Snapshot: Justin Pegnataro – The Newtown Bee

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Occupation: I am the executive director of Two Coyotes. We mentor kids in nature. Last year we served 860 kids on an average of 40 hours per child. We use the word “mentoring” because our programs are about personal growth. We want to raise a generation of kids in Newtown that are in touch with what their gifts are, that follow their passion, and that are strong, resilient, and passionate people. We do our work in nature because we believe that is the best place for personal growth to happen. It just so happens our kids develop a profound love and respect for nature from that work.

Family: I’m a single bachelor who recently separated from my partner of two-and-a-half years and her 8-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. I practice adopting people into my extended, non-blood family. Bob Carruthers, Bill Fischer, Arleen Spoonfeather, and Grandmother Nancy Andry are magnificent people who are elders in my life and feel like family members. I feel like I have a lot of brothers and sisters and aunties and uncles. A lot of the staff team at Two Coyotes feel like family, too.

How long have you lived in Newtown? I currently live in a house in Bethany, but lived in Newtown in a yurt for five years. I loved living in the wild with the coyotes, raccoons, and deer. There’s nothing like hearing the sounds of the night. The wood thrushes would sing just as the sun was going down, and it was so peaceful.

What do you like to do in your free time? I play banjo, make baskets, make leather, dance, do storytelling, practice archery, explore nature, cook, garden, track wildlife, read poetry, drink tea, and sit outside in nature and celebrate the seasonal changes around bonfires.

Who are your favorite authors? Rumi, Hafiz, William Stafford, Rilke, and Mary Oliver. Their poetry shows the preciousness of life mixed with the miracle of connection to everything.

What is your favorite travel destination? Wild nature. Any remote areas with lots of trees.

What is the best part about Newtown? Newtown’s kids are totally incredible, amazing, gifted people. I think that they are the most precious resource that the town has. It is important to raise them in a nurturing and supportive environment so that they can grow into their power.

Who have been the greatest influences in your life? My personal mentors are Mike Obsatz and Mark Morey. They have opened my heart and helped me to find my power and connect to universal, unconditional love. Mentors are so important in helping a person to grow and fully blossom into who they are, and they’ve been able to do that for me.

If you could spend the day with one person, who would you choose and why? Myself. I love finding solitude in nature with no one else around. It is something I rarely do but a whole day to myself with no agenda would be so wonderful. Just a day to wander, explore nature, and to soak and savor the joy of life.

Who is your favorite musical artist? I’ve been listening to Peia a lot. She sings sacred songs from around the world and can bring my heart to rapture.

What are the greatest pieces of advice you have ever been given? The first is “Each of our lives is a composite of stories and if we want to change our lives we have to first change the stories we believe.” Another comes from Mike Obsatz. He has said, “No one can imagine the creativity and magnificence inside you. Your sole job right now is to break the image of who people think you are so you can truly become your own magnificent self.” The third piece of advice is “We are called fire keepers because we are learning how to tend our own fire and the fires of our communities. Each of you are meant for big things. Perhaps our most magnificent task is to continually look for greater and greater fires to tend.” These are all things that I have told the kids at Two Coyotes that are composites of what my mentors have told me.


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