Published: April 30, 2024  |  

From park ranger to education advocate: Volunteer Rich Smith’s enduring commitment to empowering students

By Alison Meyer

Rich Smith, a dedicated volunteer with Impact on Education, has committed his life to educating, both inside the classroom and beyond. From his early days as a park ranger teaching the tenets of environmental stewardship to youth mentoring and coaching, Smith’s career journey reflects a profound passion for fostering learning opportunities and supporting underserved communities.

Educating and supporting every kid can have ripple effects in their family and the community.

A strong belief in education

Growing up in rural Massachusetts, Smith was surrounded by nature, igniting a lifelong love for the outdoors and a deep appreciation for education. He earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology and secondary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership and has held Massachusetts and Colorado teaching certifications.

After teaching eighth-grade science in Massachusetts, he moved to Boulder in 1980, eventually heading the Ranger Services and Education and Outreach Divisions of the City of Boulder Open Space Department. He served on the Boulder Valley School District Environmental Education Steering Committee and has led scores of classes and field trips for District students and the general public.

Now in semi-retirement, Smith consults on creating educational plans and materials for parks, open spaces, historic sites, visitor centers, nature centers and Scenic and Historic Byways. 

Giving back to the community

While always championing education, Smith found his superpower as a volunteer for Impact on Education. “Every time I volunteer with Impact on Education, I see that it makes a difference,” he said. “Some payoffs are long-term, like scholarships, but many are immediate. Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry or cold, so they meet those needs.”

During the last four years volunteering, Smith has assembled science kits, helped set up for fundraising events, delivered books to schools, stuffed backpacks with school supplies, reviewed scholarship applications, inventoried and repaired musical instruments, and that’s not even the full list. 

I believe in the transformative power of education.

Smith’s involvement with Impact on Education has given him insight into the significant needs within the school district, particularly for students from underserved backgrounds.

“Reviewing requests from teachers for supplemental classroom materials reveals the critical gaps faced by underserved students,” said Smith. “There is a real need, and Impact on Education is meeting it.”

Through his tireless efforts with Impact on Education, Smith continues to make a difference in the lives of countless students, ensuring that every young person has the opportunity to thrive academically and beyond. “I believe in the transformative power of education,” he said. “It’s impossible to talk about this without sounding trite, but kids are the future. Not just well-off kids or kids we think don’t need help — educating and supporting every kid can have ripple effects in their family and the community.”


Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Connect with Us

Subscribe to our e-newsletter

* indicates required

Impact on Education
721 Front Street, Suite A
Louisville, CO 80027

Tax ID #84-0943046