I recently spent the afternoon with the 4⁄5 Oakland Wildflowers, playing beckon and tree tag in the cedars, oaks, and cypresses and the glowing green spring grass, creating our altar from treasures found at the site, and hiking up to a magical new hillside spot to celebrate the magenta sunset and the misty waxing moon… I have a heart full of gratitude for the privilege of eldering with Gaia Passages!
We want to let you know about some changes that are happening in GP at the staff level, none of which will alter your kiddos’ experiences in the field. All programs will continue to be held with care, and we’ll be launching our summer programs very soon. Our mission remains the same: centering youth expressing their full selves in multicultural nature-based programs.
We are saying farewell to Kathren Murrell Stevenson, who is leaving her role as Operations Director to be the new ED at Berkeley Herbal Center. The depth of what Kathren brought to GP is more than I can describe here; her brilliant strategic mind, rare ability to hold the big picture along with so many tiny details, and focus on effective systems-building, are just a few of the gifts our ecosystem has received from her.
With the aim of simplification and stability, the Board has approved an interim organizational restructure to support smooth operations through the current program year and summer, which assigns more time to manager roles and less time to staff directors. Michelle Woo, our current Program Director, will be leaving GP to seek a full-time position elsewhere. Michelle has given us the immeasurable gift of her wisdom about non-profit management and government grants, and her deep DEI skills will continue to inform our growth as an organization for a long time to come.
While transitions are inherently destabilizing, they also bring amazing opportunities for creativity and growth. Our GP ecosystem is blessed with a depth of talent and passion for the mission. In this time of asking big questions, the Board consciously chose to build an interim staffing team from within. In large part due to Michelle Woo’s leadership, GP will be undertaking an organizational assessment and strategic planning process in 2022. We look forward to engaging in that growing together process, and determining the “what next” for Gaia Passages.
And now, it’s my pleasure to introduce our new operations team! I’m thrilled to share that Martha Sobrepena, who is currently a guide and a Board Director, will be moving into the role of Program Manager, and will be providing steady support and management of programs in the field. Martha will of course be continuing as a guide, as well.
We’re very fortunate to have Poet, who recently joined the Board of Directors, moving into the role of Operations Manager. They bring their skills as a business owner and an educator with a commitment to deep cultural competency and will help keep the day-to-day operations running smoothly.
We are very excited to welcome Michelle Sauceda to join the staff as Interim Director. Michelle has been a close friend of GP for a long time and has been rooted in the deep nature connection community of the greater Bay Area for almost 25 years. She brings with her: extensive program direction, staff management, and in-the-field experience; strong earth skills, herbal medicine, and youth development knowledge; deep connection with regional landscapes and other people and organizations working in the nature space; and an embodied passion for the mission of GP.
Natasha Lowery (Nosh), is continuing in her role of Program and Administrative Coordinator, providing continuity, stability, and her particular rare combination of analytical brilliance and creativity, in all she does for GP. Please continue to reach out to Nosh with any registration or logistical questions as you have been doing up to now. Nosh will continue guiding groups in the field, as well.
I’ll end by saying thank you to all of you, our caregivers, families, and community, who entrust us with your children. A mission is only words unless we bring it to life; that is what happens in the field with the youth, their guides, and you. Thank you for being such a vital part of our GP ecosystem.
Megan Armstrong, Board Chair
and Gaia Passages Board of Directors