Stories from the Field

Board Spotlight: Stephanie Yu

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With a love for both the mountains and the ocean, Yosemite Board Secretary Stephanie Yu joined NatureBridge in 2016. Here, she shares her personal connection to nature as well as her passion for advancing diversity and inclusion in the field of outdoor environmental education.

Why did you want to be a NatureBridge board member?

When I learned about NatureBridge, its emphasis on environmental education for schoolchildren resonated with me. Not all cultures have historically embraced being in nature for leisure, and others have been shut out. The environmental movement’s track record in diversity, equity and inclusions has not always been great, but it is improving. I see this in my own work as an environmental lawyer, and I wanted to volunteer my time to help generate more diversity and inclusion with an environmental/nature-focused non-profit.  

How you were first introduced to NatureBridge?

A then-NatureBridge employee (Cassie Hughes) and I were cohorts in an environmental leadership program in 2013, so that was my first introduction to the organization. A couple years later, I met current Golden Gate regional board member Deb Maltenfort when we were both living on the east coast and she was on the Mid-Atlantic regional board. She found out that I was moving to Sacramento and connected me with NatureBridge Yosemite. 

What personal experiences inspired your connection to nature?

I was raised in a rural area, but I don’t think I realized how connected I was to nature until I moved to an urban area and really missed seeing open, green space. My brother and I got pretty decent at making dams in small creeks as kids, and I later went to school in a rural environment, too, so being in a concrete jungle as a young adult was really difficult for me. Now, I’m pretty in love with both mountains and the ocean.

Why do you think it is it important to connect youth to nature?

There are so many reasons. A very basic one is that being outdoors and in nature is a way to invigorate ourselves. It feels good! And early exposure and connection to nature cultivates an appreciation for and understanding of environmental systems and how human communities fit in. Disappearing or deteriorating natural spaces adversely affect human communities, some more intensely than others. If one spends all their time in the built environment, it’s easy to miss this connection. 

What was your best, most inspiring or most memorable experience with Nature?

A little over a decade ago, my brother and I spent several days in Glacier National Park and hiked up to one of the glaciers. I think it was the first time either of us had ever been up close and personal with a glacier, or ever looked down into a glacial valley dotted with those clear blue lakes. The view was stunning, and I still can’t believe something like that is in the continental U.S.

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