Stewards East • Beckley, West Virginia Office Staff
John-Michael Aurednik 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 serves as Interim Executive Director for Stewards Individual Placement Program. A native of southern West Virginia, April brings over 15 years on nonprofit and organizational development experience to her work. After organizing the only college preparatory high school in southern West Virginia, April began her career with the VISTA program in 2007 with the Appalachian Coal Country Watershed Team, now known as the OSMRE/VISTA Team. Over the last eight years, April assisted in the development of the Western Hardrock Watershed Team, the OSMRE AmeriCorps Program and the DOI/VISTA Team. These developments created what is now known as BRIDGE Network.
April holds a Masters Degree in Strategic Leadership, a BS in Organizational Leadership Management and Development. In 2012 the West Virginia State Journal recognized April as a Forty Under Forty award recipient for her work with the Coal Country Team. This award acknowledges young professionals in WV that are making a difference for the State. Most recently she was inducted in to her High School’s Alumni Hall of Fame.
In addition to serving as the Director of Operations, April is an active member of the Beckley Rotary Club where she has served as club secretary for the last three years.
Sam Forsythe is the Member Engagement Coordinator for Stewards Individual Placements out of the Beckley, WV office. He is originally from Indiana but moved out to West Virginia in 2012 to go to college. Sam graduated from a local college and work for several years in the outdoor adventure industry where he guided rafting, caving, rappelling and many other trips. While working in this capacity he saw firsthand the importance of protecting the outdoors and became passionate about them. Through his work with Stewards, Sam aims to help the members he serves to be able to efficiently do their job and develop as a professional. Sam enjoys being outside, whether its rafting, fishing, caving, rock climbing, or just hitting a trail with his wife and dog.
Lilibeth Fuentes joined Stewards in January of 2019. She began her National Service as a VISTA with The Hazleton Integration Project that is in Hazleton Pennsylvania, her hometown. In this role, she wore many hats, mainly focused on revamping their social media presence and strengthening communication within the community. Her contributions throughout her VISTA service year provided rooted community members and those immigrating to the area, the opportunity to connect and envision Haselton's future.
Lilibeth holds a Business and Marketing degree from Pennsylvania State University, from which she hopes to pursue a career within the federal government. She is Salvadorian by blood and stomach, noting she loves to travel, explore, and taste new foods, loves to read, and watch TV. Lilibeth is forward to working with Stewards staff, VISTA member, and with AmeriCorps VISTA in general. She hopes to bring change, follow traditions, and become a step for future generations!
Josh Jones is the VISTA Development Coordinator for the Stewards Individual Placement Program. 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 started his own home inspection business. Josh holds a current Real Estate license and 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 fiancé, a young daughter, and the son of his fiancé. He enjoys hikes with his family, floating down the river and all things WVU.
Darby Reed is the Enrollment Coordinator for Stewards Individual Placement Program, working from Harrisonburg, VA. She graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Earth Science in 2018 and served as a Stewards VISTA with Appalachian Conservation Corps in 2019. She loves to travel and explore new places, hike in the mountains, swim in the ocean, and snuggle up with her tiny, black cat.
Patricia is a Program Coordinator with the Stewards Individual Placement Program in 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 Beckley 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 hiking 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 Stewards VISTA program. She has provided support under several roles, included development of new AmeriCorps VISTA projects, project coordination for DOI and Tribal AmeriCorps VISTA members, and AmeriCorps interns serving Gulf Islands National Seashore and the WaterCorps. Caroline currently serves as Program Director for Stewards' AmeriCorps VISTA program.
Caroline settled in southern West Virginia by way of Northern Ohio and the Rocky Mountains of 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.
Ryan supports the Stewards AmeriCorps State and National Program out of the Beckley, WV office as a Program Coordinator. He has since transitioned from the AmeriCorps VISTA program where he had started with the Stewards Individual Placement Program. Prior to moving to Beckley, West Virginia, Ryan worked as a Crew Leader with the Appalachian Conservation Corps swinging picks and Pulaskis. His first start into field work came with two full terms in AmeriCorps with the Minnesota & Iowa Conservation Corps. Ryan received the Service Award and a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies from Salisbury University. Go Gulls!
Jessica Zukowski is the Senior Program Coordinator for the Stewards Individual Placement Program. Jessica is a native of Southern West Virginia and a lifelong Mountaineer fan. 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 no stranger to the needs of Southern West Virginia communities. After serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA for two years coordinating the Family Friendly Communities Project in Mount Hope she worked as an in-home family educator for 7 years. She also facilitated a TEAM for WV Children Partners in Prevention program in Mount Hope. In 2013 Jessica became a state-wide trainer for the Circle of Parents network training parents and facilitators around the state about the peer to peer support model. Jessica is a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Oak Hill where she coordinates the youth program. In her spare time Jessica serves as a peer recovery coach supporting individuals and their families through their journey to recovery. She loves to go for walks in her community and cook for her family which includes her fiancé and three children who are the light of her life.
Stewards West • Durango, Colorado Office Staff
Taylor 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.
Allison joined the Stewards Program in February 2019 as Program Coordinator right after completing her service as Community Volunteer Ambassador (CVA) at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Seattle, WA. Allison graduated in 2015 with a B.S. in Environmental Science & Resource Management from the University of Washington in Seattle where she lived for seven years. A native Washingtonian and avid skier, Allison grew up exploring the mountains and forests of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. Prior to her time in the conservation field Allison worked in the beverage innovation laboratories for Starbucks (yes, she loves coffee) and shared her love of skiing as an instructor in the Cascade Mountains. She hopes to continue to inspire others to be stewards of their environment, as well as explore the beautiful areas in and around Durango, CO.
Rhea was born and raised just outside the Blue Line of the Adirondack State Park in Upstate, New York. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from Naropa University in Boulder, CO in 2015. After university, Rhea served two years in with the AmeriCorps VISTA Program in Denver, CO and Fairbanks, AK. Most recently, Rhea spent two months sailing down the Intercoastal Waterway, on the eastern coast of Florida. Rhea joined the Conservation Legacy as Program Coordinator in April 2019. When she is not in the office, she enjoys hiking, swift water sports, climbing, cooking, volunteering and much more.
Kate joined Conservation Legacy in 2020 as Stewards West Corps Director with the Stewards Individual Placement Program in Durango, CO. She has worked with conservation corps and AmeriCorps programs for the last 10 years. Kate grew up in Wisconsin and Minnesota, always with a love of nature and the outdoors. Following college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (go Badgers!), Kate was searching for a meaningful career path. She first became engaged in national service and volunteerism as an AmeriCorps member with NCCC and Habitat for Humanity-Twin Cities in 2010/2011. She was inspired by the power of service in transforming lives and communities and has worked in the non-profit realm ever since! She began as a program officer with ServeMinnesota, supporting a portfolio of AmeriCorps State programs throughout Minnesota, before following her heart back west to the mountains in 2014.
Between 2014 and 2017 Kate worked with the Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) as Associate Director, managing the largest AmeriCorps State grant in Colorado. This grant supported six youth conservation corps programs across the state with 346 MSY annually. In 2017 Kate left CYCA to thru-hike the Colorado Trail and headed to Asia to travel/volunteer/work for 9 months. In Nepal, Kate began volunteering and working with All Hands and Hearts Volunteers, an international disaster response and recovery NGO. Between 2017 and 2019 Kate worked on staff with All Hands and Hearts in Nepal, Dominica, and coastal Texas - supporting volunteers and communities affected by natural disasters. During this time, she also worked seasonally in Colorado, conducting GIS surveys across R2 of the US Forest Service with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and working with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative to design sustainable trails in the high alpine of Colorado’s 14ers.
Kate is an avid hiker/backpacker/camper/runner/traveler/coffee addict/soon to be mountain biker and when she is not at work you can expect to find her getting into some shenanigans in the mountains!
Spencer moved from Lexington, Kentucky to Durango in August 2018 to start his first term with Southwest Conservation Corps, as a trail crew member. He has experience in a wide variety of subjects, from floral design and photography, to managing a barn full of broodmares and their month-old foals. He enjoys long runs in the woods and exploring every nook and cranny that the San Juan mountains have to offer. Kentucky basketball is largely what his obsessions revolve around when he isn’t out on the trail or behind a camera. Spencer is excited to become a part of the Conservation Legacy family and is anxious to apply his variety of skills to his new position as Program Coordinator.
Katie joined the Stewards program in December of 2017. Born and raised just south of Buffalo, in Hamburg, NY, Katie’s interest in the conservation field truly blossomed after she spent a summer in Maine living and working in the outdoors on a Maine Conservation Corps trail crew. Katie served two other AmeriCorps terms with MCC which led to several staff positions with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. Her positions with BPL included administrative support, federal recreational grant management, and helping to develop several map and guide brochures for Maine’s public lands. In fall of 2017, she completed one final AmeriCorps term with the Southwest Conservation Corps, working as a sawyer on a sustainable forestry crew before joining the Stewards team.
When she’s not in the office Katie is probably cooking up a delicious meal or out exploring the beautiful Southwest.
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 joined the Environmental Stewards Program in May 2015. She has a B.S. in Ecology and Field Biology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Her love of the environment was spawned at a young age. She grew up building forts with her brother and running around in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of North Carolina.
Her desire to make a positive difference in the environmental community has led her to hold a variety of jobs from being an animal keeper to leading naturalist hikes for kids to being a museum exhibit educator. She looks forward to exploring the next avenue of her environmental adventure with the Environmental Stewards Program.
She is the most content when she is mountain biking, hiking, birding, doing yoga & spending time with her family and her dogs.
Alex joined the Stewards team in January 2020. Originally from Milwaukee, Alex grew up spending his summers in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, where he developed a deep appreciation for both the outdoors and the environment. In Madison, WI, he studied business management and entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin. As a personal mission, Alex is dedicated to reducing single-use plastics in society today, having successfully advocated for and implemented numerous public policy initiatives.
He’s excited to combine both his business expertise and passion for the environment to help Stewards and the Conservation Legacy team achieve its mission. In his free time, Alex enjoys hiking, backpacking internationally, investing in real estate, doing yoga, and playing the guitar.