, cooking, and settling Catan with friends.
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Destiny Ziebol is a graduate from Knox College with degrees in Biology and German. After completing a senior research project in genetics, she has continued to peruse her love of science though volunteering for the Bell Museum of Natural History as a specimen preparer and exploring DIY biology in her own time. Since joining Spark-Y in April 2013, she has created the biology lab in Spark-Y headquarters with the help of the 2013 summer interns, helped develop and execute workshops, and been promoted to Lab Director. She currently spends her time maintaining the Spark Youth lab systems and leading research initiatives to create learning tools and improve urban agriculture development practices.
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Miranda has been working with Spark-Y since being a HECUA intern in the fall of 2014. She is an education facilitator during the school year and was the Aquaponics SEL team leader over the summer. She will graduate from the University of Minnesota in May 2016 with a bachelor of arts degree in environmental geography and minors in climatology and sustainability studies.
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Caitlin is an undergraduate student at The University of Minnesota, studying Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture. She enjoys growing food in an environmentally friendly way, and would like to share the importance of a sustainable food system with everyone. Caitlin was a Spark-Y 2015 summer intern, and now works as an education facilitator. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, knitting, exploring Netflix, and spoiling her Miniature Schnauzer Sir Henry.
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Eddie first began working with Spark-Y as a student while attending one of our programs at the School of Environmental Studies! He is now the Systems Mechanic at Spark-Y, and is responsible for both the biological and mechanical wellbeing of our various agricultural systems. In his spare time, Eddie loves being active, and is often found outdoors or working on his truck. His favorite part of working with Spark-Y is building things and changing peoples’ lives.
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Ayan brings aquaponics, nutrition, and vegetable cultivation expertise to Spark-Y. As the systems engineer, he maintains and perfects the workings of our sustainable systems on a daily basis. Ayan received training in aquaponics and urban agriculture in 2009 in Chicago with Growing Power, a nationally renowned urban agriculture organization. Ayan graduated from Hamline University with a degree in Business Management, and certification from the French Culinary Institute in New York. Ayan is currently the Assistant Executive Chef and Lead Sous Chef with A’viands Catering.
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