Stewards East • Beckley, West Virginia Office Staff
John-Michael Aurednik (he/him/his) is a native to West Virginia, born in Beckley and raised in Fayetteville. He grew up in the area hiking the Appalachians, swimming in the New and Meadow Rivers, and has deep ties to several communities in the Mountain State. After completing his undergraduate degree in English from West Virginia University he went back to school after a gap year to complete the Master of Public Administration program, graduating in December 2018. During that time, John-Michael also served as a two-term VISTA, helping to support a neighborhood organizing initiative in Fairmont, West Virginia, the creation of a new graduate certificate in community development policy and practice, and supported WVU’s student volunteerism advisory board. When he’s not in the office, John-Michael can be found running along the trails or a zipline tour through a local adventure outfitter.
April (she/her/hers) has been involved in National Service Program Management since 2007 when she became the first staff member hired to lead what was then known as the Appalachian Coal Country Watershed Team and is now known as Stewards. April holds an M.S. in Strategic Leadership and has a background in nonprofit development. April came to Conservation Legacy following her experience in private education, where she served as Assistant Dean at a college prep high school. There she managed and developed fundraising events, was responsible for student life and parental engagement, and created community service opportunities for the students. In her current role, April provides oversight and management for the delivery of quality programming and meaningful member experiences.
Highlights of April's tenure at Conservation Legacy include design and implementation of bi-annual training events, development of a rural volunteerism toolkit and training series, and leading the expansion of Stewards programs from a regional to a national model. She has presented at numerous national and regional conferences that highlight the work of the OSMRE VISTA program model. April is an active member in her community where she proudly serves as a member of the Beckley Rotary Club, where she serves on the board of directors and incoming Board President (effective 2022). She volunteers with the youth football program by providing positive experiences and opportunities for girls. She most recently was appointed to serve on the Commission for National and Community Service for West Virginia.
William Baker (He/Him) joins Conversation Legacy as Communications Representative for Stewards Individual Placements program, based out of the eastern office in Beckley, WV.
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, his passion for telling stories grew from documentaries for high school journalism and broadcasting class to exploring the city of Chicago on a 1970 Schwann bike with a borrowed camera filming historical events and natural life. During college, William learned the impact of sustainability through film, preserving history of the campus by featuring places and individuals that are building a better world through their craft. Traveling around the country and living internationally, allowed him to experience cultures and stories that shifted his mindset of our connection to the earth and our local communities. Since graduating from Tuskegee University, he began his conservation journey working the Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters doing historical preservation and interpretation & subsequently accepting a position with the Carver Integrative Sustainability Center as their lead editor and mentor. William spent time working with the Greening Youth Foundation which led him to the Conversation Legacy. Five years of living and working in Alabama while completing his studies changed his life to grow closer to his community and the land. In his free time, you can find him enjoying a nice cup of tea, bird watching and listening to jazz music. Visual art of all forms if a passion of his that he hopes to express with in every space he enters especially through telling stories with the Conservation Legacy.
Amberly joined Stewards Individual Placements in March of 2021 as the Training and Logistics Coordinator, now Training Specialist. She is a graduate of Appalachian State University and has since worked exclusively in the nonprofit sector with focuses on youth development, housing and homelessness, and conservation. She is also a VISTA alum and served with Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley in Bozeman, MT. Her deep-rooted curiosity for the world encourages a life of travel and adventure with her husband, two dogs and cat. Few things make her morning better than sunshine, a cup of tea and listening to the local birds sing. She enjoys hiking, reading books, cooking, gardening, and much more.
Raquel Fagundo joined Conservation Legacy as Program Coordinator for Stewards East in September of 2022. She was born and raised in West Virginia. She graduated with a B.S. degree in Ecology and Evolution from West Liberty University, WV and a M.S. in Biology from Appalachian State University. After working as a Collection’s Manager at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, she transitioned to education, teaching high school Biology and Forensic Science. Throughout this journey, she has taken every opportunity to travel and dipped her toes in every body of water she can find, from the rivers in the neotropics of Costa Rica to the Pacific Ocean in the northwest to every major watershed in the Southeast. She loves her close-knit family: husband/bestie, Justin, daughter, Nica, and their two cats, Alvin and Cosmo. They love spending time together in the kitchen cooking, baking, and playing board games and doing all things outdoors, particularly hiking, foraging, and gardening.
Josh Jones is the VISTA Development Coordinator for the Stewards Individual Placements. A graduate from West Virginia University (WVU), Josh likes to refer to himself as a “West Virginian by birth and a West Virginian by choice”. He has vast experience in the public and private sector and recently held a home inspection and real estate license. Before that he was the Public Relations Director for Hospice of Southern WV. Josh spent four years with U.S. Congressman Nick J. Rahall (3rd District WV), including two years in Washington, DC, as his Press Secretary. He also worked six years as a Projects and Infrastructure Coordinator for a land holding company in Beckley, WV. Josh’s family consists of his wife, stepson, and a beautiful daughter. He enjoys hikes with his family, floating down the river and all things WVU.
Brendan Muckian-Bates (he/him) is the WV Development Manager with Stewards Individual Placement Program. He is from Butler County, PA but moved to West Virginia in 2008 for college, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in History and Secondary Education. Brendan is a former teacher with a passion for Appalachian history and its relationship within a national and international context. He is writing two books on these passions, one on the 2018 education strikes and one on a social history of Appalachian history. He has worked for statewide environmental nonprofits, with a particular focus on the Ohio Valley and the petrochemical industry, economic development, and civic engagement. Brendan lives in Moundsville with his wife and three children. When he’s not working, Brendan can be found taking his kids to municipal and state parks or on the river trail with his pug, Dezi.
Kassie Nolan (She/Hers) is the 2022/2023 Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA serving out of the Stewards East office in Beckley, WV. She is a native of West Virginia, having grown up in Nitro. Kassie received her BS in Psychology from WVSU, graduating in 2013. after college and a gap year, she pursued national service with AmeriCorps and served with the Alaska Service Corps as a crew member on a trail crew. Kassie's time with ASC was rewarding for her and her hard work led to her receiving the Corps Member of the Year award for her hard work, dedication, and positive attitude.
through this experience, Kassie grew a passion for service work and conservation finding personal fulfillment. and it was fulfilling for me. she went on to service as Crew Leader with Montana Conservation Corps and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. After a few years in the corps world. Kassie spent some time moving around Colorado as a Snowmaker, groomed ski trails and did landscaping and a raft guide and glacier hiking guide in Alaska for a summer. After heading back home to West Virginia, Kassie began her term as a VISTA. In her free time, she likes fishing, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, rafting, swimming, painting, traveling, gardening, and wood burning, especially with her pup, Grayson.
Gwennan (she/her/hers) is a Program Coordinator for Stewards Individual Placements, supporting the Historic Preservation and Trades Program. Gwennan earned her bachelor’s degree at Ohio University, where she studied International Development and Biological Anthropology. Upon graduation, she completed a term of service with AmeriCorps NCCC, Southern Region. Gwennan then spent a number of years in the non-profit realm as a coordinator, fundraiser, and director of after-school programs. Drawn to West Virginia for the whitewater, Gwennan then spent several years as a River Guide and decided to make this her long-term home. She is currently in the process of restoring a historic home in the New River Gorge.
Patricia is a Program Coordinator with the Stewards Individual Placements for the Beckley, WV office. She is a Concord University graduate with a background in research in the biology field. She went to graduate school in Toronto, Canada where she lived in for 8 years. Patricia has traveled extensively around the world but has now settled in Virginia with her husband. She has a passion for anything Science related specifically NASA and had dreams of becoming an astronaut growing up but found herself in the research world. She enjoys swimming trips to exotic islands, Science Fiction, and Old Hollywood movies from the 1930s and 1940s. She can cook anything you ask her to, but she specially loves cooking holiday feasts all-year-round. Patricia believes that you should stay afraid but do it anyways.
Caroline joined Stewards in the fall of 2016, as part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. She has provided support under several roles and AmeriCorps initiatives, some of her favorite being in collaboration with various agencies within the Department of the Interior and Tribal community orientated opportunities within Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and the Bureau of Indian Affair's WaterCorps program. Caroline currently serves as Program Director for Stewards East.
Caroline settled in southern West Virginia by way of Ohio and Colorado. Throughout her travels, she has worked in outdoor recreation, marketing and graphic design, and most recently in public health. These experiences in diverse environments, industries, and communities, have driven Caroline to pursue her passion for community outreach and development. She believes in the power of change and the capacity to create it, in communities big and small.
Caroline holds a BFA in Art Education from Ohio University and an MA in Public Administration from West Virginia University. She is happiest when outdoors, but is also an avid reader, podcast listener, and historic site visitor.
Jessica Zukowski is a Program Manager for Stewards Individual Placements. A graduate of Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, Jessica received her B.A. in Women’s Studies and African and African American Studies. Jessica is a native of Southern West Virginia, after 9 years in Kentucky she returned home to the Mountain State to complete two years of national service as an AmeriCorps VISTA coordinating the Family Friendly Communities Project in Mount Hope, WV. Prior to coming to Stewards, she worked directly with families as an in-home educator. Jessica believes in the power of national service to lift up and empower communities and enjoys the opportunity to support national service projects across the country. Jessica is also the mother to three beautiful children who keep her very busy.
Cailley Cole-Sigmon joined Conservation Legacy as an Enrollment Specialist in March of 2022. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest and earned a BS in Economics from Santa Clara University, before moving South to serve an AmeriCorps VISTA term in rural Alabama. Discovering a passion for the impact of National Service, she completed a second term as a VISTA Leader in Austin, Texas, before joining Texas Conservation Corps as an admin staff member. She fell in love with the Corps world, where her passions for youth development and appreciation of the natural world intersected. In her free time Cailley enjoys spending time creating at the pottery studio, running, and catching up on her favorite reality tv shows.
Stewards West • Durango, Colorado Office Staff
Taylor (she/her/hers) joined Stewards Legacy in January of 2020 after moving to Durango from Wilmington, NC. She graduated from University of North Carolina – Wilmington with a degree in International Environmental Studies and worked in the area as a marine scientist in various capacities (primary focus on sharks and sea turtles) over the 5-year span she spent living there. There isn’t an aspect of environmental conservation that Taylor isn’t passionate about, and she loves the ability to help others get involved with conservation work through Stewards. When Taylor isn’t at the office, she enjoys trail riding with her horses, exploring new areas, reading, and being outside as much as possible.
Sage Bates (she/her) was born in Las Vegas, Nevada where she grew up with an appreciation for the beauty and harshness of the Mojave Desert. Not being able to choose just one path, Sage studied Communications and Geology at Northern Arizona University. After graduating, she joined the Nevada Conservation Corps and after one season knew that she wanted to pursue a career in the conservation industry. After completing the leadership development program and leading crews, Sage decided she wanted to learn the processes that work behind the scenes to run programming. She began working with The Great Basin Institute as the Recruitment and Compliance Coordinator and then the Marketing and Outreach Coordinator. Wanting a change of scenery, Sage moved to Oregon to work for the Northwest Youth Corps as a Program Coordinator. Sage brings with her a passion for fostering relations with outdoor ambassadors and creating an inclusive industry for all. Outside of work, you can find Sage hiking, trying a new recipe, thrifting, or reading.
Lea Asman Betty (she/her/hers) is from a small river town in Western Oregon. She graduated in 2001 with a B.S. in Natural Resources, emphasis NR Education from Oregon State University. She has worked as a Park Ranger for NPS, BLM and Oregon State Parks, in wildland fire for USFS, among other interesting professions. She joined Conservation Legacy in the spring of 2022 as an enrollment coordinator for Stewards Individual Placement Program. When not at work, you can find her with a book in her hands, making art or birdwatching.
Roddy Cobb Jr (He/Him/His) joined Conservation Legacy as a Stewards West Program Coordinator in May of 2022. He grew up in Southern California and went to school at the University of La Verne were he earned his B.S. in Psychology. Soon after college, his career interests focused on socio-emotional, experiential education, and community service projects with nonprofit organizations that serve youth from underserved communities.
Geoff (he/him/his) grew up in Connecticut and made his way out west to attend the University of Montana. After graduating, he moved to Estes Park, CO for an education fellowship leading environmental education programs with Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Towards the end of his experience, he shifted his focus to supporting the Conservancy’s youth corps and quickly found his passion for conservation service programs. Geoff spent the last several years leading corps programs, environmental education opportunities, and volunteer experiences for the Conservancy and Colorado Trout Unlimited and completed his M.S. in Conservation Leadership at Colorado State University. He joined Stewards in October 2021 as a Program Director. Outside of work, he serves as a volunteer firefighter for the Glen Haven Area Volunteer Fire Department and enjoys spending time outdoors rafting, fly fishing, camping, and skiing with his family.
James (he/him) joined the incredible team with Stewards Individual Placements in 2022 as a Program Coordinator. Before that he explored a winding road – teaching Latin at University of Arkansas, writing about film theory, developing an invasives program in Montana, coordinating conservation crews with Southeast Conservation Corps, restoring habitat in Grand Teton National Park, prescribed burning Arkansas’ public lands – all while cooking up a storm! James spends his days with his partner kayaking lakes near Hot Springs Village, hiking the Ouachita Mountains, and relaxing with a cadre of incredible dogs.
Ali (she/her/hers) grew up in the mountains of Nederland, Colorado where she spent most of her time romping in the National Forest surrounding her home. Upon leaving Nederland she moved to Southeast Asia to teach English at the Future of Khmer Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia where she acquired her TEFL certification. She returned to Colorado to focus her love of the environment and people into education, and study Environmental Affairs and Communications at Colorado State University. During the summers, she led crews in trail building, fire mitigation, weed mitigation, and flood relief with Lincoln Hills Flyfishing club. After graduating, she joined the Communications Team at Western Resource Advocates where she was able to assist in their efforts to protect the West’s clean air, water, and land through legislative action and policy development. She joined the Stewards Individual Placement Program team as a Program Coordinator in March 2021. She is elated to give her passion a purpose and to play a role in others’ formative conservation experiences. When she’s not working with the Stewards team she enjoys trail running, camping, traveling internationally, rafting, and dancing to live music.
Sierra (she/her/hers) grew up in Southern California and developed her love for the National Parks and the outdoors on yearly camping trips with her family to Yosemite. After graduating from UC Riverside with a B.S. in Biology she moved to Los Angeles and completed a year of service with an education focused AmeriCorps program, City Year. Following her year of service, she decided to focus on her love of both education and conservation by completing an M.A. in Biology from Miami University (Oxford, OH). Focusing on community-based conservation and inquiry-based learning, she completed a portfolio of work centered on saving species through the education and involvement of underserved communities. Her graduate program took her to conservation hot spots around the world, including Baja, California, Hawai’i, and Kenya. It also allowed her to learn from local indigenous members and conservationists. She joined the Stewards Individual Placement team as a Program Coordinator in March 2021. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, especially if it involves rock climbing, reading a good book, cooking, and spending much-needed down-time with her cat Quasar.
Emma was born and raised in Michigan and quickly grew to love the outdoors through hiking and camping with her family in Canada during the summers. After graduating Lake Superior State University in 2015 with a BS in Conservation Biology, Emma began her career as a Crew Member at ACE in Flagstaff, Arizona. From that point on Emma knew that her passion was in environmental stewardship, and engagement. After bouncing around the US gaining experience in the field of Conservation, Emma joined the Conservation Legacy team in 2017 as a Recruitment and Member Support Coordinator with AZCC and is excited about this new opportunity with Stewards. In her free time, you can catch Emma listening to a podcast while hiking, camping with her husband Dan, or snuggling her cat Opal and reading a good book.
Mo (she/her/hers) grew up in the Cascade Mountains located in Washington State. She fell in love with the outdoors at an early age, often camping in her backyard and hiking on the National Forest Service land that bordered her home. This passion led her to pursue a degree in Environmental Science and Environmental Management and Policy at Rocky Mountain College (Billings, MT). During college, Mo got the opportunity to travel abroad to Paraguay, Tanzania, and throughout the United States to learn about land management, conservation, and different ways of knowing. After graduating, Mo led an invasive plant mitigation crew on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming for three summers. During the winter, Mo coupled her passion for travel and conservation and took a job in Kailua- Kona, Hawaii working for a Conservation based dive company. Following these seasonal jobs, Mo worked on a team with the NASA DEVELOP Program, creating geospatial data for invasive and endangered plant species, her favorite being the Venus flytrap. During this time, Mo lived in a 17ft travel trailer and explored much of Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada. Besides exploring, Mo is happiest listening to a good book, thrifting at a local thrift store, and playing with her dog, Naka. She joined the Stewards of Individual Placements team in February of 2022 and is excited to bring her love for conservation, people, and building community together in the program coordinator position.
Krista joined the Stewards Program in January 2016. She has a B.A. in Geology from Mount Holyoke College, and grew up living in Maine State Parks where her respect for the environment grew alongside her love of playing in it. She began working for parks in 2005, interacting with visitors, running interpretive programs, and building mountain bike trails.
Krista began her journey into National Service programs in 2010 with two AmeriCorps terms with the Maine Conservation Corps, and enjoyed romping throughout Maine leading trail crews. In 2013, she was hired as a staff member with MCC, working with their individual placement programs. Since moving to Colorado, she has enjoyed learning about the desert, skiing the western mountains, and spending hours on her bike in the wildnerness.
Emma (she/her) joined the Stewards Individual Placements in May 2015. She grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina where she spent most of her time exploring in the woods with her family. This upbringing inspired her to seek out a B.S. in Ecology and Field Biology. Since then, she has traveled down many paths, all with the common theme of helping others become inspired to make a positive difference in the environment. She has had a variety of jobs from being an animal keeper to leading naturalist hikes for kids to being a science museum exhibit educator. Her time with the Stewards Individual Placements has opened her eyes to different avenues of making an environmental impact where she feels grateful to be part of a team that seeks to create meaningful change.
She is the most content when she is mountain biking, crafting, gardening, doing yoga and spending time with her family and her dogs.
Originally from Milwaukee, Alex (he/him/his) grew up spending his summers in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, where he developed a deep appreciation for the outdoors and the environment. In 2015, he graduated with a degree in business management and entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Today, Alex serves as a Program Coordinator for Stewards, facilitating environmental internships for young adults in the field. In doing so, he combines both his business expertise and passion for the environment to help Conservation Legacy achieve its mission. As a personal mission, Alex is dedicated to reducing single-use plastics in society today and actively advocates for bold climate legislation via grassroots activism. In his free time, Alex enjoys spending time in the mountains, investing in real estate, doing hot yoga, and seeing his therapist.