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.
Amberly (she/her/hers) joined the Conservation Legacy team in March of 2021 as the Training and Logistics Coordinator for Stewards Individual Placement. Before joining Stewards, she worked as the Permanent Supportive Housing Service Coordinator and RISE (Relationships Intended for Success and Empowerment) Coordinator at Hospitality House in Boone, NC. Inspired by connection, Amberly aimed to cultivate meaningful relationships with her clients and provided support that went beyond housing.
Prior to that, she fulfilled a year of service as the Resource Development AmeriCorps VISTA with Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley in Bozeman, MT. It is there that she developed a love for snowboarding and sport climbing and also realized the importance of continuing on a path of service-oriented work. Her deep-rooted curiosity for the world encourages a life of travel and adventure with her incredible husband. Together they have two dogs, Oliver and Atlas, and a cat, Durango, otherwise known as Kitty Meow Meow. 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, growing plants and a daily yoga practice.
She is most excited to be a part of Conservation Legacy because, as an environmental steward, it is refreshing to work with others who care deeply about protecting our wilderness/wildlife and preserving our natural resources.
Sam Forsythe is a Program 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.
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.
Darby Reed (she/her) is the Enrollment Coordinator for Stewards Individual Placement Program, working from Virginia. She graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Earth and Environmental 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 fluffy, black cat.
Kristan (She/Her/Hers) joins the Stewards team as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader. She is an AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps alumna currently residing in Beckley, WV. She has worked as a civil servant in the United States and on various islands nations in Oceania. She taught elementary school students in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia. She has also taught in Koror, Palau.
Kristan has experience in federal emergency management and first response. She is passionate about coalition-building, multicultural exchange, intersectional identity, and civil rights advocacy. In her free time, she enjoys baking brownies. Kristan is a fan of historical fiction and poetry writing.
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 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.
Pauline (she/her/hers), is the Stewards Individual Placement VISTA and will spend the year focusing on community engagement in Beckley, WV. Originally from New York City, she worked as a journalist for several years covering the religion beat in NYC’s five boroughs for the online magazine A Journey through NYC religions.
Pauline has long been interested in completing a year of federal service and was excited to find the opportunity to apply her experience as a community-based reporter to Stewards’ goal of establishing stronger connections at the local level. Pauline has a Bachelor's in Anthropology and Sociology from Stony Brook University. Her and her husband are new to West Virginia and look forward to exploring the state’s beautiful hiking trails.
Ryan (he/him/his) supports the Stewards partnership with the Historic Preservation Training Center, U.S. Forest Service VISTAs, and Conservation Legacy Engagement Coordinator VISTAs out of the Beckley, WV office as a Program Coordinator. Prior to moving to Beckley, West Virginia, Ryan worked as a Crew Leader with the Appalachian Conservation Corps completing trail work in the Monongahela National Forest. 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 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 is 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 and facilitated a TEAM for WV Children Partners in Prevention program in Mount Hope. Jessica is also a state-wide trainer for the Circle of Parents network training parents in facilitation of the peer to peer support model. 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.
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.
Brian (he/him/his) grew up in western Massachusetts and earned a B.A. in Political Science and Geography from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Through his education and love of the outdoors, Brian developed a career interest in conservation and land management. After graduating from UMass he completed a season of stewardship work at a coastal wildlife refuge for The Trustees of Reservations, Massachusetts’ oldest land trust. He joined the Stewards Individual Placement team as an Administrative Assistant in March 2021.
In addition to environmental conservation, Brian is passionate about skiing, biking, hiking, and anything else that gets him outside. He also loves to cook, craft, and take every opportunity to learn something new.
Allison (she/her/hers) 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 (she/her/hers) is from upstate New York just south of the Adirondack State Park. After graduating with an Interdisciplinary degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from Naropa University in Boulder, CO, Rhea served two years with AmeriCorps VISTA in Denver, CO and Fairbanks, AK. After leaving her job in Alaska, she moved onto a sailboat and sailed the Intercoastal Water Way along the coast of Florida. She joined the Stewards Individual Placements teams as Program Coordinator in April 2019. When she is not at work, she enjoys baking bread, volunteering and outdoor activities during all seasons including, climbing, winter camping and backpacking.
Her desire to understand the resource gaps in communities and help fill those gaps has led her to a life full of service. She appreciates opportunities to be a resource and provide others with the opportunities to build strengths and gain access to new opportunities that will help them succeed in life. Her love of service aligns with the goals of Stewards Individual Placements as we work to encourage and support Stewards of our natural environment.
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.
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 (he/him/his) 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.