Stories from the Field

Champion Teacher Harold Galvez

Combined Shape Copy Created with Sketch.
students and teachers outside at Yosemite, in front of waterfall sunny day

Next month’s trip to NatureBridge for Harold Galvez’s Vine Street Elementary School students from Los Angeles has been nearly a decade in the making. And on February 18, he’ll accompany 34 sixth grade students to Yosemite National Park—a first-time trip for almost the entire group. 

Harold was first introduced to NatureBridge in 2011 as a teacher at Wonderland Avenue Elementary School, a school just five miles down the road from Vine Street. Since 2008, Wonderland has brought its fifth grade students on a NatureBridge environmental science program each year.

The program was life-changing, even for Harold, but each time that he visited the national park, he was reminded how much Vine Street students would benefit from the same experience. Born in El Salvador but raised in the L.A. area since he was two, Harold attended Vine Street Elementary himself and later taught at the school for several years. In 2011, he took a position at Wonderland.

students outside cabin at Curry Village in Yosemite
Harold during a trip to NatureBridge in Yosemite with students from Wonderland Ave. Elementary School.

“Having been a Vine student myself, I can relate to the hardships these students are going through… their parents often have to work two, sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. It’s a big struggle here,” said Harold. “It’s a lot easier for Wonderland students to attend these kinds of programs. But at Vine, we have to pool all of our resources and use all of our tricks.”

But that didn’t stop Harold from bringing this opportunity to fruition. In 2016, a coordinator position opened up at Vine and he jumped on the opportunity to return—changes were being made at the school and he wanted to make the NatureBridge program happen for these students. And this year, everything began to fall into place. Jennifer Cheng—someone Harold considers a champion for inclusivity—took over as principal. 

With Jennifer as a confidant, Harold worked hard to make the pieces come together: Hosting parent informational nights, working on the financials and putting together the pieces—even when it meant getting creative. 

“A lot of people worked together to make this happen for these kids and I think it makes it that much more valuable,” he said. “We’re all really excited.”

I want them to have these experiences early on, I want them to see that the sky's the limit and not be blinded by what they experience in their neighborhood—there’s more to life than Vine Street. I want to inspire them to always aim high in whatever it is that they’re doing.
Harold Galvez, Vine Street Elementary School

“For me, this year’s NatureBridge program means the possibility of starting a new tradition here at this school,” he said. “I know the value of this program. Being out in nature makes you feel like you’re in a completely different world. It really expands your horizons. I want these Vine Street kids to be able to experience that early on so they see that there’s more to life than the Vine Street neighborhood. I want to level the playing field for these kids.”

Harold recalls the palpable energy among Wonderland students after coming back from NatureBridge and watching the moments of stewardship after the trip. This year, Harold’s looking forward to seeing the ripple effect of stewardship in the community when his Vine Street students return. 

“I think for most of them, this is going to be their first true nature experience,” said Harold. “We need to have programs like NatureBridge at not just the affluent schools, but all schools so every kid has the opportunity.”

The fact that NatureBridge offers scholarship support is tremendous. It wouldn’t be possible for Vine Street to attend without it.
Harold Galvez, Vine Street Elementary School

NatureBridge scholarship support increases access to our parks and programs. By ensuring our programs’ relevance to diverse student populations, we engage a new generation and create pathways to learning, growth and environmental stewardship. And thanks to champion teachers like Harold, each year we connect even more students to our national park classrooms. 

You can be a champion too, by giving to NatureBridge! #InvestInKids

portrait of harold galvez, LA teacher
It's champion teachers like Harold who make it possible for so many students to have this opportunity.
Check out these other