by LIZ ONUFFER | photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

Caring on Campus

What began as a way to support her son’s education has turned into much more for PQ’s Dana McPherson. Beginning her volunteer journey at Sunset Hills Elementary School, Dana now also shares her time and skills on the campus of Black Mountain Middle School, as well as with a number of environmental projects.

volunteer_mcpherson2Dana began volunteering at Sunset Hills in 2009, when her oldest son Tyler started kindergarten. “Once I started volunteering there, I realized what a loving and supportive community it was, and got hooked,” she explained. “While I started simply volunteering in the classroom, I soon began seeking out other ways to help.” Dana now serves as the head of the yearbook, the writer for the school’s newsletter, and a room parent.

Two years ago, when Tyler moved on up to Black Mountain Middle School, Dana also began volunteering there. She is the Science Olympiad photographer and works in the student store. Grateful for the opportunity to make a difference on local campuses, Dana encourages others to get involved, “whether it is in the classroom or doing support work for organizations such as the PTA or school foundations in the evening from home.”

Using her creativity and photography skills, Dana has found a niche for herself in the schools. “My biggest accomplishment is the happiness I see and hear from the students when I take their photo for the yearbook,” she acknowledged. “I love that oftentimes, after I take their photo at a special event or spirit day, they will run off yelling, ‘Yes! I am going to be in the yearbook!’” Dana wishes students had the opportunity to express their enthusiasm and creativity more often during the school day. “I love the way their eyes and faces light up when they get to paint, build model volcanoes, or do a special STEM activity that combines science, creativity, and oftentimes art.”


Dana’s service to her community does not end in the schools. “I grew up camping with my family and have always had a love for nature,” she said. Dana is currently working with the Yosemite Conservancy to document the before and after of the Conservancy’s projects for a future book. As a family, Dana and her husband Andy and children Tyler, Madison, and Camden, take “trash treks” around the neighborhood and local preserves and parks to pick up trash and recyclables. “I feel most relaxed and happy when I am with my family hiking, swimming at the beach, or kayaking and rafting on a lake or river.”

Name: Dana McPherson
Community: Rancho Peñasquitos
Volunteer Affiliation: Sunset Hills Elementary School, Black Mountain Middle School, Yosemite Conservancy
Profession: Professional mom and volunteer
Family: Husband – Andy; Children – Tyler, Madison, and Camden
Favorite Local Spots: Hiking at the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, especially around Carson’s Crossing and the waterfall; boogie boarding with my kids in the ocean or kayaking/paddle boarding on the Carlsbad Lagoon or Mission Bay