Please meet Dana Lawson – a tenacious pioneer of hope and inspiration, committed to positive change through education. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Nature’s Academy, a nonprofit STEM and nature education organization, and also the Founder and CEO of The Lawson Alliance, SPC.
Dana grew up immersed in nature with the beautiful landscape of the New Jersey shore, Vermont and Maine. She graduated high school from Choate Rosemary Hall, distinguished in the Young Science Scholars Program for her thesis on bioremediation. She graduated Cum Laude with a double major in Environmental Studies and Biology from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1995. Dana moved to the Florida Keys where she began her outdoor education career, teaching students about the marine environment.
Dana encountered a major stumbling block when she was diagnosed in 1999 with a rare cancer which caused desmoids tumors to grow in her right leg. While a cancer diagnosis might be overwhelming for most people, Dana did not let this slow her down. Amidst multiple experimental cancer treatments, Dana received several promotions at work with increasing responsibilities and began taking night classes at Nova Southeastern University in pursuit of a graduate degree.
Life can be a series of opportunities, rather than obstacles, depending upon how each of us chooses to perceive the road ahead. Choose challenge over struggle; joy over defeat. And then you, too, will see the opportunities that lie on your road of life.
She completed field research in Australia, the Florida Keys, and the Galapagos Islands. Dana received her Master’s Degree in Marine Biology from Nova Southeastern University in Florida in 2005.
Building on a decade of outdoor teaching experience, Dana founded Nature’s Academy in 2007 where she developed cross-disciplinary lesson plans with hands-on experiential activities which integrate STEM, Common Core, and Florida State Sunshine Standards.
Over the past 14 years, Nature’s Academy has operated as an outdoor K – 12 STEM education facility in Florida. Programs have impacted over 80,000 participants from 42 states and five countries. Unfortunately, restrictions due to COVID-19 prohibited field trips for over a year, compelling Nature’s Academy to phase out its Florida programs. Creating an opportunity out of this newfound obstacle, Dana and Nature’s Academy have changed gears and created an innovative program in Clallam County, WA.
Unbounded Horizons leverages the healing power of the natural environment along with group support to empower adult survivors of domestic abuse.
Always striving to achieve more, Dana is passionate about turning her pain into purpose. Following a series of deeply traumatic events in 2019, she has launched a new business – The Lawson Alliance, SPC. Like Dana, this type of company – a social purpose corporation – is unique and permits her to raise awareness, funds and hope for causes near and dear to her heart. She uses her story to inspire other survivors—of cancer, amputation, trauma, and domestic violence – toward overcoming their own hardships and seeing their own unbounded horizons. Dana is building a thriving, joyful, empowered, global community of survivors. Together, they are challenging themselves and the world to reimagine what is possible.
Although Dana continues to navigate cancer, she does not allow it to dampen her spirit. She passionately devotes herself to Nature’s Academy and The Lawson Alliance, inspiring people of all ages to never give up and achieve their dreams. She is an extraordinary example that, no matter what challenges you may face, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to do. Through her tireless efforts, Dana has literally made the world a better place through her noble work and belief in future generations.