Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.”– Thomas Berry
THE DOUBLE MISSION
Heal with Sole* has a double mission: to connect children to nature and to themselves through guided, reflective expeditions. As any adult hiker can share, nature provides a diverse space for self-reflection, social interaction and aesthetic appreciation of our place in this world. Why not encourage our children to venture out into the wilderness and explore their own self and environment? Read more on our Youth Programs.
Heal with Sole started as a passion hobby for founder, Julie Rodriguez, who enjoys connecting to nature and exploring different hiking trails in her journey toward sustaining wellness. Whether hiking the Catskill Mountains in New York or nature walking at a local preserve or park in New Jersey, her soles have taken her several miles into nature and, in turn, nature has inspired her to help others venture beyond the city edges into the wilderness. This passion hobby gave rise to a youth enrichment program that serves to encourage children to explore nature and develop self-awareness through a social and emotional competence curriculum. Heal with Sole’s guided, reflective hikes aim to help children engage their bodies in physical activity, expand the mind with mindful practice, and center the soul with interpersonal connections.
As a child, I enjoyed the art of play where my imagination could go wild through painting or exploring my environment. As an adult, hiking allows me to tap in to my inner peace and gain creative energy from nature. I suppose that’s why I feel drawn to helping children explore nature—to help them cultivate confidence in themselves and explore their world through different perspectives. Nature is an invaluable resource to highlight so many life lessons youth today can learn and live by; the most important lesson being: “You can create your own path but remember no one will walk it for you. Be courageous and put one foot (or sole) in front of the other to begin your journey.”
~ Julie, Founder of Heal with Sole
WHAT SHAPES ME
Julie has been involved in adult education programs and English language learning environments for the past eleven years. She is a first-generation graduate of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 2007. She began her career in the non-profit sector which sparked her passion in education advocacy—guiding and connecting individuals to educational resources to expand their toolkit toward self-empowerment and community engagement. Julie transitioned to higher education in 2013 where she currently works with international, multilingual graduate students at one of New Jersey’s universities. She enjoys serving a culturally diverse group of individuals navigate American culture and university life with special focus on professional development.
NATURE AS A SACRED SPACE
Like many avid hikers who enjoy nature’s beauty, Julie saw spiritual and personal value in integrating hiking as part of her wellness routine. It is undeniable that walking in nature promotes mental wellness, introspection and a space to connect with friends and family. Since her first hike, Julie has explored trails across NJ, NY, PA, VA, TN and anywhere she can find the time and energy to explore! Through Heal with Sole, Julie hopes to prompt individuals to create a sacred space for reflection in nature and within themselves. In addition to hiking, Julie enjoys mentoring a first-generation college student, being a dog mom, meditating, journaling, crafting and painting.
*DISCLAIMER: A note on the concept of healing and my use of the terms “heal” and “healing”: I am not a medical professional and do not claim to be one. For me, healing is an ongoing journey of personal growth. This journey is a path to living a balanced and healthy life. I use “heal/healing” to engage participants in a conversation toward tuning in to their inner thoughts and emotions so they can fully express themselves. As individuals, we are meant to experience life in all its divine chaos, but we often do not have the space or connections to communicate our experiences openly. Nature provides the space. My goal is help people navigate the trail and engage them in self-reflection to grow their self-awareness.