Stories from the Field

The Power of NatureBridge: Then & Now

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This past year I met a former NatureBridge (formerly the Yosemite Institute) participant who came back to work in Yosemite National Park—and I soon realized she is not the only one. In Yosemite, there are three wonderful individuals that NatureBridge impacted. Two are graduates of Project Pluton, the gift program NatureBridge provides for the three local schools of Yosemite and the third is from our traditional environmental science residential program.

I’ll begin with Kate Slavensky, for she is who inspired me to write this. I met her in April 2019 where she was working the bike stand that happens to be right next to the NatureBridge Site Manager’s cabin in Curry Village. She asked me if Mission Avenue was still coming because in 2004, Kate had been to Yosemite as a fourth grader with MAOS. After checking with the MAOS lead teacher, Samantha Sidebotham, who exclaimed “Little Katie Slavensky? Oh yes!” I offered Kate the chance to observe her alma mater. (Ms. Sidey, as the kids call her, was Katie’s little brother’s second grade teacher when Katie was in fourth grade and now Ms. Sidey is the lead teacher for MAOS). 

Kate joined us at Housekeeping Camp where MAOS stays, the only NatureBridge program to stay there, on May 15, 2019. The fourth grade class cheered when she was introduced and there were some gasps of disbelief that Kate had been in fourth grade before they were even born!

I asked for Kate for her three favorite memories from her time at NatureBridge in Yosemite and here is what she came up with:

  1. Journal time and getting to find her own spot and each day return to it to sit and be creative. 
  2. Team building activities with her hiking group—particularly at Mirror Lake where Kate spotted a snake and earned the nickname “Snake Charmer.”
  3. Peeing in the woods for the first time and learning that she needs to pack out her toilet paper.

Kate came back to Yosemite in 2016—her mom had told her she needed to either go to college or move out and get a job (once again, Mama Slavensky doing her job!) So Kate chose option number two as her sister was already here and here she stayed, first working the Curry Village Front Desk, then the Bike Stand at Curry. During that time, not only did Yosemite impact her life (climbing, backpacking, exploring, falling in love…) Kate impacted Yosemite’s life by giving back. Kate is found often, on her own time, hiking around the Valley picking up trash. 

Read the next alumni impact story about Project Pluton alums Savanna Deger and Laura Shenk.

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