The Future of SAF: Kalaia Tripeaux

February 5, 2020

Continuing with profiles of up-and-coming SAF members, this month The Forestry Source features Kalaia Tripeaux. Tripeaux is a second-year dual-master’s student of natural Resources and human dimensions of natural resources in the environment at Pennsylvania State University; she received an undergraduate degree from Southern University and A&M College in urban forestry. Tripeaux joined the student chapter at Southern University and A&M College in 2017 and was a SAF Student Diversity Ambassador in 2017.

In her own words, Tripeaux shares how her parents inspired her to care for nature and why she’s passionate about communicating nature’s value to others

Kalaia Tripeaux: The Value of Communication in Forestry
By Kalaia Tripeaux

How I developed an appreciation for the outdoors

As a small-town girl, born and raised in Baton Rouge, I grew up surrounded by the mighty Mississippi River; partaking in delicious authentic Cajun, Creole, and seafood dishes; participating in lively multicultural festivities such as Mardi Gras; and seeing firsthand Louisiana’s “Sportsman’s Paradise” that drives the economy. All of this afforded me the opportunity to encounter and become a part of the landscape of Louisiana.

For as long as I can remember, I have been exposed to the outdoors. One of my earliest memories is picking pecans and tomatoes with my grandfather. My parents encouraged my brother and me to explore the outdoors by visiting parks, participating in outdoor sports, and keeping the environment clean by recycling. Those opportunities made me appreciate the beauty of the outdoors and its offerings.

All of these experiences were positive; however, there are also drastic and negative downsides to Louisiana’s nature. The state is prone to natural disasters—hurricanes, flooding, and tornados. Many families lose everything—their homes, cars, clothes, and even loved ones—to these natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina significantly damaged not only New Orleans, but Louisiana as a whole. Once I had firsthand experience of both the positive and negative effects of nature, I was determined to be a part of the agriculture profession, to teach and assist others with learning and coping with nature and the environment to either prevent or reduce tragedy.

Marrying my strengths with forestry

I have been told I am a natural with people, and I enjoy working with diverse groups and finding the best ways to communicate. I credit my parents for teaching me effective communication skills through honesty and compassion for others’ needs, wants, and thoughts. Both of them are in careers that require daily interactions with people, as well as good communication skills and patience. Since these skills were a part of my daily life, I just knew that I would follow the beaten path of a career in education or healthcare. However, I was encouraged by my dad to “try something different.” 

The summer after graduating high school, I attended Southern University and A&M College’s (SU) Beginning Agricultural Youth Opportunities Unlimited (BAYOU) Program, and I was exposed to opportunities in agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and related disciplines. I was fascinated with the endless possibilities that these fields offered. With my outgoing personality and ability to bring out the best in everyone I interact with, I thought it would be worthwhile to explore the social/human dimensions aspect of urban forestry.

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