I've known of Vida Verde for nearly 5 years. What I've seen is the confidence this school provides in the kids with the opportunity to explore nature, outside along the coast. These kids have a fantastic week, learning from each other, working as a team, overcoming their fears and finding themselves in nature. The entire staff, volunteers and community are open arms to provide this camp and week for each kid. The payoff lasts a lifetime and makes a positive change in the children's lives. It's the best run nonprofit I support and believe in.
My students had a wonderful time at Vida Verde. The program was very well-organized, keeping them busy and excited about learning the whole time. It was great to see many of the more shy students come out of their shells a bit and to see some of the more outgoing students step up as leaders. It has been two months since we went and the students are still talking about it! They're knowledge of and passion for the environment and animals was greatly enhanced.
I run a business that helps small nonprofits build their organizational capacity and have provided guidance to scores of organizations over the years. I have been affiliated with Vida Verde for nearly ten years as an advisor, board chair, and donor.
Through that lens, Vida Verde is near or at the top of my nonprofit list in terms of its quality, impact, and organizational strength.
It starts at the top with the co-founders, Laura and Shawn Sears. They're smart, passionate, fiscally very responsible, and haven't fallen into the founders trap that so many others experience. Just recently they had their staff take ownership for an event; Laura and Shawn simply showed up and followed the lead of their staff.
Beyond Laura and Shawn, their staff is amazing. Jody, Claire, Bobby, and Gaby run a tight ship while their instructor crew regularly receives outstanding feedback from the teachers, schools, and students that they serve.
As a management consultant, what impresses me the most about Vida Verde is their organizational intelligence. They have AND USE a strategic plan. They provide regular professional development experiences for their staff. They continuously measure their impact. And they regularly exceed their fundraising goals, due in large part to the authentic and trusting relationships they build with their donor base. These types of strengths are unique within the small nonprofit community.
Going forward Laura and Shawn will extend the organization's impact by sharing their knowledge, models, and experience with the nonprofit sector so that others can replicate their methods.
In short, Vida Verde is a landmark nonprofit organization whose impact will be felt for decades to come.
This is the BEST outdoor education program I have ever attended. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable, motivated, energetic, inspiring, and empathetic. My students (many of whom had never been to a forest or beach) always felt supported, challenged, and loved. They talk about the experience for years afterward and many of them become interested in counselor roles as they age to guide other inner city youth. Thank you Vida Verde!
I have attended two trips with 5th grade students to Vida Verde as a teacher-chaperone. The Vida-Verde staff work diligently to ensure that students have a fantastic experience while learning many lessons about nature through exploration and hands-on education. I can't wait to go on my third trip soon! It's truly an amazing experience that students, and teachers, love.
Vida Verde was very entertaining and I learned a lot during my trip. I went in September of 2011 with my teachers and the rest of my class as I am a student. We spent the days having fun with peers, teachers and the friendly staff/volunteers. I tried things that I would never do at home (like milk a goat!) but it definately helped me grow as a person and become even more brave. If I got a chance to relive the experience, I would.
I first heard of Vida Verde two years ago when my daughter participated in a two-night overnight there with her 5th grade class. Not only did she have an amazing time, but she bonded with her classmates and they all talked about their experiences (milking goats was a highlight) for the entire rest of the year! My daughter has considerable experience with camping/nature/the outdoors, but most of the other students were experiencing something entirely new. The combination of community building and outdoor education is superb.
I developed and run an environmental education/teacher-training program that serves all of Alameda County schools, and one program that has influenced our program and my personal teaching, was my experiences chaperoning my Oakland students at Vida Verde. Vida Verde offers an inspirational educational experience where I have witnessed students personally transform (as well as our class community dynamics transform) into more positive and more connected global citizens. It is a place where learning is engaging, in-depth, and the opportunities of meaningful academic connections is literally endless. I will never forget when my students were learning about compost at the center, and then on fieldwork at our tide pool investigation, our Vida Verde educator used the teachable moment of a decomposing beached whale to reinforce their cycle of nutrients lesson and how students can positively be part of this cycle. They also talked about how human behavior impacted grey whale migration. Making these connections about ecology, which we were studying at the time, my students reflected about their own personal responsibility on what they could do when they went back home to be more eco-minded. It was an absolutely powerful learning moment, that reminds me that students learn best when they experience and explore their world, make connections, and are a part of it. Thank you, B+ and the Vida Verde crew - you aren't a great nonprofit, you are an excellent nonprofit!!!
Vida Verde was very fun and I learned a lot about animals and nature. I would definitely go there again. I think a lot of other students would learn and have a lot of fun at Vida Verde. I hope I can go there again sometime.
Can't say enough about how awesome Vida Verde is. I have served as an V.V. instructor ('07-'08), volunteer, and donor. I have witnessed first-hand V.V.’s transformative work with Bay Area students--students might not otherwise get an opportunity to camp outside, walk among redwoods, milk goats, or visit the beach. Through its visionary leaders, Shawn & Laura Sears, V.V. embraces a commitment to social justice, environmental stewardship, and to nurturing the growth of young people through hands-on outdoor experiences. These values provide the footing for exploration and adventure, teamwork and community-building, and learning and empowerment. I continue to support V.V. because of its critically-important mission and because it leverages its donations and volunteer efforts as well as any organization I know.
I first became aware and involved with Vida Verde over ten years ago. In February 2003, my school brought our 56 sixth graders on a nature adventure and overnight with Vida Verde in San Gregorio, CA. It was a most magical two days of immersing low income urban students into a nature experience that they have never forgotten. From hiking in the redwoods to exploring the coast and Pacific Ocean for the first time to planting a garden, milking goats, making cheese from the milk to cooking and cleaning together in community, this experience opened my students' eyes to the wonder and power of nature for learning, living, personal and physical growth, and for healing and hope. Every year since 2003, our school, the Lighthouse Community Charter School has been bringing our 5th or 6th graders on what has now evolved to be a 3 day, 2 night experience.
What makes Vida Verde Nature Education a great non-profit is it's mission-driven leaders, Shawn and Laura Sears, and the amazing instructors who are driven by equity and providing FREE, overnight, environmental learning experiences for students who don't otherwise get the opportunity. I emphasize FREE to underscore how much commitment and persistence it takes to raise money so that this experience can happen for students. The quality of instruction and programming is top notch. The Vida Verde Instructors understand teaching and learning at is core---the student being the center and the importance of learning being about the whole child--academic, physical, social and emotional.
Every year I continue to support Vida Verde in my charitable giving and also have joined the Board of Vida Verde because I am so committed to the mission of this organization and the results and impact the experience has on students.