Stacey Hinden, Executive and Program Director. Stacey grew up in the wilds of the Bronx, New York, witnessing ants risk their lives swimming across puddles in the parking lot, and getting lost in the tall grasses of the Catskill Mountains. She found herself and her path when she moved to the PNW in 2003 and got involved with VWP on her second day on Vashon: Step one – shadow her kids as a parent volunteer with Wilderness Awareness School’s (WAS) Vashon-based 4-6 year old program; Step two – witness a 9-year old blow a coal to flame and turn tears of longing to the joy of learning at WAS’s Parent Training Program.
She finally stopped signing herself in instead of her daughter and enrolled at WAS to complete their Art of Mentoring, Nature Skills, and Anake Leadership programs. In 2008, she co-created and taught for six years in the Wind Gatherer Program as an outgrowth of her 25 years teaching children and adults and researching connections between inner and outer ecology through movement and body awareness.
As a founding member of VWP, Stacey helped the organization establish its non-profit status and was an active Board member for 4 years. In 2010, she stepped off the Board to help focus on marketing and outreach efforts; one year later, she gratefully accepted the role of Executive Director. She still remembers all of those NYC subway commutes to work as a manager for a $1 million umbrella organization for emerging artists; a grant writer for the nation’s largest refugee resettlement agency; and a grant writer/bookkeeper for various New York dance companies and folk arts performing groups. She much prefers her current “office” which includes cedar trees and wild meadows, and where bird language and children’s laughter replace the clamor and cacophony of city life. When she’s not at work (and sometimes when she is) you’ll find her singing, dancing, and speaking in foreign accents.
She gives thanks everyday for her human family, life on this beautiful island, and all the wild ones.
Stephanie Etley, Field Director. Steph first discovered her deep connection with nature as a child roaming free in the urban wilderness of Seattle’s local parks. She spent her days catching frogs (her first love), climbing trees, camping and sailing with her father.
For more than 30 years Steph has been passionately committed to promoting the wellbeing of children, and much of her career has focused on supporting and strengthening family connections. To that end she has held various roles including home school mom, postpartum Doula, infant massage instructor, and parent-child attachment consultant. In 2005, she was excited to weave her passions for children and nature. Her journey began at Quiet Heart Wilderness School where she studied, volunteered and worked for 3 years. Simultaneously, she became involved with the Wilderness Awareness School where she felt a deep resonance with the 8 Shields model of nature connection. She began her 8 year journey with the school as a Kamana student and youth program apprentice. She then held various positions, including Volunteer Coordinator, and Lead Instructor with the 4 – 6 year-old program, special needs contract programs, and summer camps. Steph worked for several years as Director of Camps, and found her role as support person for staff, parents, and kids to be deeply rewarding.
When she is not wandering the forests listening to the the birds, Steph can be found enjoying her young-adult children, dancing, paddle boarding, and feeding her limitless curiosity about the nature of consciousness.
Currently she divides her time between Shoreline and her soon-to-be-full time home on Vashon.
Amy Kitchener, Administrator/Bookkeeper. Amy’s interest in the natural world awakened when she moved from the suburbs of Long Island to attend college in the rural surrounds of beautiful upstate New York. There she earned a B.A. and later an MPH in Environmental Science. No stranger to VWP, her son, Aaron, attended the Wilderness Awareness School back in 2003 during the early years of its Vashon-based program. Along with Aaron, she became an avid birdwatcher and served for several years as Membership Chair of the Vashon Maury Island Audubon Society and with their Fourth Grade Birding Program. In recent years she has been earning her living helping several Island businesses keep track of their finances and is thrilled to get back to her roots working with the Vashon Wilderness Program.
Ben “Running Horse” Jones, Guest Instructor. Ben grew up in northern California playing soccer and practicing to become a voice actor. Having discovered how our thoughts affect our realities, he utilized his newfound sense of power to accomplish his goals more fully. After graduating high school however, and reading Tom Brown Jr.’s “Grandfather”, he decided that learning directly from the dogma of the birds and the bees would be more fulfilling, as well as more of a gift to the world. Having no idea that wilderness schools existed, he travelled between Oregon, three different islands of Hawaii, Washington, and Alaska, seeking opportunities to experience the rawness of life in a trial by fire fashion. He now resides on Vashon, living without electricity among the trees, animals, and birds of the forest. Ben studied Coyote Mentoring at the Wilderness Awareness School and has served as a mentor for VWP’s Fire Tender and Forest Tracker programs, and Survival Skills Camps. He spends his time playing chess, flint knapping, making friction fires, and practicing just about any and every skill he can get his hands on transforming thoughts into actions as much as possible. He loves to share powerful nature-based tools and skills for living a fulfilled life.
Joanne Jewell, Instructor. Joanne joined VWP in 2010. She brings a deep understanding of the physical and emotional development of young children combined with a passion for animal tracking, plants, birding by ear, and singing! She holds an MPA in Environmental Policy from the UW and certificates in Horticulture, Animal Tracking, and the Foundation Year in Waldorf Education. She has also been an enthusiastic parent and volunteer with VWP since 2004. Joanne has also been working in the fields of sustainable agriculture, organic gardening and pesticide reduction for over 20 years. She has been a garden coordinator at Seattle Tilth and is a contributing author of the Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide. She lives and grows food on Plum Forest Farm with her partner and their two children, and feeds many happy families through their farm stand, CSA program and at the Vashon farmer’s market.
Jacqui Lown, Instructor. Always up for an adventure, especially out in the natural world, Jacqui embodies her elder/child with joy. As a teen and young adult, she spent a month winter camping in the Northwoods of Minnesota, and crossed the Pacific Ocean in a 60”sailboat. She went on to work as a camp counselor, nature center naturalist/instructor, and crew leader for the Student Conservation Association – for 27 seasons, 4-6 weeks each summer – building trails with 16-18yr olds in the backcountry of our NW National Parks. From 3 months old on, her two children (now grown adults) were part of that backcountry wilderness life. Aware of the enlivening support that connection to the natural world brings to all of us, she sought out Vashon Wilderness Program three years ago, first volunteering as an apprentice and then morphing into a “fire-elder.” With a lifetime involvement in creative arts and dance, 25 years in alternative healing modalities, 18 years caring for elderly and hospice clients, and 27 years living with teens in the wilderness, Jacqui brings a tender strength and dedication, holding the space for others to experience the natural world’s cauldron of magic. She is very excited to deepen and grow her experience with VWP.
Linda Moore, Guest Instructor. Linda is passionate about nature, children, growing food, and song. She has been mentoring youth since 1999, and believes that a day with children, steeped in Nature – with story, song, weaving and wandering – is a day well spent! She has been supporting VWP programs since 2013 as an apprentice and then instructor and substitute instructor. In 2015, Linda completed a Master’s Program with the Center For Sacred Studies – Earth-based Spiritual Traditions. She has been leading song circles & workshops since 2014 on Vashon, in Seattle and in Guerneville, CA. Linda completed Heidi Bohan’s 7 month field course: Ethnobotany- Traditional Skills Plant ID in 2018. She embodies reverence for all things; deeply honors this beautiful earth, waters, and beauty that this life unfolds; and is committed to stewarding this planet for the next seven generations. She gives great gratitude every day to her Teachers and All her Relations. You can find out more about what she’s currently up to at The Nourishing Hearth.
Yasmin Ravard-Andresen, Instructor. Yasmin’s ancestors were born in North India and in West Africa. She was born and raised in Tongva territory (Los Angeles) and moved to Chinook territory (Portland, OR) in high school. She studied Theatre at University of Oregon (Kalapuya territory).
Being in the Northwest deepened her love for the natural world but her mentoring journey really began upon having her kids. Homeschooling alongside them using the Wilderness Awareness School resources and Waldorf-inspired curriculum expanded her passions. She gathered other homeschooling families in Seward Park for years building community and play using the 8 shields model.
Her kids have spent four years in VWP weekly programs. And last year, she completed the Anake Leadership Program and volunteered weekly with VWP. Having just moved to the island, she is overjoyed and honored to be working with the outstanding Wind Gatherer and Woodland Ways teams!
Yasmin comes alive while singing, storytelling, and making something with her hands.
Rachel Sursely, Instructor. Rachel is known for her warm, gentle and playful approach to mentoring and drawing out each child’s individual gifts. She trained with the Wilderness Awareness School and is a graduate of their Anake Outdoor School, an intensive nine month training program in nature awareness and survival skills. Rachel works with children in our weekly and monthly programs, and marks her 6th year with VWP. She has also taught young children at the Heart Stone Center and El Gato Playschool, both on Vashon. She lives on the Island with her two children and a few furry critters.
Adrian Swain, Instructor. Adrian grew up in California, where he discovered his deep sense of love for the natural world playing in the oak-studded foothills of the bay area. After 7 years as a boy scout he wandered to the Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area in southern Idaho where he acquainted himself with the geology, flora and fauna of that high desert landscape. He completed a BA at the University of Oregon in Environmental Education, where he immersed himself in Coyote Mentoring methods while volunteering with a half-dozen non-profits leading hundreds of kids into nature. He worked with Whole Earth Nature School in Eugene for a time before moving to Vashon and volunteering/becoming a substitute at VWP. As a self-proclaimed deep ecologist, he is very excited and honored to share his passion for ethnobotany (and plants), bird language, natural processes, ecology, actually-sustainable living, growing food, geology, permaculture and deep-nature connection with the youth at VWP!
Nathan “Kwahn” Uhlmeyer, Instructor. Kwahn was born and raised in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. There he roamed with the pine forests and oak grasslands curating a deep connection with the natural world. Wishing to deepen his knowledge and relationship with the natural world, he attended Alderleaf Wilderness College studying naturalist and primitive skills. While attending Alderleaf, he discovered a passion for mentoring youth in their local ecologies through wander and play. Nathan’s unique mentoring style offers connection with self, other, and nature through reverence and imagination. He has taught for Wilderness Awareness School, Tracker’s Earth, Raven’s Roots Naturalist School, and Twin Eagles Wilderness School. Nathan is ecstatic to be working with this year’s Fire Tenders, Forest Trackers, and Earth Walkers.
Jane Valencia, Instructor. Jane loves to share the magic of the natural world with children and folk of all ages. Her journey with deep nature connection began in 2001 when she served as a parent volunteer in Vashon’s very first wilderness program for kids. When an instructor revealed a few coyote mentoring secrets to her, she became hooked! She has trained extensively in nature and cultural mentoring with Wilderness Awareness School and the 8 Shields Institute. A founding member of VWP and a past board member and president, Jane is in her seventh year as a VWP instructor. She is delighted to be working with this year’s Fire Tenders, Forest Trackers, Herbal Kids After School kids, and adults.
Outside of VWP, Jane performs and teaches harp and storytelling, is an author/illustrator of children’s books, serves as a community herbalist and herbal educator, and blogs on her website, ForestHalls.org, from the perspective of ancestral wisdom and plant medicine ways, and mythic story and music as applied to family life and cultural healing. She taught for two years at Heartstone School and sings with the Vashon Threshold Choir. She and her family live on Vashon in a passive solar home on a plain old farm where they tend the land and a flock of feathered friends, wildcraft and grow medicinal herbs, and generally aim to live simply and have fun.
Jen Williams, Instructor. Jen was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and grew up sailing with her father and exploring the Puget Sound. She is passionate about raising her two boys in connection to family, nature, and community. Her family has been a part of VWP since 2010 and each year they deepen their learning and connection to the program. Jen completed the Anake Leadership program at the Wilderness Awareness School. She is thrilled to begin her fourth year as an instructor at VWP, and looks forward to connecting with 4-8 year olds in our weekly and late start programs. Jen also holds a Masters Degree in Environment and Community and strives to understand how to create global change on a small community scale. She has farmed for more than 16 years and is dedicated to learning the complexities of seed saving.
Zoe Hughes (Secretary) has wandered far, but always comes back to where she was born and raised, the incomparable PNW. Her education includes a BS in Biology from Washington State University and an MS in Science Education from Canisius College (NY). She feels lucky enough to adore her work as a middle school science teacher at the Harbor School on beautiful Vashon Island. Other adventures include acting in LA, working in restaurants throughout the 90’s, owning a catering business in Madison, Wisconsin and living in a tent in Alaska for too long. She plucks at a guitar as often as possible, feeds people when they let her and takes as many walks as the weather allows. Zoe is grateful for her husband, daughter and son, whom she refers to as brilliant companions in this adventure.
Kathryn Payne (President) is a child of the early 70’s, left to roam free all day and only asked to return home “when the street lights” turned on. That was life in Pacific Grove, CA –a place where she always found a reason to be outside, surrounded by quiet forests and the crashing waves of Asilomar Beach. As Kathryn matured, she realized the imprint she received from her unstructured time in nature continued to support and guide her as and adult. Naturally when she became a mother, she wanted her child to receive the same nature connection. That meant moving from Seattle to Vashon Island in 2002 and enrolling her 5–year old daughter in the Wilderness Awareness School’s program on Vashon, and later, in Vashon Wilderness Program. Kathryn has experienced first hand the many benefits of her child attending VWP from age 5–12 and recommends it for all families seeking nature connection within a loving community for their child. Aside from her volunteer position as a Board Member for VWP, Kathryn has taught yoga since 1988, owns Island Yoga Center, and enjoys playing the piano and hanging out on the Island with her husband, daughter and poodle.
Jeff Stevenson (Treasurer and Founding Member) grew up in a big city and began exploring the wilds of nature at a very early age, both here and abroad — from scuba diving with manta rays, to trailing a deer through the night, to surviving in the Scottish Highlands for 9 days with nothing but a knife and the clothes on his back. He is a lover of story, family, myth, singing, cooking for friends and family, playing music and the power of community. Jeff holds a B.S in Biochemistry from McGill University and currently works as an MRI Research Scientist at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences where he is inspired and humbled everyday by the magic and mystery that is our human brain. VWP has been a profound component of his three children’s learning and growth.
Andy Valencia (pic & bio coming soon)
Colleen Brooks – pic coming soon. Children have always been a primary focus for Colleen. Born in Nebraska, the oldest of nine children, she later became the mother of five, the grandmother of 14 and more recently, the great grandmother of two. She, her husband, and two of their children lived close to the land for 35 years on a beautiful 10 acre farm in Oregon. She has worked to foster healthy environments and relationships for children and families for more than six decades as a Parent Educator, Speech and Language Assistant in the public schools, Counselor at a wilderness camp for teens with disabilities, Birth Doula, Draft Counselor, and Board Member for Head Start. Colleen values nature connection, human connection and community. Vashon Wilderness Program is a beautiful confluence of these values and she is honored to be a part of this community.
Estavan Roache – pic and bio coming soon
Mary Shackelford is honored to serve as an elder with VWP since the first years. She is deeply connected to the land of this region, forty years her home now on the Island. With her partner, she stewards a community sanctuary on Burton Hill where they also tend a large organic garden, delighting in abundance for GiveAway. Mary is devoted to serving community; she has several decades of leadership experience exploring creative collaboration, learning and working with others to bring forward what really matters. In all her various activities, Mary shares her deep capacity to connect in service to life, aligning from the heart to cultivate awareness through listening, witnessing and sharing.
Mark Smythe – pic and bio coming soon
Mark P. Timken LMHCA, SEP— Mark has been a part of the Vashon Wilderness Program community for more than 14 years as a founding member, stakeholder, and more recently as an Elder. He graduated from Pacifica Graduate Institute in 2015 with a Masters in Counseling and an emphasis in depth psychology. That same year, he completed the Somatic Experiencing Training, earning his certification as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. Mark has worked in community mental health and is currently in private practice as a nature-based psychotherapist, dedicated to working with wholing and self-healing, nervous system regulation, cultural change, the unconscious, and ecopsychology. He is passionate about VWP’s mission to connect people more deeply with themselves, each other, and the natural world.
Kristina Turner is a Creative Spark Coach, volunteer VWP Elder, and life-long learner with several decades experience facilitating circles, singing songs in community, mentoring other life-long learners and listening for the heartbeat of nature deep within. She loves to invent fresh ways to become aware, connect, let go of fear, open to wonder and play. She is especially grateful to be in VWP alongside board members, staff and families exploring how to reconnect with the web of life as we rediscover how Nature’s rhythms weave us together.