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For Golden Gate Campus Director PaHoua Lee (she/they), there’s no place like the Marin Headlands. “Every time I’ve had an important life event,” PaHoua notes, “I have come here to the Headlands to celebrate.” From engagement photos to pregnancy announcements to family hikes, PaHoua has been drawn back to this special place over and over again. “This place always felt like home to me. I left [after working here as an educator for two years], but NatureBridge has always stayed with me in a lot of ways.” Ten years later, in July 2022, PaHoua returned to NatureBridge as Golden Gate's first woman of color Campus Director.
PaHoua first came to the Bay Area in 2009, when they began working as an intern for San Mateo Outdoor Education. Originally from Wisconsin, PaHoua knew she wanted to pursue dual passions of being an educator and working outdoors. Coming to California made sense, PaHoua explains, because “I knew in California [that] outdoor education was just a part of the education system.” When their time at the internship concluded, PaHoua set their sights on coming to work for NatureBridge at Golden Gate.
From 2010 to 2012, PaHoua worked as a field science educator and a Coastal Camp educator at NatureBridge (then known as The Headlands Institute). They were present during the organization’s official transition from The Headlands Institute to NatureBridge, and they fondly remember their co-workers, students and experiences from that period. One of PaHoua’s favorite memories is encountering bioluminescence during night hikes in the Headlands. “Being able to view bioluminescent plankton is breathtaking,” she recalls. “It looks like sparkling stars in the water.”
The NatureBridge community is so special. It is gratifying knowing that each day, we bring our best selves to work in order to create the best experience for our guests. I am also grateful for the relationships I have developed with coworkers, and these friendships have lasted over a decade now.PaHoua Lee, Golden Gate Campus Director
These successful connections on campus have PaHoua dreaming of how they as Campus Director can positively impact the broader community as well. One area of significance for PaHoua is representation. She has not often seen her identity reflected in leadership positions within the outdoor environmental education industry, and she hopes that students and staff who cross paths with her are inspired to continue their journeys in the industry. As the Golden Gate campus continues to expand, PaHoua shares that “it’s been exciting to think about the growth opportunities at Golden Gate and how we might be able to serve more students through expansion of environmental science programs and summer camp offerings." One of their primary goals is to “serve more students and use our resources wisely.”
Thank you, PaHoua, for nurturing and stewarding a deep sense of place at Golden Gate and serving our community with compassion and commitment!