News & Resources

Faces of Leadership: Helena Cicero, Board of Trustees

Posted by lindsaybarden | Sep 18, 2017

There is a kind of ‘classic’ story that you often hear when talking to someone on the staff, board, or faculty at Au Sable. A story of coming to Au Sable, encountering a new perspective of God and his creation, being captivated by the community and mission of the Institute then returning again and again. It's the kind of story we love to hear and love to tell. Helena Cicero, the Interim Director of the Oakes Museum at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, and member of Au Sable’s Board of Trustees is someone whose story is one of those classics.

She came to Au Sable first as a college student in the summer following her sophomore year at Messiah College, her sights set on medical school after graduation. She was in the first group of students to study at the Pacific Rim campus taking Marine Stewardship in 1997, “I remember each evening I would be diligently studying in the lounge," Helena shared, "and one of my classmates would go out on the bluffs to watch the sunset. For days he would invite everyone else to join him, but I thought I needed to keep studying. One day I finally went out to watch the sunset and was completely in awe of the beauty before me. I learned a valuable lesson there, -  don’t miss out on the wonder and awe of creation because you are too busy studying it!” 

Following her studies at the Au Sable – Pacific Rim Campus, she continued on to the Great Lakes Campus where she studied Restoration Ecology and Sustainability from Dr. Cal DeWitt (the Founding Executive Director of the Au Sable Institute). Helena returned to Au Sable the following year to study Field Botany, Plant Ecology, Field Geology, and Advanced Field Biology then over the following winter studied with Au Sable in India, taking Ecology of the Indian Subtropics. Helena says that, “these experiences changed my trajectory.  I had thought I would go to medical school, but I found my interest to be much more in how our ecosystems work and how people interact with our world.”

After Graduation from Messiah College, Helena worked as a TA in Au Sable’s Field Botany class, participated in research at the Pacific Rim campus on a glacial outwash prairie, then took part in the Environmental Education Internship Program where she realized teaching is where her passions and skills lined up. “I learned that I love to see that look of wonder and amazement when children make a connection with their world,” explained Helena, “and the satisfaction I feel as an educator when I see how I helped them along the way. I had no idea that I liked kids until the internship at Au Sable, that realization was a highlight of my experience there.”

Today Helena has built a career in science education, she serves as the Interim Director of the Oakes Museum at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania where she has been working since 2004. Helena has served in numerous roles at the Oakes Museum, starting as a Docent from 2004-2008, Education Coordinator from 2008-2017, and now Interim Director. In her role, Helena writes and implements curriculum for the museum classroom, broadens the scope of educational offerings at the museum as well as managing and coordinating all museum education programs.

Helena lives in an intentional community in Mechanicsburg, PA with her husband Patrick, kids Jack and Maggie, parents and dog Marv. Helena is an avid reader, and a tenured cheerleader for her children at their many sports events (Soccer, baseball, basketball, and track). Helena thoroughly enjoys her daily walks with Marv and has found a stronger sense of place and community through exploring the neighborhood and the seasons with Marv each day.

“I love Au Sable,” said Helena. “It was instrumental in shaping who I have become, and I am blessed and humbled by the opportunity to work on the board.”

Au Sable is excited to have Helena as a new member of the Board of Trustees, there are not many who have taken part in so many of Au Sable’s programs and know from first-hand experience how each program runs. Her expertise as a science educator who knows the Institute well, make Helena a great asset to the Au Sable Board of Trustees.