20 Under 40: Mike Loots connects kids with nature
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As a child, all Mike Loots wanted to do was be outside. Now, as Yampatika’s youth program coordinator, that’s exactly what he gets to do all day.
“I get just as excited looking under rocks as the kiddos I’m out there with,” he said. “I think that’s the best part of my job – I just get to be a big kid in the woods.”
When: 5 to 7 p.m. July 26
Where: Haymaker Patio Grill
Cost: $35, $15 for Young Professionals Network members
Loots started at Yampatika last summer, leading the nonprofit’s summer camp of about 90 campers. He then moved into his current full-time role that involves managing all of Yampatika’s environmental education programs, including its environmental literacy program, which is offered for free to all schools in the area, reaching nearly 2,000 students around Routt County.
“Mike is a passionate educator who has a unique ability to inspire and engage children to learn about their role in the environment and their influence as stewards of the land,” said Yampatika Executive Director Joe Haines. “His passion and commitment are infectious as he teaches about the abundant natural resources we have here in the Yampa Valley.”
Proof of this is in the fact that after Loots’ first summer running the camp, the number of registered campers grew by 42 percent, nearly doubling the camp’s revenue for the organization and increasing scholarships by 50 percent.
Parents across the community sing his praises.
“His energy, enthusiasm and sense of humor keep the kids engaged and learning,” said Angela Martorano. “We are so fortunate to have Mike and Yampatika programs in our schools and community.”
Loots said his favorite part of his job is being connected to the community. And he’s connected beyond his role at Yampatika as well.
Loots volunteers once a week at Integrated Community, tutoring a local couple in English.
“It’s also improving my Spanish skills,” he said. “I like that it’s focused on connections in the community. These people could use an app to learn English, but when they connect with another member of the community, they learn about different events and hear about what’s going on in town.”
In his free time, Loots can be found out in the forest or up on Emerald Mountain.
“That’s a huge draw for Steamboat — the immediacy of access to public lands,” Loots said.
He’s also recently discovered rugby.
“It’s been really cool to find a community of young men and also not-so-young men who like to get together and have something fun and physical and constructive to do,” Loots said. “It’s really a great community of people all over the state and really all over the nation.”
And for Loots, it’s all about community.
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