Meet the 2020 #SheAdventures Scholarship Winner: Candace Chu

Three things were top of mind for us as we evaluated the applicants for this year’s #SheAdventures scholarship: hope, compassion and excitement for what’s ahead. It’s a strange time to focus on something like a rock climbing festival (the award for the winner). So we took a step back to think about the values we hold close, and how hope and compassion fit into the bigger picture.

This year’s winner, Candace Chu, embodies hope for—and commitment to—a better future in several ways. She works full-time at a climate resiliency nonprofit and volunteers for organizations working for environmental, social, racial, economic and intergenerational justice. All this work shows a dedication to working through difficult problems with an eye toward hope and compassion. And the way we see it, supporting her with a trip to the Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival is one way we can help keep up excitement for the future.

So if you need something to feel hopeful about right now, take a minute to get to know Candace Chu.

“Rock climbing is my second love, ice cream eating is my first,” she says. Candace recommends Chocolate Raspberry Ripple from Mariposa Ice Cream off Adams Avenue in San Diego. “My favorite kind of ice cream is the homemade, small-batch kind that’s typically found at your local neighborhood family business. A close second for favorite flavor would be Japanese Neapolitan from Wanderlust Creamery in Los Angeles, which has a magical trifecta of matcha, hojicha and black sesame.”

Candace Chu hikes in a desert landscape.

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“I grew up on Ohlone land in Northern California, but I call San Diego home now after graduating from UC San Diego over 10 years ago.” Her first memories at the beach were at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk at 5 years old— “The beach and boardwalk was bustling, full of tourists, and great smells. I always admired how gracefully the surfers danced across the waves and the sound of the ocean crashing onto the shore.”

Candace is motivated by all the people growing up in San Diego who’ve never had the opportunity to see the beach. “There are many folx who don't realize the privileges we have living close to the coast and the mountains which are accessible in one day in San Diego,” she says.

Candace works multiple jobs to pay her bills and to help nonprofits deepen their impact and raise awareness for their causes. Her fire to work for climate resilience sparked into a flame when, at an internship at Taiwan’s National Science Education Center, she saw the impact of climate change on generations of people from the island where her parents grew up. (She’s a second-generation Taiwanese-American.) “I began to understand that climate change has disproportionate impacts depending on where you live, your race, your gender, and the amount of wealth you generate,” she says.

Candace describes herself as “a goal-digger and expert multi-tasker.” “I think my friends would describe me as constantly busy,” she says, laughing. “I put my 200% into everything I do and in general I tend to overcommit to lofty plans, outdoor adventures, and ordering way too much food when I’m with friends at a restaurant.”

Candace Chu dances on a sand dune in a red dress.

At work, Candace is most excited about the One-Stop-Shop Pilot Project with GRID Alternatives to fight climate change and promote climate resiliency. “On-road transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in California and on a national level, too,” she says. “The communities that have highways built through them and thousands of active oil wells next to their homes are the same communities that were redlined in America through the National Housing Act of 1934. The daily work I do is tied to confronting our past to create a more equitable future that benefits everyone.”

Candace works closely with tribal partners and sovereign nations, labor unions, grassroots community-based organizations, and policy advocates to reduce barriers to Low Carbon Transportation Equity programs through the California Air Resources Board (the state agency that regulates air pollution).

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In her life and work, Candace is inspired by adrienne maree brown—“writer, social justice worker, facilitator, pleasure activist, healer and doula.” “I remember reading Emergent Strategy, my all-time favorite book, by adrienne several years ago and feeling so liberated by every page of poems, science fiction, words about nature, and more,” Candace says. In May last year, she met her in person at the PGM One Summit in Philadelphia, where adrienne maree brown was the keynote speaker. “While I did not have my Emergent Strategy book with me, she graciously signed my copy of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and complemented Bryan on his work at the Equal Justice Initiative,” she says.

Candace Chu climbs on a retaining wall.

You’ll want to take note of her “perfect San Diego day” for the next time you’re in town. “I’d start off with a sunrise hike at Stonewall Peak at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park with a San Diego breakfast burrito in tow and lots of water,” she says. “My friends and I are in a Breakfast Burrito Club where we celebrate the breathtaking views at the summit and firmly believe that it’s worth every pound. Next I would stop by the town of Julian as we head back to the city of San Diego for some good old Julian apple crumb pie.”

“I’d finish the day with climbing at one of our favorite local spots, Pump Wall that gains its notoriety from pumping out your forearms. It’s right by the water and you need a friend or two to spot you with a crash pad as you traverse across a retainer wall with great grooves. Finally, I’d enjoy the cotton candy San Diego sunset and grab some tacos and ice cream.”

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