“The peace and beauty of the space is exceptional, and I believe it’s healing for people from a variety of backgrounds; not just nature or garden enthusiasts.”
Lisa Raffel is the Executive Director of Bridge the Gap, a Marin City nonprofit that provides educational, social, and emotional support to students as they strive to complete high school and graduate from college. Their programs include tutoring, reading intervention, life skill development, college preparation, career advisement, internship exploration, and more. Their goal is to strengthen vulnerable communities through education and enable students to achieve their greatest potential.
Lisa’s passion for inclusive educational environments began when she was an elementary school teacher. She saw firsthand the lack of opportunities for low-income students of color and committed herself to helping them find ways to overcome those barriers. For the past three decades, she has advocated and been a champion for educational equity. With her writing, researching, and training skills, she has collaborated with a diverse group of nonprofits and districts to further her mission. In addition to implementing and designing Bridge the Gap’s first in-school literacy intervention program, she increased the organization’s overall programming and participation by 40 percent.
Marin Art and Garden Center was introduced to Lisa by two Bridge the Gap volunteers, Ned Purdom and Lauren Howard. She was asked if she would be interested in bringing students to Marin Art and Garden Center for a variety of reasons, including internships, art workshops, and tours.
“We brought high school students to meet an artist whose work was on exhibit in the gallery, and the students were able to do a hands-on workshop with her. It was amazing,” Lisa explains. “We also brought a middle school group. They got to take a tour, did gardening, and tasted some of the vegetables. Both experiences were extraordinary. I was also involved in a listening session with community leaders once, and I held my organization’s board retreat at the Garden. They were equally wonderful.”
In an effort to provide the most fulfilling enrichment experiences for students, Lisa has worked closely with Marin Art and Garden Center’s staff and volunteers during her programs. “The people who make up the organization are of exceptionally high quality,” she praises. “They are kind, helpful, wise, eager to build partnerships, and always interested in how they can be better partners.”
Lisa has explored every corner of the property and always loves to see what’s growing in the Edible Garden, as she too is a vegetable gardener. She enjoys gazing upon the majestic trees because, as she says, “They are marvelous and beautiful.” She has learned a lot during her visits, including the history of Ross and everything about image making with seaweed from Josie Iselin’s workshop. One of her favorite memories is from when she watched the high school students in her program be so engaged and focused while making art with their hands near the English oak tree and Butterfly Cottage.
Lisa’s collaboration with Marin Art and Garden Center has brought a tremendous amount of opportunity to Marin County youth. They have been exposed to the wonders of the natural world while building lifelong art skills. “The peace and beauty of the space is exceptional,” Lisa says, “and I believe it’s healing to people from all kinds of backgrounds; not just nature or garden enthusiasts.”
When asked what advice she would give to anyone exploring programs at Marin Art and Garden Center, Lisa says, “Do not delay! Bring yourself, your colleagues and the people you serve. Go for it! It will be a great experience!”