Meet our Board Member & YAB mentor: Michelle

I grew in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio as a first generation Filipino American with parents who grew up in the heart of Manila, Philippines. The extent of my experience in the great outdoors consisted of the 15 minutes of recess we had each day at school and the 4th grade school field trip to Horseshoe Lake, a nearby public park. Playing outside, much less camping or hiking, was just something our family did not do.


"Spending time in nature has the power to ground, calm and excite me all at the same time."

It wasn’t until my junior year in college, when one of my friends asked me to go camping, that I truly experienced nature and the outdoors. It was a powerful, life-changing experience for me; and I haven’t stopped exploring since.

Spending time in nature has the power to ground, calm and excite me all at the same time. From climbing Grand Teton to walking on the Bay Trail by my house, camping at Half Moon Bay State Beach to climbing Mt. Shasta to raise money for breast cancer – these experiences have taught me so much about my own strength – physical, mental and emotional. They’ve given me opportunities to trust my instincts, provided me outlets to deal with daily stresses and helped my ego understand that sometimes it is best to let go, turn back or change plans.

While I am thankful my world was opened to the outdoors when I was in college, I take pride in being part of GirlVentures, an organization that opens this world up to much younger girls. Adolescence is an awkward and difficult time. Changing hormones; navigating relationships; increasing pressure from society to look, act and dress a certain way; and the simple human need for acceptance make it hard for girls to navigate this period without guidance, purpose or camaraderie. GirlVentures offers all of those things, and so much more. The experiential learning opportunities that GirlVentures provide girls a chance for outdoor adventure and inner discovery.

Last year, I had the pleasure and privilege to serve as a mentor for the Youth Advisory Board. The time that I spent with the girls allowed me to witness how GirlVentures helps girls understand their unique voice and power to take action on issues they are passionate about. Be it making a change on how and where they shop or becoming a GirlVentures assistant instructor or walking in the Women's March, the girls learn that the decisions they make and the actions they take can truly make a difference and impact our community in positive ways.This gives me so much hope for our nation and for the world. These girls will be our future leaders, and I for one, cannot wait to see it all unfold.

GirlVentures' upcoming Gala showcases the journeys and achievements of these incredible young women. The annual event will be held this year on October 18 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I’d love to see you there.

Michelle Sioson Hyman is Deputy Director for the Center for Early Learning at Silicon Valley Community Foundation. She manages a number of high profile regional strategies, research, convenings and many aspects of the Center’s development, strategic partnerships and internal operations. Prior to joining SVCF, Michelle worked as program manager for Raising A Reader and program officer for First 5 Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. Michelle has experience in strategic planning, curriculum development and community building in the areas of early childhood development, education and public health.

Michelle has a master’s in public health from Yale University. She is also a certified yoga instructor and birth support doula. Michelle enjoys rock climbing, camping, hiking and is on a quest to find the best bakery ever.

Emily TeitsworthComment