Stories from the Field

Staff Spotlight: Appreciation for Miho Aida

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Editor’s note: Director of Equity and Inclusion Miho Aida will be leaving NatureBridge on April 15, 2024, after over twenty years spanning several educational and leadership roles. Please join us in appreciating Miho for their invaluable contributions to NatureBridge and to innumerable students, teachers, and colleagues over the years.

Miho Aida (she/they) has held multiple roles at NatureBridge over the past twenty-four years, including Environmental Science Educator, Community Connection Coordinator, Field Staff Scientist, Marine Project Coordinator, Pacific Rim Environmental Education Specialist, Armstrong Scholars Educator, Diversity Coordinator, Equity and Inclusion Manager, and Director of Equity and Inclusion. Now, on the eve of Miho's departure, we asked them to reflect on their time at NatureBridge and share a bit about their upcoming adventures.

Is there any NatureBridge moment or memory that encapsulates your journey through change, freedom, exploration, and learning? #

Miho arrived at NatureBridge while still on a student visa, a very different situation from the other NatureBridge educators who already had their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. An immigration attorney who accompanied her son on a NatureBridge program as a chaperone, Phyllis Jewell, offered to assist Miho with pro bono work to secure their green card. “That was a really long, multi-year process,” Miho recalls. The legal proceedings began around 2001—and Miho received their green card in 2012.

Yet the process offered Miho a chance to examine and alter their perspective: “Something clicked in me that regardless of how I feel about this process, it is what it is… If I think I’m trapped in this process, then I will be trapped. If I think it is an opportunity then it will be an opportunity.”

“I think having that mindset has helped me approach challenges,” Miho says, adding that it’s something they try to communicate to their students: “It’s challenging and it’s a struggle, and we always have something we can learn.”

With this mindset, Miho set out to explore other opportunities that were available to them—and they wound up applying for and receiving from NatureBridge both the Baxter Award and the Bishop/Marcus Award. Miho received the Baxter Award in 2008 and used the opportunity to travel and listen to stories from women of color in the outdoors around the world. “That was a significant, life-changing experience for me,” Miho reflects. “I really affirmed what my role was (as someone who identifies as a woman of color) and my effort to bring dynamic women of color’s stories to light—how we are making a difference.” Receiving the Bishop/Marcus Award in 2010 offered Miho additional opportunities to continue this listening journey—specifically highlighting the experiences of Native American women who are actively involved in the environmental movement. Miho’s experiences in 2010 even led them to create—in collaboration with the Gwich’in people of Alaska—an award-winning film based on the women’s stories and struggles.

Quoting the author and poet Maya Angelou, Miho sums up the shift in perspective that they discovered among their challenges and opportunities: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” This idea “encapsulates a different way to exist in the world,” Miho remarks. It’s a way of existing that Miho continues to pursue.

What excites you about your upcoming adventures? What would you like to share about them? #

Now that they have completed hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Miho’s next planned adventure is to hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). The CDT is 3,100 miles and wends through the Rocky Mountains from New Mexico to Canada. It is one of three major national scenic trails (the PCT and the Appalachian Trail are the other two). 

“I’m excited to hike the CDT because it’s more remote than the PCT and it requires more preparation, experience and flexibility than hiking on the PCT,” Miho says. “The Rockies are more unpredictable—afternoon thunderstorms, higher elevations, snow travels with sun exposure.”

I’m there not just to connect with the land; I’m going to connect with myself. I'm there to continue my practice by using all my senses and all I've got to be in harmony with the land and myself.
Miho Aida, Director of Equity and Inclusion

Once Miho reaches Canada on the CDT, they hope to bike the world’s longest off-pavement bicycle route, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which stretches from Jasper, Canada all the way south to the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico. Additionally, Miho’s dreams of completing the Appalachian Trail in 2025, following that thru-hike with biking the Underground Railroad bike route. Once Miho completes the three national scenic trails, they’ll have achieved another rare honor—being known as a “Triple Crowner,” or someone who has finished the thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. It’s a big dream, and Miho believes they can accomplish it!

Do you have any parting thoughts you’d like to share? #

Miho identifies several mentors and influential people from NatureBridge who encouraged and challenged them on their journey. First among these individuals were Cleve Justis (who was the Education Director when Miho started working at NatureBridge Golden Gate and who eventually became the Golden Gate Campus Director) and Duffy Ross (Miho’s “mentor teacher” who eventually became Golden Gate’s Education Director). Duffy was also the person who spearheaded NatureBridge’s diversity work, along with the Human Resources Director at the time. “She was the first leader at NatureBridge who met me where I was and affirmed me to be who I am,” Miho states, speaking of Duffy. “I was inspired by her care, radical thinking, and approach to equity and inclusion work.”

I’m just really full of gratitude for NatureBridge giving me a place to grow. This was my dream…to work in the national parks and to use the parks as a classroom to teach students to connect with themselves and the environment. It came true! There are just so many beautiful moments and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.
Miho Aida, Director of Equity and Inclusion

Overall, Miho says that they are full of gratitude for their time at NatureBridge and the opportunities it has offered. “I’m leaving with a sense of extreme gratitude and a sense of ‘I’ve done something that’s meaningful.’ Hopefully people will remember some of the teachings that I’m leaving with people and the organization.”

Thank you, Miho, for the incredible foundation you have laid here! Your presence, teachings, and impact at NatureBridge will be remembered and help us continue growing appreciated far into the future.


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