Compassionate Young Leaders You Should Get to Know: Nathan Nateras


Not many 18-year-olds can say they’ve managed a soup kitchen, but for Nathan, that’s just one of the ways he’s taken action against homelessness and poverty in his community. Beyond taking steps like organizing food drives and free art classes in the Los Angeles area, Nathan and his parents recently opened their hearts and home to a homeless family of complete strangers for six months.

Compassionate response is a way of life for Nathan who is in his third year on the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). Nathan is now a freshman at Santa Barbara College where he is already scouting out opportunities for activism and service. With support from the Jane Goodall Institute, members of the NYLC, including Nathan, receive leadership training and guidance from Roots & Shoots staff, which they then share with hundreds of thousands of Roots & Shoots members around the world as JGI youth representatives.

We spoke with Nathan to learn about what motivates him and how he came to be the compassionate leader he is.

title614737357Name: Nathan Nateras
Age: 18
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Exemplary Compassionate Leadership Skills/Traits:
Thinks Critically
Adaptable & Resilient

Roots & Shoots Projects:
Art Classes for Local Homeless
Community Park Clean-Up
Human Wellness Initiative
Food for the Homeless
NELA Healing Classroom Challenge
Fostering Pets
Recycled Planters for Highland Park

Favorite Book: Physics in Minutes by Giles Sparrow

10420086_1626967477524186_3362081511753147449_nFavorite Song: “Wonderful” by Lianne La Havas

What is your favorite Roots & Shoots project that you’ve done and why?
‘Art Classes for the Homeless’ is my favorite project not because of its success, but because its failure allowed me to grasp what the homeless community in my neighborhood really wanted. Throughout the project, I developed a stronger connection with [community members]as we had more individual and heartfelt conversations.

What inspires you to be an activist? How did you get started in this work?
I got started volunteering in 8th grade with my high school key club (service group encouraging service through leadership). Initially, my intention was to find a group that I could be a part of. Soon enough I not only fell in love with the club’s ‘ohana’ values but also the people I served with and the people [we]served. My love for service grew my first day at the soup kitchen, seeing the smiles and friendship between the people eating and serving made me happy and hopeful.

What advice do you have for other young people who want to get involved in their communities or make a difference for the world?
Our world isn’t perfect, there are a plethora of issues that need to be solved, but if we as individuals try to solve all of them we’d be stretched too thin. Explore and try to discover issues that you’re passionate about and find equally passionate people to work together to obtain the most efficient solutions.

Traits PNG copyNathan is introspective, thinks critically, and is adaptable & resilient. In fact, he possesses all of the skills and traits of a compassionate leader. Fostering these traits in young people is our way of working toward a better future — one where leaders from the playground to the boardroom make decisions that are good for people, other animals, and the environment. Read more about compassionate leadership skills and traits here.

To learn more about influential young leaders like Nathan, check out the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). Want more hands-on advice? Educators and Roots & Shoots groups can invite Nathan or another member of the NYLC to visit or Skype with their classroom/group to talk about their Roots & Shoots work and share tips for a future service campaign! Click here to learn more.

Educators, we’ve designed a free, online course to support you as you grow compassionate leaders through service learning. Join the course.


The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

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About Author

Susan Janowsky is a Jane Goodall Institute Roots & Shoots intern and current senior at Tufts University studying Art History and Anthropology with a focus on Human-Animal Interaction. On campus she is involved in Tufts Animal Welfare, Hillel, and Ski Team. Her passion for animals and conservation has led her to where she is today. Susan has been on an archeological dig in Belize, worked with camels in New York, and has a very handsome labradoodle, Pepper.