Kaya Pungello is originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. After attending schools in Asheville, North Carolina, and Washington D.C., she ended up in Washington state for two years. Her latest move finds her here at Prescott College, studying Adventure Education as a senior transfer student. Kaya applied for the accelerated master's program, so she plans on being here for a few years. “The Master of Arts and Adventure Education programs are really self-directed. I built a plan that integrated those two areas of study to help move my career forward. I picked Prescott College because I’ve been working as a river guide for a few years and I wanted to learn more about the educational side of the outdoor industry, and I wanted to go to a place where there was a lot of social justice talking and thinking.” said Kaya.
Kaya had some concerns about moving to Prescott, Arizona but as soon as she stepped foot on Prescott College campus, right away she realized she was with other accepting and welcoming of LGBTQ+ individuals. Kaya reflects on her ability to engage in field-based experiences including the new student wilderness orientation. “The most meaningful experience for me so far is probably orientation,” she states. She appreciated the close family bond that she formed with her instructors and classmates during the experience. She also appreciated that her specific orientation group was comprised of older students who had experiences attending other schools, some experiences that were tough and made them appreciate the small community that Prescott College affords.
Kaya brings a strong social justice perspective to her studies in Adventure Education and the outdoor industry. She was a presenter at the 2018 LGBTQ Outdoor Summit, held on Ohlone and Coastal Miwok ancestral land near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The mission of the summit is “to cultivate connections, build community and inspire leaders from across the outdoor industry and beyond to create more accessible and affirming ways for the LGBTQ community to get OUTside.” She also recently served as a guide for a river rafting trip for queer adults in Seattle through an organization that helped put on the summit. She reflects on the experience and appreciates the opportunity to “work on educational trips because I can kind of be myself, especially in front of students to help them learn how to respect their friends or family because this is the queerest generation, to create a safe space.”