Ron Kauk

Executive Director and member, Board of Directors

I had a life-changing event as a teenager when I went on a 20-day backpacking trip in northern Yosemite. This took me down the path of rock climbing and connection to the ways of nature, from which I have learned all through my adult years. Although climbing may seem like an extreme sport, it is more about engaging with beauty and coming into harmony with the psyche of nature. Yosemite, which has been my home for most of my life, is a sacred place where nature and humanity flow into each other, bringing together the past and the present. Not a day goes by for me without feeling enormous gratitude for sensing and living in this privilege. I want to share that with future generations, especially for those who do not feel that they fit into this society. That is why our mission is to teach respect for nature, and through that, respect ourselves. Ron has lived and climbed in Yosemite National Park for more than 35 years. He is a Patagonia Ambassador.


Nancy Goodban

Chair of the Board of Directors

I am involved in Sacred Rok because I believe that many of us in this modern world are so rushed and so disconnected from nature that we have lost our way. We forget to connect to nature, and get lost inside our busy lives. For me, being in Yosemite helps to ground me and make me realize what is important. Being among the trees, the mountains, the water, and the sky is both healing and rejuvenating. I also believe it is important for young people to experience nature, to hear the rushing waterfalls, to feel the chill in the air as summer turns to fall, to feel the coarseness of the dirt and the sharpness of the pine needles under their feet. Our best hope of healing our earth is to help young people learn to respect and care for the natural world. I want to help Sacred Rok make the nature experience available to more young people. Nancy has a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Harvard University and is retired Deputy Director for Administration at the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency.


Kenji Hakuta

Secretary and Treasurer of the Board of Directors

I make my living as a professor of education, and work on improving the schools for students, especially from bilingual backgrounds. But I am involved with Sacred Rok because most human growth happens outside the school doors — especially outdoors when we come into contact with the elements in nature. I renew myself constantly by being outside, hiking to the glaciers, climbing the rocks and feeling the wind. I want kids to develop awareness, responsibility and a sense of balance, trust and relationships through their experiences. Sacred Rok is an on-going experiment in figuring out how this can happen. Kenji is an Emeritus Professor of Education at Stanford University and helped to start UC Merced as its founding dean of social sciences, humanities and arts.


Lamar Henderson

Member, Board of Directors

My involvement with Sacred Rok is one of great desire and passion. As a very young teen I was blessed to have the experience of attending a summer camp very similar or Sacred Rok. I can fully appreciate what this experience can do for a youth trying to find his or her place in this world. As an adult I am an advocate for youth empowerment through personal growth. The mission of Sacred Rok along with the passion and sincerity of the folks involved, make this the perfect opportunity for me to share my passion and energy. It also allows me to reciprocate the experiences that I have been blessed with to the youth of our community. Lamar is Program Coordinator for Merced County Human Services Agency’s Fatherhood Program, All Dads Matter. He is also a member of the Merced County Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission.


Lucy Snyder

Member, Board of Direct

John Muir, when asked as a young man who he was, responded, “…an unknown nobody”. I share that spirit of insignificance or simplicity, for compared to Yosemite, or to the earth, that is all we all are. My involvement with Sacred Rok stems from our family experience of raising two children, initially in Yosemite, followed by the challenges we encountered during our kids’ adolescent years while living in Merced, CA. For many of us, but especially adolescents, there is a disconnect between living a life connected with the healing elements of nature, versus experiencing the day to day pressures of life in a toxic social environment. Adolescents experience life intensely, forming their identity with the people, experiences, and environments around them. Experiences in nature can be life affirming and life changing. Sacred Rok hopes to facilitate these life changing moments in a young persons life. Lucy lives in Merced, and visits Yosemite frequently with her husband and children.


Steve Shackelton

Member, Board of Directors

I am pleased to be involved with Sacred Rok because, as the former chief ranger in Yosemite, an essential part of my job was to protect all of the elements of the park….not just now, but forever into the future. This includes predictable things like wildlife, plant communities and the systems that sustain them. It also includes elements that are often harder to quantify, like viewsheds, peacefulness, and a sense of solitude in the wilderness. By far the best way to protect these attributes is through education that allows every visitor to the park to understand Yosemite’s unique standing in the world. By revering Yosemite as an island deserving of special treatment – where people can be in harmony with the natural world and with each other – we can imagine the same cooperative spirit for our planet. Sacred Rok provides a rare opportunity for kids to learn Yosemite through rigorous adventure with all five senses – creating deep friendships with each other and the forces of the land. These friendships will sustain them with confidence and will grow them into stewards of the park and the world they occupy and influence throughout their lives. Steve is the former Chief Ranger at Yosemite National Park and currently Director, Vernal Pool Reserve and Project Scientist at the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at the University of California, Merced.


Brian Cooley

Member, Board of Directors

I’m very honored to be involved with Sacred Rok. As the former Chief Probation Officer of Merced County and having spent the last 37 years in the field of youth and adult corrections, I have seen firsthand the power the wilderness can have in bringing about positive change. It is clear that there is a disproportionate number of youth who make up our “at risk” youth population that have not been exposed to the wilderness. It seems as though the youth of today (especially “at risk” youth) are caught up in the social drama of their daily lives. When we add to this the dynamics that are at play when youth become part of our Juvenile Justice System, there is no time (in their minds) for the opportunities afforded by the wilderness. I’m personally very excited to be a part of the conduit that will provide youth the opportunity for a wilderness experience and even more excited that that experience will be in the world renowned Yosemite National Park. I really feel like there is a healing quality that can be found in the wilderness. I think the “healing quality” comes from the process of reflecting on the natural order of life and putting in perspective just where we fit in with respect to overarching grandeur of the natural world “wilderness”. Our youth live in a complicated and highly social world and need to be exposed to the healing properties of the wilderness. I see Sacred Rok as that all important vehicle that provides such an opportunity. Brian is retired Chief Probation Officer of Merced County.


Katie Lambert

Chief Operating Officer, Nutritionist & Trip Guide

Katie sees to the daily operations of Sacred Rok, such as web maintenance, grant writing, scheduling of trips, coordinating presentations, and developing programs. She is also camp cook and nutritionist for Sacred Rok. Lambert holds her masters degree in Traditional Nutrition and works as a Nutritional Therapist in her home in Bishop, CA. Katie has been with Sacred Rok since the beginning working as camp manager cook. She came to the Sierra in 2006 from Louisiana to follow her passion as a professional rock climber. From all of her time spent in the outdoors through climbing she has developed a deep understanding of the power of nature and how beneficial it can be for the health of our mind, body and spirit. Through her work with Sacred Rok she helps to facilitate that to our youth.


milbrey McLaughlin

member, board of directors

Milbrey is an emeritus professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education, and founded the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford. Milbrey’s interests have focused on community youth development, school reform, education policy, inner-city youth, court-dependent youth, community schools and alternative education.  Her most recent book, You Can’t Be What You Can’t See, is a longitudinal account of the benefits of a quality out-of-school program on the life trajectories of hundreds of poor, African American youth who grew up in Chicago’s notorious Cabrini-Green housing project in the 1980s and early ’90s. The book documents these youth two decades after they attended a comprehensive after-school program offering tutoring, enrichment, scholarships, summer camps, and more.  Milbrey found that almost all had graduated high school and escaped poverty, and so had their children.  Key to the program’s success: mentoring, exposure to activities and resources beyond their neighborhood, and a culture of belonging in which staff committed to “never give up on a kid.” These design principles are very much in alignment with Sacred Rok, which exposes young people to new experiences in nature, as well as building trust with caring adults on the trips.