Statement of Purpose: Appreciation, Kinship, and Protection of the Natural World

By Andra Yeghoian|January 18, 2023

Statement of Purpose: Ten Strands is introducing its staff through statements of purpose from each member that reveal the motivations and ambitions of their work. 

As the last one to go, I realized I cannot procrastinate on this task any longer. So, here is my attempt to pull together my statement of purpose in a way that gives gratitude for the many people and experiences that led me to this work today and contribute most to my daily motivation and ambition in this role. 

Formative Years: I grew up in an entrepreneurial, blue-collar family that worked hard to provide a rich foundation of exposure to all different types of people and activitiesmusic, scouts, sports, ethnic cultural awareness, social activism, etc. These formative years helped my siblings and me be “well rounded” and approach our privilege with humility, as well as a sense of stewardship for the planet and the well-being of the greater community. Ten Strands is a place where I can put that sense of stewardship into action. 

Andra with her mom and siblings on Bay Area Adventure Day to Mount Diablo in 1986.

Appreciation of Place and Natural World: I grew up in California but spent over a decade in my late teens and twenties traveling or living abroad. Every landscape I visited helped inspire in me a deeper awe for the beauty and intricacies of our natural world and physical landscape as well as appreciation for the non-human living creatures that we share this planet with. I feel most grounded in the Mediterranean climate near both water and foothills, and I am motivated that a part of my work seeks to protect this fragile climate in my beloved state of California.  

Andra with her siblings and dad on a Bay Area Adventure Day in 1986.

Learning Organizations Grounded in Kinship with the Natural World and Humanity: In my late twenties and early thirties, I had a number of experiences that helped me realize how important it is to me to work somewhere that operates as a learning organization that holds itself accountable to being values based and mission driven. I first became familiar with Learning Organizations while pursuing my MBA at Presidio Graduate School (formerly Bainbridge Graduate Institute), and I was able to apply those concepts right away to my role as a classroom teacher. However, I often found it frustrating that the broader school system that I was working in did not function as a learning organization, nor did it prioritize connecting with nature. My next role, as director of sustainability at Bishop O’Dowd High School, gave me the opportunity to work somewhere that functioned as a mission-driven learning organization and where staff worked hard to apply their charism (community values) to the daily operations of the school: community in diversity, strength of character, academic excellence, kinship with creation, social justice, and joy. I find it motivating to work again at an organization that operates as a learning organization with values grounded in kinship with the natural world and humanity.  

Andra teaching a geo history agriculture lesson at Bishop O’Dowd in 2016.

Physical Ability and Perspective: I deal with a chronic physical injury that has made me wheelchair bound multiple times in the past twenty years. This reality has helped me gain perspective on how critical it is to ensure that nature is accessible to all people regardless of physical abilities, socioeconomic status, gender or sexual orientation, or race or ethnicity. I am grateful that a part of Ten Strands’ work is to drive systemic changes in TK–12 education to make time outdoors in nature a part of the daily school experience for all students. 

Andra facilitating at Bishop O’Dowd 2015.

Nothing Matters and Everything Matters: As a humanities teacher, I am familiar with the ups and downs of the human narrative and how small our context is within the greater arch of the earth’s history. My motivation sometimes struggles to break through the idea that we are a speck upon a speck in this vast universe and that, on some level, nothing matters. At the same time I am a mother of two children whom I love more than anything in the world, and I am part of a larger family, community, and natural ecosystems that I care about and am connected to;  therefore, everything matters. Somehow these two contradictionsnothing matters and everything mattersactually help me stay motivated, but they also keep my sense of urgency in perspective so that I can still experience everyday joy. So while I am completely bought into the idea that I have a responsibility to contribute to better this world for my children and the many generations to follow, I appreciate working at a place like Ten Strands that allows me to have fun and enjoy the journey of saving the world.   

Andra hiking with kids Elliot (7) and Aria (5) in 2022.

The Education System Is a Critical Leverage Point for Change: I am motivated to focus my work on the education system because I believe that it is possible for non-indigenous humans to find their way back to an environmentally literate paradigm that recognizes how humans are interconnected with nature. Many textssuch as Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmer, and The Lorax, by Dr. Seussopened my eyes to the possibility that all humans can enact a story of interconnectedness and reciprocity that supports a healthy and sustained life for the human species. While most non-indigenous communities have currently chosen a paradigm of consumption and greed that is highly likely to end in a fiery ball of self-destruction, there are hundreds of indigenous communities who have chosen the exact opposite paradigm. As a systems thinker, I fundamentally believe that the most critical leverage point for helping non-indigenous humans catalyze a transformational, sustainable paradigm shift is by changing the institution that has one of the strongest influences on our cultural mindset: TK–12 education. On average, students spend over sixteen thousand hours having their world outlook shaped by the TK–12 education system. This is a major investment in public education, and I am grateful to be working for an organization that seeks to infuse environmental literacy into that major investment. 

Andra reflecting on patterns and systems while traveling in Napa and Sonoma in 2011.

If you made it this far, I am grateful for your time and interest in understanding my sense of purpose, and I am grateful to the many amazing colleagues and changemakers I have met along the way who keep me motivated. I leave you with one of my favorite videos that keeps me grounded in this work: Louie Schwartzberg’s Tedx Talk – Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. 

Andra Yeghoian
This article was written by Andra Yeghoian

Andra Yeghoian brings more than 15 years of experience in education across public and private school systems, nationally and internationally. She currently provides visionary leadership for a California-wide whole systems approach to integrating environmental and climate literacy, and sustainable and climate resilient school efforts, across a school community’s campus, curriculum, community and culture. Andra holds a B.A. and education credentials from UC Davis, and an MBA from Presidio Graduate School. Under her leadership, she has supported school sites, districts, and county offices in achieving honors such as the U.S. Department of Education and California Green Ribbon Award, Bay Area Green Business Certification, and LEED Platinum Certification for New Buildings.


  • Craig Strang

    Thanks for sharing your purpose, Andra. It’s a great story to share. Systems thinking is hard. Systems doing is even harder! I’m grateful to share a system and to be on the same team with you.

  • Isabel Montilla

    “Nothing matters and everything matters.” What a powerful perspective! Thank you for your statement, your commitment, and the link to Louie Schwartzberg.

  • Diane Yeghoian

    Your ability, Andra, to step back and look at things from a bigger perspective is something in your core from your beginnings. You have always been a systems thinker with a passion for sustainability even though those labels were not common in your youth. I remember standing next to a waterfall with you on your first trip to Yosemite when you were eight. We were all feeling the mist on our faces but your first comment was, “that’s a lot of energy that could be used for power”. I’m so proud of you and thrilled that you see your visions can be accomplished through education. Go team Ten Strands!