Introducing Gracie and Posie!

ETC is delighted to introduce the new leaders of our Sea Kayak program! Hailing from the Bay Area, Gracie Oliva and Posie Bjerkholt each spent time away from home honing their outdoor skills. Gracie has been studying and working in Humboldt County, and Posie has been managing youth wilderness programs in Yosemite. Now, they’ve returned to the Bay to get in the cockpit at ETC.

We sat down with them to learn more about their backgrounds, their plans at ETC, and who they are outside of work.

What are your positions at ETC? What do you do here?

Gracie: I’m Sea Kayak Program Manager. I lead the overall management of the Sea Kayak program: fostering relationships with agencies that we already have and continuing to uphold those relationships, helping recruit volunteers and staff, and acting as an outdoor leader for our trips. 

Posie: I’m Sea Kayak Operations Manager. I help to maintain our gear and all the equipment that make our trips possible; think about enriching program facilitation and what our trips look like in partnership with Gracie; and am a partner with her in program development and logistics.

Posie hikes through a sparse forest.

How did you come to ETC?

Posie: I have been working in the outdoor industry for over six years now in different capacities. My background is mainly in program coordination and outdoor education with youth. I have guided backpacking trips with Camp Tawonga and at UC Davis as a student, and I was recently working at Slide Ranch as an educator and coordinating the wilderness program for Camp Tawonga. 

Gracie: My background is in pretty much everything aquatic recreation. I grew up in San Francisco with a dad as a sailing instructor and my mom as an open-water swimmer, so I grew up playing in, on, and under the water. Then I went up to Humboldt for school, studied recreation administration, and I was involved in the outdoor recreation office on campus for pretty much the entire time I was going to school. I became a US sailing instructor, an ACA kayak instructor, and a divemaster. 

What is your favorite part of ETC so far?

Gracie: Interacting with the participants in our mission groups. While a lot of us are in the office, whenever any of us have a chance to interact with our groups, I think that restores our faith in “This is exactly why I’m here!”

Posie: The people component. Not only in the office – everyone is so nice and welcoming and making the job feel really exciting – but also the opportunity to work every day with different groups of people that I’m going to be out guiding with.

What are your goals for the year?

Posie: Gets lots of people out on the water! 

Gracie: Agreed. Personal goals: advancing your technical skills is always a work in progress. While I feel super comfortable in a boat, there are so many things that I can still work on. Being really comfortable with all things adaptive.

Posie: We’ll know that we’re successful if people come away from our trips having had a positive experience and feeling connected to whatever they’re taking out of it – being connected to the land and the water, being connected to each other, and to the experience of having joy outside.

What does being outdoors mean to you?

Gracie: Being able to foster a community with people from all abilities, all backgrounds, all ages, to have a really holistic and common goal for being able to interact in the outdoors. Being in the outdoors helps all of us foster being our best selves. 

Posie: So many things! How unique it is to be a quote-unquote outdoor professional, getting to work outdoors in an urban setting. I’ve spent time working in more rural places, and it’s really a different experience. Being in a city, even for myself, means developing new ways of being able to interact with nature.

What do you like to do when you’re not at ETC?

Posie: Go outside!

Gracie: I have a really big passion for scuba diving and freediving. Tide pooling is my favorite activity: finding a good low tide and trying to find all the critters that you can’t typically see. 

My biggest passion outside of work is trying to be involved in citizen science projects. I have been volunteering with an organization called Reef Check that looks to help identify and help restore kelp populations along the California coast. 

My favorite thing to do ever is go diving and cull urchins. You go underwater with a hammer and try to smash them.

Posie: I don’t like swimming underwater! It’s scary. But I do love swimming. I love to go jump in the ocean. 

I enjoy learning new things, reading and trying new crafts. I’m big on crafting: sewing, cooking, painting, baking, things like that. I try to spend a lot of time connecting with friends and family. 

Is there anything else you want to share with the class?

Gracie: I’m really, really stoked to be here! If you were to ask 19-year-old Gracie what her dream job would be, it would be pretty close to what I’m doing right now.

Posie: We were just talking yesterday afternoon about how lucky and privileged we feel to be here and to be working with ETC!