In our exploration of the transformative realm that is Playa Puertecito and our ‘Boulder to Baja’ adventures, we have encountered remarkable individuals who embody the spirit of youth empowerment. This week, we shine a spotlight on Jillian Runkle, a beacon of inspiration who has been igniting change via PeaceJam and other projects since the tender age of nine. Her unique perspective on the diverse spaces and worlds that intertwine within and beyond Playa Puertecito unveils profound insights and a passion for creating a world where many worlds fit. If you are interested in reading last week’s EmpowerGen article on Playa Puertecito, you can do so here.

Basking in the inspiration of Jill’s remarkable story, we invite you to join us on a captivating journey of discovery and empowerment. Through her eyes, we witness the magic that unfolds within Playa Puertecito and the immense power that young voices possess in shaping a better world. Jill’s encounters with the praying mantis, bioluminescent wonders, bees, and other creatures on the land showcase her deep connection with nature. With a radiant smile and an abundance of trust and love, she welcomes these animals onto her, embracing the profound bond between humans and the natural world. Here is her story in her own words:

 “Almost as far back as I can remember, I’ve felt pulled towards service that benefits both people and the land around us. This has always paired alongside my deep fascination with this beautiful and complex world that we inhabit. This passion for service and love for adventure has served as a compass for much of my life this far. It has led me to natural spaces, organizations, communities, and movements that have continued to profoundly shape me. I believe that in kinship with the land, we are all constantly being sculpted by a multitude of forces around us. The organization that I now work with, the PeaceJam Foundation, has had an enormous role in shaping me as an individual and as a leader. Their youth-leadership programs, focused on 14 guiding Nobel Peace Laureates, has brought me through years of leadership development, self-discovery, and co-organizing around the world.

Playa Puertecito, the most recent step on this journey, immediately tapped into my sense of service and adventure. The land is truly beautiful and its natural wonder guides the steps of this evolving project. In partnership with the local community, the future surely holds many opportunities for both local and global youth to seek inspiration from fellow changemakers, dive into the beauties of the natural world around them, and collaborate on bold creations and solutions to bring back to their own communities. In a time when the world can feel increasingly more complex, divided, and distanced – these kinds of experiences can bring youth into ever-deeper connection with the possibilities around them.” 

While on the beach at the closing of our trip, Jill shared her discovery of the term “genius” and its original meaning—a place that exudes exceptional power derived from natural forces and the people who inhabit it. She draws parallels between the magnificence of Playa Puertecito and the genius that lies within its very essence. Just as ancient Greek spots were revered as genius loci, Jill recognizes the multifaceted elements that converge to create the sheer brilliance of this place. It is not merely the intelligence or knowledge held within individuals but the collective magnitude of all that encompasses Playa Puertecito.

Ancient Greek philosophy recognized the concept of genius loci, the guardian spirits or deities associated with specific places. These spirits were believed to embody the unique essence and power of their respective locations, shaping the experiences and interactions of those who encountered them. The recognition of genius loci is a testament to the profound influence that places hold over human connection and understanding. You can read more here about Why Ancient Athens Was a City of Creativity and Genius – The Atlantic

brown concrete building under blue sky during daytime

Jill’s journey has been a testament to the extraordinary power of youth. Together, let us celebrate the power of youth and continue to cultivate a world where dreams become reality.

To read more empowering articles and share your voice in our EmpowerGen column,  visit our website: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (

Heidi Cuppari, a graduate of Brown University, is a pioneering figure in the fields of sustainable financing, impact investing, youth entrepreneurship, and women's leadership. Having moved to Boulder in 2006, she has spent nearly two decades contributing to the growth and development of the impact investing and social entrepreneurship community in the city. With a personal life as vibrant as her professional one, Heidi is a devoted mother and an integral part of a close-knit family. She started a family legacy art gallery and celebration space called Cuppari Mondo Bello, in collaboration with her children and her father, the acclaimed Italian artist Pasquale Cuppari. This venture was initiated to uplift her father during the challenging times of COVID-19, and it has since morphed into an avenue for social impact through the amplification of consciousness-evoking art. In her career and volunteer activities, Heidi strives to align global social impact with collective action. As the founder of Island17 and Dream Tank, and as a council member of The Digital Economist, she continually advances her mission of fostering a healed planet and peaceful world. She recently co-created the Playa Puertecito Collaborative, an initiative aimed at building a sustainable community on the Sea of Cortez. Her work emphasizes the power of collective impact and highlights the importance of giving a voice to the younger generation in shaping our shared future. Heidi's 'Financial Attunement' sessions demonstrate her ability to blend traditional financial client support with innovative, relationship-based models. These sessions offer a new approach to finance, connecting meaning with money and helping others align their financial resources with their deeper purpose.