Cindy Chang is the executive director of Groundwork Denver and has served the organization in various roles since 2010, including as a volunteer, Board, and staff member. She has a background in nonprofit management and philanthropy, and she has a deep passion for the environment. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the Yale School of Management and a Masters in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Cindy also earned her B.A. at Tufts University. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, walking, and her two cats.
Did you grow up around water? Where? What are your fondest early memories of rivers, lakes, or streams?
Yes, I grew up in the Midwest in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The translation of Fond du Lac is foot of the lake. My fondest memories are fishing with my dad, catching trout, and taking them home to eat. It was a wonderful bonding experience with my dad and we had a great time being outdoors. I spent a lot of time on Lake Michigan.
Did any of these early experiences inform your decision to become a conservationist?
I always loved the outdoors. Spending time in the outdoors near water gave me more of an appreciation for how important it is to take care of land and water. Since an early age I was an environmentalist. I remember begging my parents for a recycling bin before it was the thing to do. I was always the kid who had her champion cause of the environment. What was really great was learning that I could have a career in conservation, that folks can do this professionally. At Groundwork Denver we do a lot of youth employment and I feel like I am doing my part in helping them realize that you can get paid to protect the environment.
Why is protecting rivers and water important to you now?
Now that I call Colorado home, I understand that the West is in a water crisis. The issue affects everyone, especially people who are in vulnerable situations already. With climate change this will be a much bigger problem in the future. I see it as my responsibility to do whatever I can to make sure we have enough water and clean water for future generations.
What does being a part of River Network mean to you?
I think the word “network” is so strongly felt, especially at Groundwork Denver. We couldn’t do our work without strong partnerships. River Network brings a whole ton of resources—expertise from around the country, funding opportunities, and other resources that help us do our jobs well. Our River Network membership has been important to our water program.
What water-related accomplishment are you most proud of?
Groundwork Denver has a youth employment program called the Blue Team. They have inspired the rest of our community with their passion for water. I am most proud of their passion, which has led them to educate their communities about why water is important. They are leading the way in doing what they can now so that future generations can have clean water.
What positive changes would you like to see for water in your community over the next 10 years?
I would like to see our water be clean enough for people to recreate in it year-round. That means reducing e-coli levels and creating a place that is both safe and healthy for everyone. The second goal is making clean water a priority for everyone in the community. We are making headway with youth, and they are making headway in their communities.