Vida Verde Staff
Co-Founder, Executive Director and Instructor
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.
Co-Founder and Director of Development
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.
Events Manager & Assistant director
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
Head of Program
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
PROGRAM COORDINATOR & instructor
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
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" D. Johnson
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
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 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.
FARM & FACILITIES MANAGER
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.
CAPITAL CAMPAIGN TEAM & PROJECT MANAGER
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.
DEVELOPMENT ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR
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.