Dezirae Pebenito: Lead Auntie, Nature-Based Mentor
Dezirae is a storyteller, artist, and youth educator in the bay area. Her art and stories are inspired by reflections of the interconnectedness of all things. Dezirae is passionate about providing safe spaces for young humans to explore self-love and creativity through social-emotional learning (SEL) based curriculum. She has worked with Soul Shoppe, an SEL and empathy based non-profit, and served on the board of Oakland Youth Aspire as the curriculum director for the past 3 years. In addition to being a Gaia Girls auntie, she is a storyteller with Girl Myth at ASCEND middle school and site director for Girls on the Go. Dezirae received a degree in plant biology and botany at UC Davis. After studying Sustainable Development abroad in Leipzig, Germany, she realized that true sustainability comes from a connection to one’s self, to one’s community, and to the natural world.
Ursula Stoller: Lead Auntie, Nature-Based Mentor
Ursula is most at home in the water. She was born and raised in the beautiful land of the Bay Area, Ohlone Territory, and loves to wander the wild lands surrounding the city. She has been teaching mindfulness and nature connection to youth in the bay area for many years with organizations including the Mindful Life Project and Wilderness Torah. She loves singing, plants, and sharing stories with her puppets. She is passionate about rites of passage for all ages, and now is a doula as well as an educator. She was lucky to study nature connection at the Wilderness Awareness School in Washington state, which deepened her connection to place and passion for teaching and mentoring youth outdoors. In this time she also got to experience moving through her own rite of passage held by the community there, and is grateful to be able to steward this journey for youth at Gaia Girls.
Nina Gordon Kirsch: Auntie, Nature-Based Mentor
Nina grew up in Berkeley and loved her family’s annual camping trips to Point Reyes and Hendy Woods, and weekend hikes with her dad in Tilden Park. In college she volunteered to take fellow students in the outdoors – introducing them to sunrises, constellations, and gratitude for what nature has to offer. After graduate school, Nina decided to take up outdoor education full time, and in addition to Gaia Girls, currently works for GirlVentures, Outward Bound, and REI’s Outdoor School. Through her work in experiential education, Nina has witnessed how capable young people are when they are trusted and believed in by adults. She is excited to be an Auntie for Gaia Girls, knowing she will learn just as much from the girls as they will from her.