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OUR HISTORY & VALUES


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OUR HISTORY & VALUES


Our History & Values

Vida Verde was founded in 2001 by two former Teach for America classroom teachers who saw a pressing need for disadvantaged youth to have educational experiences outside of the classroom. Their vision led to the formation of Vida Verde, and that innovative vision has been carefully developed into a highly effective and acclaimed educational program. Now in its 15th year of operation, Vida Verde has provided programs for over 9,000 Bay Area low-income students and their teachers.

Shawn Sears, 1999

Laura Dickerson, 1999

Early Vida Verde classes

Our Values

Vida Verde is a mission- and values-driven organization. We make every decision with the kids' benefit, the environment, and our mission and values as our guide. We capitalize on strengths, do the work that suits us best, and consult with experts when needed. We strategically plan for the short and long term to ensure sustainability, and we use resources creatively.

1. Mission Driven

We are passionately dedicated to meeting the powerful mission. We make every decision with the kids' benefit, the environment, and the mission as our guide.

2. Excellence

We hold ourselves to a very high standard: from program quality to outward image to communication and everything in between. We are detail oriented and thorough.
 

3. Smart Organization

Vida Verde is organized and efficient. We capitalize on strengths, do the work that suits us best, and consult with experts when needed. We strategically plan for the short and long term to ensure sustainability.
 

4. Relationships & Community

Vida Verde is a small organization that is accessible and creates long-lasting relationships with its staff, supporters, students, and teachers.
 

5. "Make it Happen"

lf we value it, we go for it, despite obstacles. We don't hesitate to go above and beyond. We use resources creatively.
 

6. Trailblazing

Vida Verde is innovative, entrepreneurial, fun, and exciting. lt's a crossroads where urban culture meets the rural and natural environment.
 

7. Positivity begets positivity!  

We work together with each other and the greater community, focusing on the great, in order to create more great.

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STAFF


STAFF


Vida Verde Staff

Shawn Sears

Shawn Sears

Shawn Sears
Co-Founder, Executive Director and Instructor
shawn@vveducation.org

I like to cheer for people. It started when I cheered for kids I was on baseball teams with, and for those who I was on swim teams with. Later, when seeing people ride their bikes to LA to combat AIDS I cheered and was humbled & overwhelmed, and now there are 3 awesome groups that I get to witness and cheer for on the daily:

·      the students who come to Vida Verde and who are challenging themselves        deeply,
·      donors & volunteers who are digging in and taking a stand, and
·      the staff members who I have the pleasure of working side by side with.

Cheering and watching people give what they have brings me to tears. It touches me. When you see someone in an authentic moment, trying hard, they are making themselves vulnerable and it is true beauty and very real. When this is possible, I say “go get it!”  This is why I like to cheer.

The Sears Family

The Sears Family

(I also hold myself and others to a high standard, because I have seen what each of us is capable of. I know how much potential each of us has!)

Life is short and it can get me down. However, there are magic moments that give me shivers and overwhelm me with joy, emotion & clarity. For this body and mind that I have and the way that I experience the world, I find those magic moments most often when there is music, when we are outside – because “Nature Never Disappoints”, when I am in the water, and when I exercise.

I hope that I get to cheer for you, …and that we get to be together, outside, sharing music, plunging in the cold water, running or biking or walking.

 

Laura Sears

Laura Sears

Laura Sears
Co-Founder and Director of Development
Laura@vveducation.org

Laura grew up in rural western Kentucky and graduated from The Colorado College with a degree in Geology in 1999. She joined Teach For America in ’99, and was a high school special education teacher for two years. In 2001 she moved to California and co-founded Vida Verde with Shawn Sears. She’s been working at Vida Verde ever since, and has worn a variety of hats, from visioning and curriculum planner, to naturalist instructor, to her current position of Development Director.

Laura developed a deep appreciation for the importance of camp for kids, and also a lifelong love of the outdoors, as a camper and later counselor (for 10 years of her childhood) at Camp Kanuga in North Carolina. She feels privileged to now give lots of children opportunities similar to those that changed her own life for the better.

Laura is a runner, cyclist, soccer player, and all around lover of competitive sports. She’s a voracious reader and knitter, and enjoys cooking, spending time with friends, and finding good music to listen to.

 

Jody Peterman

Jody Peterman

Jody Peterman
Events Manager & Assistant director
jody@vveducation.org

Jody grew up in Duluth, Minnesota near the shores of Lake Superior, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies. She's had a passion for being in the outdoors for as long as she can remember, starting with family canoe trips to the Boundary Waters, and summers spent as a camper at YMCA Camp Miller in Minnesota.

Jody started her work in summer camp in 1997 at Camp Miller and was excited to give back to the community where she first realized the far-reaching impact that positive outdoor programs can have on youth. Jody has worked in various summer camp programs over the years, most recently directing Mountain Camp Woodside in Portola Valley. She has witnessed the sorts of amazing transformations that can happen in children who have the opportunity to try new activities, interact with their peers and positive adult role models, and learn about the natural world around them. Jody believes strongly in the Vida Verde program, and loves being part of the Vida Verde team!

Jody gets the most excited about camping, swimming, reading, running on the beach, hiking, cooking, baking, biking to work, sailing, knitting, and sleeping outside.

 

Jeff "Cedar" Butterworth

Jeff "Cedar" Butterworth

Jeff "Cedar" Butterworth
Head of Program
Jeff@vveducation.org

Jeff grew up in Clermont, a small town just outside of Orlando, Florida. His passion for the outdoors stems back to the warm and rainy summers he spent with friends exploring oak woodlands and the nearby shores of Lake Minnehaha. In his spare time, Jeff enjoys playing music with his friends, reading, and connecting with the natural world around his home.

At the age of 16, he enjoyed his first position working with youth as a camp counselor for the City of Clermont’s Park and Recreation Department. In 2008, after completing a 55 day Wilderness Survival Course in the deserts of southern Utah, Jeff relocated to California and received his degree in Forestry and Natural Resource Management from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. During his time at Cal Poly, he served as a Resident/Community advisor working for the University’s Housing system. In this role he provided his peers with the social and academic resources necessary for success in college and beyond. While in school Jeff completed a summer long internship as a Forest Technician at Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains. The focus of the internship was to survey the ranch’s 1,400 acres of mixed-conifer forest and collect data for a post-fire damage and mortality assessment.  

The following summer Jeff reconnected with his “counselor roots” and headed for the Sierra mountains where he would stay for three consecutive summers working for Gold Arrow Camp. He would go on to become a part of the camp’s leadership staff, helping to ensure the success of counselors and campers alike. During his time at Gold Arrow, Jeff was introduced to the field of Outdoor Education and saw it as the perfect synthesis of his background in science and passion for working with youth.

In 2014, Jeff was accepted into a nine-month residential Naturalist internship with San Mateo County’s Outdoor Education program. During this time, he was introduced to the nearby program Vida Verde and volunteered for their annual fundraiser. Truly touched by their dedication to social justice through educational equity, he resolved to apply for an instructor position the following school year. After spending a year delighting in all aspects of the program, Jeff was excited to learn that he could continue to be involved with Vida Verde in a new capacity as their Head of Program.

Sierra "Currant" Predovich

Sierra "Currant" Predovich

Sierra "Currant" Predovich
PROGRAM COORDINATOR & instructor
sierra@vveducation.org

Sierra grew up in Redwood City, California (just 30 minutes from Vida Verde!)  but headed north for college at the University of Oregon (UO) and received a B.S. in Environmental Science and Spanish. After graduating, she became a Naturalist Instructor at San Mateo Outdoor Education where she led students to the coast, redwood forest, oak woodland and garden classroom. In college, Sierra worked with numerous organizations including Farm to School, Nearby Nature, the Environmental Leadership Program, and as a teaching assistant for the Trees Across Oregon class at her university. She also participated in a Tropical Ecology and Conservation study abroad program in Costa Rica, and now has published studies on her undergraduate research of epiphytic orchid species. 

Sierra has worked as a teacher's aide, a summer camp counselor and Assistant Program Director and Counselor In Training Director for the Sequoia YMCA in Redwood City, and has spent the past three summers working as a Camp Leader and Specialty Camp Director at CuriOdyssey in San Mateo.

Sierra enjoys hiking, dancing, yoga, cooking, hula hooping, making up rhymes and painting. She speaks Spanish and can do an Irish jig.

Max "Melon Head" Cohen

Max "Melon Head" Cohen

Max "Melon Head" Cohen
Instructor
Info@vveducation.org

Hi, I'm Max and I was born in a blizzard in Washington, D.C. After growing up on the East Coast for ten years, I moved with my family to California. I found my passion for the outdoors in the stars and streams of Yosemite and the Stanislaus National Forest at Camp Tawonga. At Camp Tawonga I also discovered the power of working with kids as a mentor, counselor, and educator. 

After studying Clinical Psychology and Spanish at Tufts University, I began teaching Spanish at a high school in Palo Alto, CA. These days, I couldn't be happier combining my interests in the outdoors and education at Vida Verde. 

When I have the time, I like to play folk songs on my guitar, dance to ska music, swim everywhere except for pools, read science fiction books, ride my bicycle, and eat chips and salsa.

 

Cortland "Lando" Johnson

Cortland "Lando" Johnson

Cortland "Lando" D. Johnson 
Instructor
Info@vveducation.org

Cortland grew up in sunny San Jose, just south of the San Francisco bay. His love of nature was born at an early age while accompanying his mother, via stroller, on birding adventures.  Upon learning to walk, his eyes were drawn, from the sky, to the earth beneath his feet. Rock hopping and bug collecting became his focus. As tiny feet grew into normal sized shoes he developed a thirst for nature knowledge and outdoor adventure. This natural exposure led his life trail to Humboldt State University where he earned his B.A. in Outdoor Education. 

Putting his degree to work, Cortland set out to the woods of Massachusetts where he spent the year at Manice Education Center, teaching New York City youth the wonders of nature. Finding his thirst for teaching in the outdoors unquenched he ventured up and down California working wherever parched minds where present. Coming full circle (literally and metaphorically), he ended up right back in his own back yard; the beautiful hills of San Gregorio and the home of Vida Verde.

Reading, biking, napping, and watching sunsets are but a few things that recharge Cortland’s soul
 

Devin "El Camino" PEyton
Instructor
Info@vveducation.org

Greetings, my people! I hail from San Jose CA where I 1st read the definition of biophilia in my high school biology textbook. Biophilia is the innate tendency for humans to form connections to the natural world and all forms of life. This idea intuitively made sense to me and is still guiding my life and career of nature connection here at Vida Verde. 

Throughout my life I have been drawn to natural environments which led me to attend a college growing in a redwood forest: UC Santa Cruz. My time there was filled with formative experiences such as leading outdoor adventure trips for peers through the Recreation Department, attending two months of classes in the backcountry with the Sierra Institute, and learning how to ask the right questions with Natural History Field Quarter. With all of my life I am bringing pure, undiluted wonderment to Vida Verde this year. 

I love to stare at birds, laugh with friends, climb trees, make fires by friction, peruse the earth for animal tracks, cook with lots of turmeric, and sit quietly in my backyard

Jessica Kahlman

Jessica Kahlman

Jessica KahlMan
Development Manager
Jessica@VVeducation.org 

Jessica is a native Californian, and never tires of exploring this state. She didn't discover her love of the outdoors until her freshman year at UC Berkeley when her brother took her on her first whitewater kayaking trip; from there, she was hooked. Her weekends and holidays spent kayaking Sierra rivers inspired her to learn more about the environments she was growing to love, so she added an Environmental Studies minor to her English degree and spent her senior year studying tropical biology and conservation through an experiential, field-based program in Costa Rica. These experiences helped her to develop the core belief that everyone has a fundamental right to positive, hands-on experiences in nature.This belief was reinforced through her work with students from undeserved communities as an environmental educator at SCICON Outdoor School, a classroom teacher in the East Bay, and a school group coordinator at Chabot Space and Science Center.

Jessica brings to Vida Verde six years of experience in fundraising, most recently as a Bay Area Donor Relations Manager at Summer Search. Prior to that, she worked in development for Bioneers and Environmental Traveling Companions. She feels lucky to have discovered fundraising as a career path because it is the way she can best support work she believes in, and she enjoys spending her days writing, editing, making and crossing off lists, and engaging with volunteers and donors around their choice to give. 

Outside of work Jessica loves to cook and eat, read, hike, backpack, and spend time wherever there is a good swimming hole. She is a traveler, and enjoys getting lost wandering in new cities.

 

Kyle Newman

Kyle Newman

KYLE NEWMAN
FARM & FACILITIES MANAGER
KYLE@VVEDUCATION.ORG

From the foothills of the Berkshires, to the Gulf coast of Florida, between the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and the rolling Hill County of central Texas; Kyle has lived and grown across America. Now, as Farm and Facilities Manager at Vida Verde, he's happily making a home along the cool shores of northern California. Kyle grew up in camp, roaming the forests and fields from dawn to dusk. For awhile he studied the natural sciences; first biochemistry and later pharmacology and biotechnology. But his heart yearned for the earth, his eyes the sky; his skin the wind and his soul the water. A new trail was blazed, one which carried Kyle from the research lab to the open field. In the years since, he has supported organic farms from Maine to New Mexico, and planted a few too. A student at heart, he delights in applying his skills and education to the myriad of challenges life brings. And now with Vida Verde, he is working to share an outdoor experience so like his own childhood with so many children; empowering them to experience connection and kinship with their environment. In addition to agriculture and ecology, Kyle is passionate about science communication, social justice, and sustainability. In his spare time he enjoys sailing, hiking, writing, and living on the loose.

 

April Oertwig

April Oertwig

APRIL OERTWIG
CAPITAL CAMPAIGN TEAM & PROJECT MANAGER
APRIL@VVEDUCATION.ORG

Pause for a moment and do a word association with me: what’s the first word that comes to you when you see/hear the word “nature”? For me, the word that comes to mind is “safety.” The word is safety because nature accepts you just as you are, no exceptions. My parents took me camping in my native Minnesota for the first time when I was 18 months old, I went wilderness camping for the first time as a teenager in the Boundary Waters, and to this day one of my most prized possessions is my tent. I’m thrilled to get to work at Vida Verde where kids, who might not otherwise get the opportunity, have the chance to experience a bit of nature in a way that helps support them and their growth. In addition to experience leading wilderness canoeing trips, teaching in the early childhood classroom and a tech degree, I have over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector. My nonprofit experience includes board positions, governance, executive leadership support, strategic and operational planning, operations and IT, event logistics and fundraising. My fundraising experience includes multiple successful capital and endowment campaigns and I’m looking forward to successfully raising the funds for Vida Verde’s Education Barn and completing the capital campaign in 2017.

 

CHRISTINA KING
DEVELOPMENT ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR
CHRISTINA@VVEDUCATION.ORG

Christina grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and graduated from Capital University with a degree in Social Work.  Passionate about social justice and education equity, she joined the Vida Verde team in 2015 as a Development Engagement Coordinator to assist with the capital campaign. Presently, she also works with the Arab Media and Film Institute as a Development Associate and with Kids’ Turn as a Workshop Facilitator.

She moved to Half Moon Bay two years ago, and is glad she lives surrounded by so many beaches and parks to explore. She volunteers at Pilarcitos Alternative High School and with Fresh Lifelines for Youth, teaching law education and life skills classes to youth involved in the juvenile justice system. In her spare time, Christina most enjoys backyard cookouts and going on road trips throughout California.

 

Victoria Makol

Victoria Makol

VICTORIA MAKOL
BUSINESS & OFFICE MANAGER
VICTORIA@VVEDUCATION.ORG

Victoria grew up in Granite Bay, California.  Her love of hiking and the outdoors was born on her eighth grade class trip to Yosemite (thanks Ms. Pendola!).  That blossomed in college while volunteering on the the college’s organic farm and working on the Appalachian Trail with the college Cabin and Trail crew.

She finds our inner and outer worlds equally fascinating.

These days she is passionate about equality and social justice.  She is propelled by curiosity, especially about people’s edges.  She loves hearing others share their stories of personal growth.  And witnessing children and adults alike discover new things about themselves and the world around them.  She is interested in futurism.  She lived in the community of Inverness, Ca for five years and part of her heart will always be buried in Point Reyes.  

Victoria is a proud generalist - her career has spanned construction, hospitality and business consulting.  She served as the General Manager of Central Market Restaurant and Farm in Petaluma and learned a lot about heritage breed pigs.  Most recently she was the Global Program Manager of the FoodTalks program at Bon Appetit @ Google.

She earned her B.A. at Dartmouth in 2002, where she majored in Studio Art, and her MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School in 2007.  She currently resides in Menlo Park.


Thank you to our Former Instructor Staff


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BOARD MEMBERS


BOARD MEMBERS


Vida Verde Executive Board Members


Eric Ryan - President

Eric Ryan

Eric Ryan

Eric Ryan has dedicated his professional life to service. He began his career as a teacher with Teach for America, teaching physics and entrepreneurship in a rural region of North Carolina. His efforts earned him Teacher of the Year honors and were highlighted in The Wall Street Journal, Parade Magazine, and a book titled Electric Dreams. Eric left the classroom fourteen years ago and began working in the nonprofit sector. For the last several years he’s provided guidance to small nonprofits across the country. He now owns and operates Ryan Nonprofits, a mission-driven business that specializes in catalyzing the success of small nonprofits by helping leaders ofnonprofits create and execute strategic plans. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Eric lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wonderful wife and two children. He leads a fortunate life, rich with family, friends, and plenty of adventure.


Harn Soper

Harn Soper

Harn Soper

Harn has been an entrepreneur in the music and media industry in the Bay Area for 30 years recording and producing music with artists like George Winston & Will Ackerman, marketing broadcast news production systems worldwide for Avid Technology, Internet video piracy business development for Vobile, and currently is a partner directing sales & marketing for nNovia, a video capture technology company.  In the background, Harn runs Soper Farms in Iowa, implementing sustainable farming practices.  Volunteering and song writing are Harn’s passions.  He is former president for the Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo Foundation.  Harn's latest venture is Sustainable Farm Partners, a group of private investors dedicated to investing in tangible agricultural land assets that are sustainable for the economy, environment and society.

 

Kia Sullivan

Kia Sullivan

Kia Sullivan

With expertise in public interest law, foundation compliance and philanthropic services, Kia combines broad experience with deep commitment to the local and global community. Kia is the Founder of SourcePoint Philanthropy Advisors, a boutique law firm specializing in Foundation Law and charitable giving. She is also the Senior Advisor of Strategic Giving and Compliance for The Hero Group, LLC, a company dedicated to foundations, businesses, individuals and families who seek to increase the impact of their charitable giving. Prior to starting her firm in 2011, Kia was with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation where she served as Donor Engagement Officer and later joined the Leadership Team as the Senior Director of Grants, Gifts and Compliance. Kia has been responsible for the administration and compliance of over 10,000 grants, both international and domestic. She has also been the Philanthropy Manager to a large portfolio of donor advised funds and supporting organizations, assisting new and seasoned philanthropists in developing and implementing their unique charitable giving strategies. She has been on the advisory committees of NGOsource and Global Impact, and the Boards of Youth Science Institute and Santa Clara County Legal Aid Society. 

Early in her career, Kia founded a law partnership in Los Gatos, CA, practicing family law and serving the needs of children and low-income families. She also managed the financial operations of a San Francisco mayor’s PAC and re-election committee, and the major donor program for a state political party. She received her J.D. and recognition as a Public Interest Law Scholar from Santa Clara University School of Law and her Bachelor's degree in Communications from University of California, San Diego.


Laura Kretschmar

Laura Kretschmar

Laura Kretschmar - Treasurer

Laura Kretschmar is the co-founder of the Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California, where she currently teaches 5th and 6th grade math and science. Laura is a dedicated and long-time teacher.  Before moving to Oakland to start Lighthouse in 2003, she taught in Massachusetts at the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School, and before that in the New Orleans public schools as a Teach For America (TFA) Corps Member.  Laura is also a part-time consultant for Math Solutions, providing professional development in math instruction to teachers around the country, and has advised and taught beginning teachers for TFA at their summer institutes.  She is currently working with the Lighthouse Replication team to plan two more Lighthouse Community Schools in Oakland to serve the school's current 700 student waiting list.  Lighthouse’s exceptional success, and Laura’s role in it, can be seen in the school's 95% graduation rate of their first three classes, of which all were accepted to four-year colleges and universities.  

In 2011, Laura completed the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards portfolio and became a National Board Certified Teacher.  In November of that year and in conjunction with this accomplishment, she accepted an invitation to speak on a Whitehouse panel about the teaching profession alongside U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  In 2012 she received an Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching, an award presented to TFA alumni who are “transforming students’ lives through extraordinary leadership and an unwavering belief in the potential for all children to succeed.”  Laura holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Geology from Middlebury College, a Masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a California Single Subject Credential in Geosciences and is California HOUSSE certified in both Math and Science.

 

Shawn Sears

Shawn Sears

Shawn Sears - Vida Verde's Executive Director

I like to cheer for people. It started when I cheered for kids I was on baseball teams with, and for those who I was on swim teams with. Later, when seeing people ride their bikes to LA to combat AIDS I cheered and was humbled & overwhelmed, and now there are 3 awesome groups that I get to witness and cheer for on the daily:

·      the students who come to Vida Verde and who are challenging themselves            
      deeply,
·      donors & volunteers who are digging in and taking a stand, and
·      the staff members who I have the pleasure of working side by side with.

Cheering and watching people give what they have brings me to tears. It touches me. When you see someone in an authentic moment, trying hard, they are making themselves vulnerable and it is true beauty and very real. When this is possible, I say “go get it!”  This is why I like to cheer.

(I also hold myself and others to a high standard, because I have seen what each of us is capable of. I know how much potential each of us has!)

Life is short and it can get me down. However, there are magic moments that give me shivers and overwhelm me with joy, emotion & clarity. For this body and mind that I have and the way that I experience the world, I find those magic moments most often when there is music, when we are outside – because “Nature Never Disappoints”, when I am in the water, and when I exercise.

I hope that I get to cheer for you, …and that we get to be together, outside, sharing music, plunging in the cold water, running or biking or walking.

 


Vida Verde Advisory Board


Scott Bryan

Scott Bryan

Scott Bryan

Scott credits his interest in agriculture and sustainability to his upbringing in Montana and experiences at the Mountain School of Milton Academy in Vermont. Scott is COO of Imagine H2O, a nonprofit organization that inspires and empowers people to turn water challenges into opportunities. Prior to Imagine H2O, Scott worked in finance at Royal Bank of Canada and Piper Jaffray.  He has a B.A. in Economics from the Colorado College and resides in San Francisco.  


 

Emma Ludwick

Emma Ludwick

EMMA Ludwick

Emma is an educator who passionate about experiential, hands-on learning for children and a focus on whole child development. Emma loves Vida Verde and wishes all children had access to such an incredible program! 

Upon graduating from Stanford University with a degree is Psychology, Emma began her career at Bing Nursery School, Stanford University's Child Development Research Lab.  During her time at Bing, Emma served in several different roles, working as a classroom teacher, teacher trainer, college instructor, parent educator, research support, and participating in the development and implementation of best practices in early childhood education. Emma pursued her Ed.M. at Harvard's Graduate School of Education in Risk and Prevention in Childhood. Throughout her graduate program, Emma worked as a school counselor for Boston Children's Hospital, serving the city's urban youth population.  When not parenting her own young children, Emma currently works as a consultant and child development specialist for educational start-ups, schools, organizations, and parents. Emma finds the work of Vida Verde incredibly inspiring and is honored to witness and support the work of such an amazing group of leaders, staff, and learners.

 

Andrew Usher

Andrew Usher

Andrew Usher

Andrew Usher, a native Oregonian and lifelong outdoor enthusiast, is a Financial Representative at the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.  He has been a long time friend of the founders Shawn & Laura Sears.  In his undergrad at Colorado College, he was involved with Shawn in an after school sports mentorship program for underserved youth.  He became involved with Vida Verde during its inception and even had the opportunity to teach programs in those early days.  Andrew’sbackground in community service, event production, and real estate bring a diversity of expertise to the board.

 

 

Preston Smith

Preston Smith

Preston Smith

Preston Smith co-founded Rocketship Education in San Jose with John Danner in 2006. Prior to founding Rocketship, Smith was founder and Principal of L.U.C.H.A. Elementary School, part of the Alum Rock Unified School District in San Jose, CA. After its first three years of operation, L.U.C.H.A. was the fourth highest performing low-income elementary school in California. Smith began his career in education as a Teach for America Corps (TFA) member at Clyde Arbuckle Elementary School (CA). In 2003, Preston was named "Teacher of the Year" at Arbuckle and was also nominated as one of six finalists for TFA’s Sue Lehmann award, given to TFA corps members with the highest classroom academic gains in the nation. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from San Jose State University and is an Aspen New Schools Fellow.

 

Nicole Ardoin

Nicole Ardoin

Nicole Ardoin

Nicole Ardoin is a faculty member at Stanford University, where she has a joint appointment with the Graduate School of Education and the Woods Institute for the Environment. Nicole’s research focuses on human/nature interactions, with an emphasis on how environmental learning and place connections motivate environmental and sustainability-related behaviors at a range of scales. She has active research studies examining the use of nature-based tourism as a motivator for environmental behavior; informal institutions as hubs of environmental learning in the Bay Area; and the links among sense of place and place-protective behavior. Nicole has worked in the fields of environmental education, conservation, and program evaluation—in urban and rural areas, and in a range of organizational types—for nearly 20 years. Nicole is inspired by Vida Verde’s commitment to educational equity through environmental learning.

 

Paul & Steph Pfluke

Paul & Steph Pfluke

Paul and Steph Pfluke

Stephanie Jennings and Paul Pfluke are currently the co-owners and co-founders of Green Oaks Creek Farm, which is an organic, educational farm and retreat center that has been in operation for 10 years.  The farm offers a subscription program, an apprenticeship program, farm tours, and Slow Food dinners. The retreat center offers rental facilities for families, groups, and weddings.  Prior to starting Green Oaks, Stephanie and Paul earned Masters degrees in Plant and Soil Science. In the five years between college and graduate school, Stephanie and Paul taught environmental education and worked as wildlife biology field technicians.  Paul also taught biology in the classroom for a year in Jamaica.  In college, Stephanie earned a B.S. in Biology/Geology and Paul earned a B.S. in chemistry. Stephanie also taught environmental education throughout high school and college.

 

Laura Sears

Laura Sears

Laura Sears

Laura grew up in rural western Kentucky and graduated from The Colorado College with a degree in Geology in 1999. She joined Teach For America in ’99, and was a high school special education teacher for two years. In 2001 she moved to California and co-founded Vida Verde with Shawn Sears. She’s been working at Vida Verde ever since, and has worn a variety of hats, from visioning and curriculum planner, to naturalist instructor, to her current position of Development Director.

Laura developed a deep appreciation for the importance of camp for kids, and also a lifelong love of the outdoors, as a camper and later counselor (for 10 years of her childhood) at Camp Kanuga in North Carolina. She feels privileged to now give lots of children opportunities similar to those that changed her own life for the better.

Laura is a runner, cyclist, soccer player, and all around lover of competitive sports. She’s a voracious reader and knitter, and enjoys cooking, spending time with friends, and finding good music to listen to.

 

Jerry Moison

Jerry Moison

Jerry Moison

Jerry is “semi-retired” now, but is still a principle in Guardian Equity Growth, a Private Placement firm which focused on commercial real estate investments in the Western United States.  Guardian specializes in helping passive investors achieve the highest cash returns possible in commercial real estate by “pooling” either cash or equity from 1031 Tax Deferred Exchanges and using the combined equity to purchase Institutional Grade commercial real estate.  The total value of this portfolio is currently ± $1 billion.

Jerry Moison earned his real estate license in 1970 and began investing in commercial real estate as a Limited Partner in 1972. After selling his share of Adapt Inc., a computer time sharing company in San Francisco he co-founded in 1973, he began his full time career in commercial real estate with Coldwell Banker in 1978 as a leasing agent for both office and R&D in Silicon Valley.  In 1987 Jerry left Coldwell Banker and joined his twin brother, William, in order to form Moison Investment Company (MIC) to specialize in commercial real estate investments. Prior to retiring, MIC did sales in excess of $10billion in the western United States.

Aside from commercial real estate, Jerry remains committed to improving the quality of life for the less fortunate as well as residents in his own community of Los Altos. He serves or has served on several non-profit Boards, including City Team Ministries, Los Altos United Methodist Church, Housing Industry Foundation (HIF), and the Los Altos Rotary Club.

 

Melissa Fowlks

Melissa grew up in Fremont, California and attended California State University East Bay where she studied Biological Anthropology with a concentration in Archaeology. She loves the Bay Area and all of the diversity that it has to offer from varied cultures to small pockets of emerald gems scattered throughout the Bay’s cities. Throughout college Melissa worked for the East Bay Regional Park District developing a love for interpretation and environmental education. When she finished college Melissa found herself on The Coastside near Pescadero teaching environmental education at Vida Verde.  Melissa is currently working as a teaching assistant and mental health counselor at Seneca, and finding some overlap between her current students and those she worked with at V.V.

Melissa has committed her life and her career to these especially deserving students who are in need.  The work is not easy, but she believes strongly in giving all students the chance to wonder, sparking an interest in the outdoors and in their own education and success for students who otherwise wouldn't have the chance.
 

Karen Harwell

Karen Harwell is Director of Exploring a Sense of Place—which is “a project, a course, and a guidebook” to help people reconnect to the natural world where they live. Following scientific studies resulting in a B.S. degree, she did graduate study in philosophy, cosmology and consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, completed a six-week Earth Literacy program at Genesis Farm in New Jersey, and became certified in the study of permaculture at Occidental Arts and Ecology in Northern California. Through these programs, she became interested in bioregionalism and wanted to create the opportunity for people to experience their lives as part of an Earth community.

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JOBS


JOBS


Employment

Every year we look forward with excitement at the opportunity to meet and get to know an amazing new round of mission-driven applicants for our school-year instructor positions. We also fear, just a little, having to make the tough decisions between qualified applicants who are experienced, talented, dynamic, and fun, so that we can create just the right team necessary to make the upcoming Vida Verde year as successful as possible! We typically post Instructor job openings for the upcoming school year in late January.

Please view our job openings below. Application information can be found in the job postings.

Job Openings  

Vida Verde is currently hiring for the following position(s):

Summer Caretaker

Name *
Name

Vida Verde is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, disability, medical condition, marital status, or veteran status. People of color and individuals from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

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DIRECTIONS


DIRECTIONS


Directions

Vida Verde utilizes two sites. Make sure you’re going to the correct one! Please contact us to plan a visit.


 

V.V. Camp At the Optimist Youth Camp

5360 La Honda Rd, San Gregorio, CA 94074
(Day 1 of camp starts here!)

Directions

From the Bay Area take HWY 92 West from I-280 towards Half Moon Bay for 7.5 miles

  1. Turn LEFT on HWY 1 South at 2nd stoplight. Travel for 11 miles.
  2. Turn LEFT at HWY 84 Travel for 5.3 miles.
    Look for Yellow and Red sign on RIGHT that reads “OPTIMIST YOUTH CENTER”
  3. Turn RIGHT at gravel DRIVEWAY immediately after sign. Please swing wide of large burm & please avoid the orange cones marking culverts.
  4. Follow driveway down hill and across narrow bridge until you come to the second gravel parking lot. There is a big turnaround spot for buses.
 

 

V.V. Farm and Office at Hidden Creek

(also Directors Shawn & Laura’s house)
3540 La Honda Road
San Gregorio, CA 94074

Please contact us for directions

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CONTACT US


CONTACT US


Getting in Touch


Name *
Name

Office Address:

Please contact us before visiting

3540 La Honda Road
San Gregorio, CA 94074
(All mail should be sent to this address)

T 650.747.9288
E info@vveducation.org


Office Staff Email

General inquiries
info@vveducation.org

Jody Peterman, Office Manager
email: jody@vveducation.org

Jessica Kahlman, Grants Manager
email: jessica@vveducation.org

Laura Sears, Director of Development
email: laura@vveducation.org

Shawn Sears, Executive Director
email: shawn@vveducation.org

Other staff emails can be found along with their bios above.

 

For Schools and Teachers

Please contact us to set up a class trip to Vida Verde.

On Day 1 of your trip, come to Optimist Youth Camp: 5360 La Honda Rd (Hwy 84). Departure at the end of the trip will happen from the same place. (see directions here)

During the trip, we’ll also spend time on our organic farm, Pescadero State Beach (and other nearby beaches), and Sam MacDonald County Park. We travel to these locations via Vida Verde’s 15 passenger vans.