Karla Wheelock Foundation's Sustainable Ethical Leaders Program

Fundación Karla Wheelock
Published: 04 March 2021
Last edited: 11 September 2021
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Karla Wheelock, the first Latin American to reach the 7 summits of the world, has sought to instil in the hearts of young people in Mexico a love for nature and a firm commitment to work to improve and conserve its enormous wealth. This is how the Sustainable Ethical Leaders Program was born, a project that seeks to bring together young people from low-income schools to undertake projects that improve the quality of the environment and the quality of life in their community. The program has been transforming the lives of thousands of young people for 10 years through contact with nature and transforming these experiences into skills that help them become agents of change in their families, schools and communities.


The objectives of the program coincide with the objectives that the #NatureForAll movement seeks to promote, so Karla Wheelock did not hesitate to add her initiative to this global movement.


North America
Scale of implementation
Buildings and facilities
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Access and benefit sharing
Outreach & communications
Sustainable livelihoods
Other theme
environmental education
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Sustainable development goals
SDG 4 – Quality education
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations


Mexico City, Mexico City, Mexico | Antartida, Reserva de la Biosfera Isla del Espíritu Santo, Reserva de la Biosfera El Triunfo


"If you want to do a child good forever...educate them, if you want to educate them...challenge them, if you want to challenge them, lead them deliberately into adventure."

Karla Wheelock


People do not make sustainable decisions in their daily lives because they lack this contact with nature. The KW Foundation's program seeks to link society, business and government to generate a program that will put young people in touch with nature and create ethical leaders who will change the reality of a country.


8,086 students with projects in more than 700 schools, generating more than 600 socio-environmental projects.



How do the building blocks interact?

All components of the program are linked through the four values that are instilled in participants order to create young leaders who are willing to transform their lives and their environment, and who seek to contribute to the health of our planet and motivate others to do the same thing. These values are: 1) Building character. 2) Order. 3) Respect. 4) Unity or Solidarity.


Among the main achievements are:

8,086 students involved;

16 training workshops for teachers;

25 training workshops for students;

2,120 leaders who reached their first summit during the Nevado de Toluca expedition;

11 expeditions per year in Mexico and Antarctica;

over 5,500 "MY SUMMIT, MY DECISION" manuals distributed;

more than 700 schools have participated;

more than 600 socio-environmental projects have been undertaken by young people in high school.


Fundación Karla Wheelock

It was 1999 when a Mexican woman from Saltillo, Coahuila, embarked on the hazardous journey to reach the summit of Mount Everest by the northern route, becoming the first Latin American woman to achieve this feat. This was Karla Wheelock, a woman with an iron will, who after coming down alive, owed a debt of gratitude to the Mountain, the great master, and to nature, that in their mystical generosity enabled her to return with something more than the glory of the summit:  a heart ready to change the world.


After this, she started a program to work with the children and youth of Mexico. She spent over 10 years launching call for tenders in public schools for limited resources from Mexico City in which she had the challenge of creating groups of five students and a teacher to undertake environmental projects. 


All participants start a project in which through trips to various nature spaces, they learn skills that enable them to progress in their projects and initiate a process of personal growth.


At the end, the winners receive the grand prize of visiting pristine locations in the world, such as Antarctica or Biosphere Reserves such as El Triunfo or the island of Espíritu Santo, and on these trips, they are surprised by and learn from nature, because as Karla Wheelock says, nature is the Great Master.


The work of Karla Wheelock is a clear role model for #NatureForAll, a global movement whose mission is to inspire love for nature.

Contributed by

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#NatureForAll IUCN #NatureForAll

Other contributors

Karla Wheelock
Fundación Karla Wheelock