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.
Joey Ruehrwein has been a part of the conservation service movement since 2002 and has over 20 years of professional experience working with youth and natural resources. Joey holds a MS in Recreation Resources Management from Utah State University and has a background in non-profit leadership, state and federal partnerships, diversity focused programming, and social and aquatic ecological research.
Joey came to Environmental Stewards from the Student Conservation Association where he worked in various roles over 12 years. Joey began his career at SCA as the director of the organizations largest national corps (Fire), he transitioned into the Partnership Development Department 4 years later, and he spent his last 4 years at SCA as the inaugural Director of Partnership Service and Development where he lead the organizational transition from a centralized to a regional service department. While at SCA Joey worked in partnership with federal land managers to create thousands of meaningful experiences for youth including the National Park Service SCA Academy and the Salmon and Challis National Forest AmeriCorps Training Center.
Lisa Elkins is the Business Manager of Stewards Individual Placement Program. A native of southern WV, Lisa graduated from Concord University with a degree in Business Management with a concentration in Accounting. Previously Lisa was a business owner that serviced a diversity of businesses with accounting needs in the local and surrounding areas. She has two children that are involved in a number extracurricular activities that keeps her busy outside of the office and enjoys working with the youth in her church.
Shanna joined Conservation Legacy in May 2017 as a Program Coordinator with Stewards Individual Placement Program. In September 2017, she accepted a new position as Operations Coordinator with Stewards. Shanna grew up in Southern Illinois where she earned her undergraduate degrees: B.A. in International Trade, B.A. in Spanish, B.S. in Business Administration. She has a lot of international experience from attending a university in Costa Rica and backpacking across Europe to working in the governmental sector of Valencia, Spain and teaching English in South America. Her extensive travels have offered diverse perspectives on global and national issues. Shanna shares a passion for preserving our planet’s waterways and boasts an optimism for positive ecological developments. If she’s not at home tending to her small farm, you can find her hiking with her foster dogs, whitewater rafting, or skiing with her husband.
Judy recently joined the Stewards team as Administrative Assistant in the Beckley, WV office. She previously worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting in the business department as administrative assistant and with Hospice of Southern West Virginia in accounts payable. Judy is a native of Southern WV, who loves going to parks, hiking, and traveling. Her favorite place to be when vacationing or traveling is the beach. In her spare time, Judy love to spend time with her family, especially her beautiful grandchildren.
Beckley, West Virginia Office Staff
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!
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.
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.
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.
Theo Combos knew from a young age that he wanted to "get paid to have fun," and thus pursued jobs that were exciting and engaging. From the moment he turned 16, he enjoyed work that involved working outdoors and working with people in fun, dynamic environments. When it came time to go to college and decide on a career path, he concluded that a degree in parks, recreation, and tourism management would lead to a profession that would be fulfilling. Theo graduated from North Carolina State University in December, 2018 and accepted a job as an outdoor educator in Southern California. This job opened the door to a Highschool Crew Leader position with the Student Conservation Association in Alaska - a place he had always dreamed of visiting. After an incredible summer doing trail work in Americas Last Frontier, he decided that he wanted to continue to work in conservation. Conservation work was a culmination of all that Theo loved - meaningful work in beautiful, wild places that provides the opportunity to positively influence those around him. Theo joined the Conservation Legacy team in September of 2019 where he currently works as a Program Coordinator. He loves to ride his mountain bike and you can also catch him running on the trails - maybe even in a race! Theo also enjoys snowboarding and extended backpacking trips. While living near the New River Gorge, he hopes to learn how to rock climb and whitewater kayak.
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!
Anna joined the Stewards team in Beckley, WV in June 2019. As a Steward VISTA member, Anna's service year will focus on local community development though service opportunities, youth development, researching and writing grants for program resources.
Anna grew up on an essentially self-sustaining farm in Georgia, where she learned very quickly the essence of reliance on nature and conservation of resources. Most of the food came from livestock and garden grown vegetables, fruits and berries grew bountifully in nature, and an artisan well provided water.
Anna received a BA in Journalism and Marketing at the University of Georgia and an MA in Education and English Curriculum at Florida Atlantic University. With limited journalistic assignments for females in that era, Anna taught several years in the secondary school system. later, she moved to Atlanta and took a position with the Bell System as a writer and editor in the corporate headquarters. Anna's professional experience includes a position in the international airline industry as a cargo reservations, documentation representative with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and later, with Japan Airlines. Anna's international involvement lead to many world-wide intriguing experiences, cross cultural friendships, and extensive global travel.
After a couple of decades, Anna left the international industry to return the free-lance writing, editing, and instructing, all the while working in secondary and college instruction in writing and tutoring.
In keeping with the lifelong passion for environmental efforts and animal rescue, she joined VISTA, where she hopes to build a lasting impact in Southern West Virginia.
Durango, Colorado Office Staff
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.
Adrian Uzunian is the Stewards Program Director based in Durango, Colorado. Prior to this position Adrian was the Research and Development Coordinator. He also previously served as the OSMRE Program Coordinator, OSM/VISTA Leader in both Colorado and New Mexico and OSM/VISTA with the Appalachian Coal Country Team. Following several years of service Adrian moved to New Orleans and finished a M.S. in Environmental Sociology at Utah State University, focusing on perceptions of hydraulic fracturing in South Texas. Adrian is excited to live in the Southwest, establish new connections, and strives to apply new perspectives while serving disparate communities around the country.
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.
Danny joined Environmental Stewards in January of 2017. Danny grew up with the white pines and sugar maples of Minnesota’s North Woods, but has spent most of his working life out west. He was a Corpsmember and crew leader with the Southwest Conservation Corps and, interning with the Student Conservation Association in Death Valley National Park, CA, spent countless hours tromping through sand dunes. Between stints wandering in in the wilds, Danny spent four years living, practicing, and pruning apple trees at two Zen centers in California. He has a BA in Geography and Anthropology and earned his Master's in Geography from the University of Minnesota studying mountain pine beetle outbreaks in Montana. Pursuing his love for connecting young adults with public lands, Danny spent the last two years teaching field-based environmental studies and natural history courses in Montana, the Canadian Rockies, and the Colorado Plateau with the Wild Rockies Field Institute. Danny lives with his farmer wife just outside of Durango.
Christy is a native of the great state of Montana, and has worked in the conservation field since age 16. Her varied jobs have included working for a recycling non-profit, a stint with the Montana Conservation Corps, exploring the backcountry of Montana and Wyoming in the name of botany, forestry, and wilderness research, outdoor education on Washington's Puget Sound, and most recently, she served as an Americorps VISTA in New Mexico, developing a community partnership program along the Continental Divide Trail. She is excited to help other young conservation advocates get a "foot in the door" through the Stewards program.
If she's not in the office, she's probably running trails, cooking, traveling, backpacking, or exploring the Four Corners.
Hilary joined the Stewards Program in September 2017 as Program Coordinator. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Dalton State College, Hilary spent a summer on a trail crew in Salida, Colorado with the Southwest Conservation Corps. Once the summer ended, she headed back to the southeast and settled in Knoxville, TN where she worked in customer service and outdoor instruction for REI. Most recently she was the Program Manager for Onsight Rock Gym where she managed a range of programs and created community partnerships while also running the day to day operations of the gym. During her time in Knoxville she volunteered for several local climbing advocacy groups and a National Park Service Program that introduced outdoor rock climbing to youth in a rural county of Eastern TN. In her free time, Hilary enjoys climbing, hiking, biking, and exploring other forms of outdoor recreation.
Katie joined the Stewards program in December of 2017. Born and raised just south of Buffalo, in Hamburg, NY, Katie’s love of the outdoors and the environment stems from the preschool she attended where they had a strong focus on outdoor and nature based learning. Her 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 2016, she spent 10 weeks traveling across the US, visiting many awe inspiring National Parks and public lands. This trip further emphasized her desire to spend some extended time out west. In fall of 2017, she took the plunge, drove out to Colorado, and 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.
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.
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.
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 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, Rhea enjoys hiking, swift water sports, climbing, cooking as much as she can from scratch, volunteering in the community and much more.