For most college students the demands of classes, homework, clubs and activities is more than enough to stay busy. But while still a student at Washington University in St. Louis, Nadav Sprague (Bernard Zell Class of 2009) decided to add to his already ambitious academic schedule by starting his own non-profit, Gateway to the Great Outdoors. Founded in 2015, GGO works to provide underserved students with equitable access to comprehensive environmental education, and now just four years since the organization’s founding, Nadav has successfully developed valuable partnerships with both St. Louis and Chicago Public Schools.
The spark of Nadav’s passion for the natural world was first ignited at Camp Tamakwa, the summer camp he attended for many years in Ontario’s beautiful Algonquin Park, home to a broad diversity of plant and animal life. Nadav found Tamakwa’s environment to be invigorating and he brought this passion for nature back home to Chicago.
If summer camp was where his enthusiasm for nature was sparked, it was the teachers at Bernard Zell that helped to fan the flames of this interest through tikkun olam projects and service to Jewish and broader communities.
“My passion for tikkun olam and giving back started at Bernard Zell,” said Nadav. “In 7th grade, I remember raising money for the food pantry, Maot Chitim, serving on the leadership committee and creating different fundraising initiatives. This is always something that’s stood out to me about Judaism and something that Bernard Zell really gave me a passion for. The emphasis that Bernard Zell has on tikkun olam inspired me to get to where I am today.”
And today, Nadav has completed his undergraduate work, having earned a BA in environmental and earth sciences with minors in both writing and anthropology. He’s currently working toward a Masters of Public Health from the Brown School at Wash U while also spending time as a researcher for the National Cancer Institute and simultaneously leading Gateway to the Great Outdoors with all its programming and administrative responsibilities.
His plate is full, but he insists that’s the way he likes it.
The energy and excitement provided by Nadav’s summer camp combined with the passion for tikkun olam that he found at Bernard Zell, together were influential forces that led to his founding of a new non-profit. Those two intermingling worlds continue to connect, most notably at Gateway to the Great Outdoor’s fundraiser, Chicago Interactive Game Night, because among the event’s committee chairs and attendees are countless Bernard Zell community members including former teachers, peers and their parents. Now, even a decade following Nadav’s graduation from Bernard Zell, the community is still coming together to support his personal and professional pursuits.