Leader Profiles: Emily O’Connell, Zack Dix, Rosa Waters, & Kyle Werner

There are many reasons why Maine has earned the “Vacationland” moniker – especially in the summer! From the seemingly never-ending coastline to blueberry bushes blossoming along just about every byway, it’s safe to say there’s no place like Maine. This summer, Emily O’Connell, Zack Dix, Rosa Waters and Kyle Werner – and their Apogee students – are all going to call Maine “home” as they spend their days riding from Freeport to Quebec City on our Coast to Quebec trip!


Emily O'ConnellVirginia-born and Virginia-raised, Emily O’Connell is one of the kindest people you may ever come across. Emily grew up with a younger brother and two yellow labs in Richmond, Virginia. She is a rising Senior and Economics major at the College of William & Mary. While she loves her econ classes, Emily also has a passion for the Spanish language and has been chasing this passion for years. During her Junior year in high school, Emily traveled to Panama to work with the indigenous Kuna people. She learned about their history, culture, and was completely immersed in their Spanish-speaking environment. She loved her experience so much that she decided to attend Middlebury College’s vaunted language school two summers ago, a seven-week intensive Spanish immersion program. This past fall, Emily spent her semester in Sevilla, Spain where she continued to embrace her love of the language and culture through travel; one of her favorite parts of her trip was hiking part of a southern branch of the Camino de Santiago and exploring the Spanish Sierra Nevadas near beautiful Granada. Emily also loves to work with kids of all ages. Since 2010, Emily has been a camp counselor, a field hockey coach, and served as an Orientation Aid at William & Mary. Emily is excited to watch her Apogee students grow in their bike skills and self-esteem as they make their way to Quebec on our Coast to Quebec trip this summer – and maybe enjoy a few crepes once they get there!


ZACK DIXWe are thrilled to welcome Zack Dix to the Apogee family this summer! A native of Palmyra, New York, Zack graduated from Hamilton College in upstate New York this Spring with a degree in Environmental Studies. Zack grew up in a supportive and active family that spurred his love of sports and adventure. As a result, Zack has a healthy curiosity about the world around him and a deep love for the outdoors – a love that prompts him to stop at every summit and vista he reaches to “take it all in.” Zack’s positive energy and strong sense of community have landed him leadership and teaching positions over the years. He worked at a summer camp for kids on Lake Placid that aimed to emphasize the importance of being in touch with nature and reducing dependence on technology. In addition, Zack has led several wilderness-based hiking trips for incoming freshmen through Hamilton’s outstanding Adirondack Adventure pre-orientation program. During his time at Hamilton, Zack was an active member of the Swim team, Captain of the Water Polo team, and Chairman of the farmers guild for the student farm on campus. His passion for the environment and connection to nature are taking him to Reykjavik, Iceland next fall for a two year graduate program where he will be studying Renewable Energy Economics, Policy, and Sustainability. While Zack loves to study energy, we just love his energy! We can’t wait to have him out in the field this summer sharing his joy, thoughtfulness, and sense of adventure with his Apogee students on our Coast to Quebec trips.


Rosa WatersIt’s a bit of a joke among her family that Rosa Waters’ last name suits her perfectly, as she’s always loved everything to do with water. As a kid, she swam competitively for a local swim team, attended surfing camps, and learned to kayak on the James River near her home in Richmond, Virginia. Rosa is a 2015 graduate of the University of Virginia, where she majored in Political & Social Thought and Latin American Studies. Rosa played an active role on campus, and was a resident advisor for first year dorm, a bike ambassador for UVA’s newly launched bike share program, and a member of both the Outing Club and the Triathalon Club. Additionally, Rosa was the Vice President of UVA’s Alternative Spring Break program, and led trips to New Orleans and Annapolis, Maryland. Rosa joined the Apogee team in 2013 and led both Cape Cod & the Islands as well as Vermont to Montreal. Rosa took a hiatus in 2014, adventuring to Brazil where she spent two months learning Portuguese and tutoring two boys in English. Rosa loved her time in Brazil so much that she applied for – and received – a Fulbright grant that will allow her to return for a year in February 2016 to teach English at the university level. Since leading with Apogee, she has also run two marathons, and has taken time work with local teenagers through UVA’s community-based classes. In these classes, Rosa worked to make a documentary on homelessness in Charlottesville with a local high school class and facilitated literature-based discussions at a nearby juvenile detention center. A fantastic leader, Rosa is incredibly kind and caring! While we missed her last year, we couldn’t be more excited to have her back to lead our Coast to Quebec trips this summer!


Kyler WernerKyle Werner hails from Lake Forest, Illinois, and has made his way to the Apogee family via Bowdoin College and many terrific outdoor adventures. We’re so excited to have Kyle’s experience and energy with us this summer! Kyle graduated from Bowdoin in 2014 with a degree in Psychology and a Minor in teaching. Kyle has been leading trips for years with a variety of age groups in a number of great locations. He has led hiking trips in California’s High Sierra for middle school and high school students and numerous trips for college students throughout Maine’s great outdoor. Kyle has also worked as a day camp counselor for three summers in a row back in Chicagoland. When it comes to teaching and working with kids, Kyle knows his stuff! Kyle has been interested in teaching for years but has recently become motivated by the idea of combining teaching and his love of outdoor adventure into one. He was also an active participant and leader at the vaunted Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC.) With skills he learned through the BOC, Kyle prepared his own dehydrated food and hundreds of snacks before hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the summer of 2014. When Kyle isn’t exploring the outdoors and cooking up a storm he can also be found practicing yoga and meditation – and teaching in Maine during the coming school year. Kyle’s love of adventure as well as his undeniable passion for fun and teaching will serve him well as he steps into the field this summer to lead our Coast to Quebec trips.

Leader Profiles: Thomas Gregston, Emily Blau, Matt Cooper, & Midge Cross

Picture a tropical paradise: palm trees, fresh mangoes, lush rain forests and white sand beaches. Now add 35 hours of community service, lots of hard work, and twelve amazing students and you’ve got yourself Apogee’s Caribbean Service Adventure! And who better to lead this trip than our own Thomas Gregston and Emily Blau? Por favor! And all the way over in California we have returning all-stars Matt Cooper and Midge Cross. These two are leading together for their second year, and will find themselves surfing in the Pacific Ocean, exploring the back-country of Yosemite, and maybe even indulging in some Ghirardelli chocolate in San Francisco on our California Mountains & Coast trip! And without further ado…


Thomas Gregston was born and raised in New Hampshire’s beautiful Mount Washington Valley. Growing up so close to the White Mountains with his parents and older brother, Thomas spent his free time roaming the trails – whether hiking or mountain biking. In fact, Thomas served as the Captain of his high school mountain biking team, and competed four times in the 24-Hour Great Glen Bike Race! Thomas is a rising Senior at Colby College where he studies Physics and Classical Civilization. In the case of an emergency, Thomas is definitely the one you want to call! On campus, Thomas is a Community Advisor (Colby’s version of Resident Advisor) and an EMT through Colby’s Emergency Response team. He also acts as a mentor and supervisor for peers and teens at a Waterville, Maine facility that provides local kids with a safe and supportive space during after school hours.Although Thomas is extremely involved on the Colby campus, he has also had plenty of experiences combining a love for learning and travel. Over the past few years, Thomas has traveled to Cuba as a part of a comparative legal studies, the Borderlands between Canada’s Yukon and Alaska for an eight-week archaeological field school, and Guatemala for a week long service project. Thomas is fun, warm, creative, and very much looking forward to working with great Apogee students on our Caribbean Service Adventure (and he speaks Spanish, too!)!


A Los Angeles native, Emily Blau is, to say the least, a world traveler. Emily’s passion for travel was sparked at an early age as Emily and her parents traveled every summer to Denmark to visit friends, and from there they explored other countries, including Russia, Estonia, Italy, and Finland. These trips were nothing short of cultural immersions as they stayed in local homes, hostels, and campgrounds rather than hotels. Emily’s love for travel coincided perfectly with her love for learning as she participated in an organization called Adventures in Learning, which takes elementary school students and their family on educational trips throughout the US. Along the way, the group learns about history, geology, ecology, and human geography. Her travels didn’t stop there. In fact, by the time Emily was 20, she had traveled to all seven continents. And as a 2015 graduate of Dickinson College, it is no surprise that Emily graduated with a degree in International Studies with a focus on Globalization and Sustainability. Emily is not just passionate about travel, but also about foreign aid; Emily has participated in community service trips to Dominica, Senegal, and Indonesia. For the past few years, Emily has interned for the Natural Resources Defense Council and worked for as Congresswoman Janice Hahn’s environmental intern. Emily is the perfect person to pitch in with our Apogee students on our Caribbean Service Adventure this summer.

MATT COOPER Apogee Adventures' Leader Matt Cooper

Hailing from from Sewickley, Pennsylvania, Apogee alum Matt Cooper is a rising Senior at Boston University where he is studying Bio-Medical Engineering and is enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program. Matt comes from a very close-knit family, and spent much of his time in high school lifeguarding and volunteering for a Pittsburgh-based organization called the Center for Hope, where he helped tutor and mentor underprivileged youth. At BU, Matt is arguably one of the most involved students on campus. Matt is a member of the Triathlon team, he works in a neuroscience lab, and he serves on the board of a campus-based community service group that focuses on giving back to the greater Boston area. On top of all of this, Matt has found time to create and run a group called Boston University Baja which designs and manufactures single seat, off-road vehicles and compete with them on a national level. When Matt is able to relax away from his BU commitments, he loves to be outside and chase his adventurous side! He is a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver, and he used his certification to explore some beautiful areas around the Florida Keys. Matt is sure to inspire his Apogee students this summer on his California Mountains & Coast trips this summer!


An ebullient Environmental Science and Philosophy double major at Tufts University, returning leader Mary “Midge” Cross is thrilled to spend another summer with Apogee on our California Mountains & Coast trips. Midge grew up in rural Minnesota, “running around in cornfields and playing lots of ice hockey.” When it came time to think about college, she decided to leave the cornfields of Minnesota and head east to Boston.  At Tufts, Midge takes part in a multitude of activities, from her involvement with BEATS, Tufts’ street percussion group, to leading trips for Tufts Mountain Club – a student run organization the coordinates outdoor trips for Tufts students. Additionally, Midge is a second year trip leader for Tufts’ Wilderness Orientation program for incoming freshmen. Midge spent the spring of 2015 studying and exploring in Ghana where she followed her passions for culture and music. While in Ghana, Midge focused on cultural transformation studies, and learned more about Ghanaian drumming and dance; Her Ghanaian musical skills definitely come in handy back at Tufts where Midge is an integral part of a West African music and dance ensemble. This summer, her trips are sure to once again be filled with delicious meals cooked over camp stoves, bonfires, and lots of games on and off the trails (including Mafia – her favorite!). And we can only assume that Midge is going to get her Apogee students singing and making beats with her through the backcountry of Yosemite.


Leader Profiles: Erinn Geyer, John McBratney, Jessi Crowley & Jonathan Sit

The countdown to this summer’s leader training is well underway (we’re at 25 days to be exact – not that anyone is counting…) and we are gearing up by posting more amazing leader profiles. First up, we have Erinn Geyer and John McBratney – these superstars will be spending their summer exploring the hills and shorelines of Acadia National Park and downeast Maine, and challenging their students as they work up to the summit of Mt. Katahdin on our Maine’s Downeast Explorer trip. On deck, we’ve got the indomitable Jessi Crowley and Jonathan Sit. These two will be splitting their summer between time on their bikes and on the trail as they lead Vermont to Montreal and, like Erinn and John, an itiration of our Maine’s Downeast Explorer!


This summer’s Maine’s Downeast Explorer students are going to love getting to know Erinn Geyer! A native of Concord, Massachusetts, Erinn has since moved a few miles down Route 2 and is now a rising Senior at Tufts University in Boston. At Tufts, Erinn is majoring in Clinical Psychology and has taken on double majors in Childhood Development and Communications/Media. Her real love, however, is the outdoors – and  her significant exposure to the backcountry was on Apogee’s own Northwest Explorer in 2008. Ever since, Erin’s been hooked – and she loves nothing more than sharing her passion with others. At Tufts, Erinn is the Vice President of the Tufts Mountain Club, the largest student-run organization on campus. She is also deeply involved with Tufts’ Wilderness Orientation program for incoming freshmen. After participating before her own Freshman year, Erinn led trips before her Sophomore and Junior years. Erinn also chases adventures off of campus. A graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, Erinn has hiked throughout the Alps, the Grand Canyon, and California’s High Sierras and Yosemite National Park. Additionally, Erinn has spent the spring of 2015 studying abroad at the University of Otago in New Zealand – where, naturally, she’s also found time to enjoy New Zealand’s stunning outdoors. Erinn also has an artistic side as she is a member of Tufts’ Dance Cooperative and a writer on one of Boston’s food blogs. Erinn is excited to “give back to a program that helped shape my identity and my passion for the outdoors” as she helps her Apogee students nurture their own passion for outdoor adventure and respect for the environment this summer.


We are thrilled to have Chicago’s own John McBratney join us on our Maine’s Downeast Explorer trips this summer! John epitomizes what it means to be adventurous and outdoorsy – and he especially thrives around bodies of water. John has spent a number of recent summers bobbing around on Lake Michigan where he served as a sailing instructor and camp counselor in his home town of Evanston, Illinois. John comes from a family of five that loves to travel. Their supportive and fun household has traveled to all ends of the globe together – from Canada and Scandinavia to Hawaii and the Mediterranean. A rising Senior at Hamilton College in upstate New York, John is Captain of Hamilton men’s water polo team and serves as a trip leader for Adirondack Adventure, the college’s outdoor-oriented pre-orientation program. In his free time at Hamilton, John is a founding member of an a capella group for “shower singers,” and an aspiring architect and interior designer during moments of procrastination. Vibrant, energetic, and passionate about the outdoors – John perfectly represents the Apogee spirit and can’t wait to meet his fellow travelers this summer.


We can’t wait to have Jessica “Jessi” Crowley join the Apogee family this summer as she leads our Maine’s Downeast Explorer and Vermont to Montreal trips! Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Jessi feels right at home in the outdoors. Growing up, Jessi spent much of her free time camping, hiking and climbing around the glorious wilderness of Washington with her parents and two brothers. Jessi continued to explore her passion for the outdoors at Hamilton College in upstate New York, where she is a rising Senior. When she’s not working towards her psychology major, you might find Jessi leading pre-orientation trips in the Adirondack wilderness for incoming freshmen or singing as a dedicated member of an anonymous a capella group that does flash mob performances around campus. Additionally, Jessi loves playing Ultimate Frisbee and has been an avid player for much of her life. Over the years, she has transitioned from being on a nationally-ranked youth team to being a co-captain of the Hamilton Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team. Last spring, Jessi proudly led the team to Nationals for the first time in the team’s history. On top of it all, Jessi enjoys travel and working with kids. In high school, Jessi went on a global service trip to Uruguay where she taught math, science, and dance to 11- and 12-year olds! Jessi is fun, kind, and filled with infectious enthusiasm, and her Apogee students are going to have a great time getting to know her both on the trails of Maine and along the backroads of Vermont.


Ever eaten chicken feet or cow intestines? Our Maine’s Downeast Explorer and Vermont to Montreal leader Jonathan Sit has – and he liked them, too! Jonathan’s love for the unique extends far beyond food and applies to travel, culture, and people. Jonathan is a recent graduate of Brown University where he studied biology. A young man with a real a knack for learning and teaching – Jonathan worked in a cognitive neuroscience lab at Brown and spent most of his free time teaching 8th-grade Chemistry to underserved middle school youth in Providence. Jonathan’s natural curiosity about the world has led him to travel and explore in the outdoors; Jonathan’s life was shaped by his three-week Outward Bound experience as a teenager. He’s switched to the leadership side of the equation in recent years and has led a number of backpacking excursions through Brown’s Outdoor Leadership programs. Jonathan indulged his passion for adventure and community service when he voyaged overseas to Botswana, Africa to work on a spinach farm and help with building projects at a local school. Jonathan is vibrant, and enthusiastic and eager to share the adventures with his Apogee students this summer!

Leader Profiles: Isa Caliandro, Aaron Pomerance, Anna Kaplan & Freddy Randall

Lace up those hiking boots because the White Mountains are calling! And who better to answer the call than Isa Caliandro and Aaron Pomerance. Isa, Aaron, and their hearty crews will be exploring the hills of New Hampshire and the coast of Maine with their students on our New England Mountains & Coast trip this summer! And along the rural back roads of beautiful Vermont will be none other than superstars Anna Kaplan and Freddy Randall. With their groups, this dynamic duo will cycle through green pastures, kayak Lake Champlain, and even pick up a little French as they cross into Canada on our Vermont to Montreal trip.


We are thrilled to have Isabella (Isa) Caliandro, of Concord, Massachusetts, leading our New England Mountains & Coast trip this summer! While this is her first year as a leader, she is not new to the Apogee family; Isa was a student in 2009 and 2010 on our Vermont Hiker and Northwest Explorer trips. Following her two summers with Apogee, Isa decided to follow her adventurous side and a semester of her Junior year of high school at the High Mountain Institute, a school in Colorado that combines academics and the natural world. Her love for the outdoors and travel continued following her high school graduation as she took a gap year following before starting college. During her gap year, Isa rock-climbed in Chamonix, France, hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc, and then traveled to Wales and England where she worked on organic farms. To finish off her year, Isa completed a large portion of the Appalachian Trail. To say the least, Isa know’s how to live life to the fullest! Isa is now at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York where she is majoring in Environmental Studies. Away from the books, she plays the ukulele, knits, and cooks up a storm in the kitchen! Isa has also had plenty of experience working with kids; for years, she has taught pottery classes for kids and led cycling trips for the Long Island (Maine) Community Center’s Adventure Club. Isa is very much looking forward to getting to know her Apogee students while perfecting her “camping stove cake” this summer!


Aaron “Pom” Pomerance is a Psychology major and Communication Media Studies minor at Tufts University. Born and raised in Weston, Connecticut, Aaron comes from a very close-knit family. He has always been on the move – whether playing linebacker out on the football field or working in the ambulance as a volunteer EMT. At Tufts, Aaron writes and edits for the Tufts Daily newspaper, plans events for Tufts Chabad (the Jewish Community House on campus), and leads hiking trips with the student-run Tufts Mountain Club. Aaron also likes to work on his outdoor journalism website, rock climb with his friends, and work with kids. His enthusiasm for working with youth in the outdoors inspired him to lead backpacking trips for Camp Moosilauke in Orford, New Hampshire. His amazing summer leading and working closely with middle-school aged students led Aaron to Apogee – and we’re delighted to have him on our New England Mountains & Coast trip. Aaron can’t wait to share his love of the outdoors – and his goofy sense of humor – with his Apogee students this summer!


Anna Kaplan, of Princeton, New Jersey, is an experienced outdoors-woman, and EMT, a fantastic older sister, and the proud daughter of two loving parents. Anna has learned so much from her parents – inheriting her love of gardening from her mother, and her musical talent from her father (Anna plays bass in a popular cover band called “Market Basket”). Although everyone in her family has varied interests, Anna’s family has always supported her love of learning and passion for the outdoors. Anna is a rising Senior at Tufts University, where she studies Biology and looks forward to graduating in 2017 with a Masters in Public Health from Tufts School of Medicine. At Tufts, Anna also gained a lot of outdoor leading experience through leading trips for Tufts’ Mountain Club, playing rugby, and taking plenty of trips with friends that share a love for adventure. Anna is fun, charming, and connects wonderfully with kids – a skill that she honed after her summer working as a camp counselor in New York in 2013 at the same camp she attended for six years as a camper. Last summer, Anna took college courses at the College of New Jersey, worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor, and even made time to hike 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Gorham, New Hampshire, to Rangeley, Maine. Anna is going to be an amazing addition to the Apogee team, and is looking forward to getting to know her students as they hang out around camp and play games under the stars on our Vermont to Montreal trip.


Freddy Randall, brother of beloved Apogee leader Noah Randall, is a new member of the Apogee family this summer, and he’s on board to lead our Vermont to Montreal trip! We are ecstatic to have Freddy, a rising Junior at Maine’s Colby College make his way over to Brunswick. At Colby, Freddy is a member of the men’s soccer team and a double major in Economics and Environmental Studies. The youngest of four, Freddy loves his siblings “more than anything.” Freddy grew up with a great appreciation of the outdoors, spending vacations traveling and camping with his family. One family trip consisted of spending an entire summer adventuring across the country exploring and camping at different national parks along the way. Freddy’s parents are former directors of a much-loved summer camp in New Hampshire where Freddy grew up as a camper and later moved on to become a dedicated counselor. Freddy has spent his last two summers working as a counselor at a day camp in Cambridge, MA by day, and a parkour instructor for children and adults by night. Freddy is constantly active and engaged – coaching, teaching, and leading wherever he goes. Freddy is also a Mentor in Violence Protection (MVP) facilitator at Colby which discusses men’s violence against women. When Freddy isn’t involved in his multitude of extracurriculars or hard at work studying, he enjoys his free time by hiking, playing frisbee, or setting up slacklines or slip ‘n slides on the quad. Freddy spent this past January living on the beach in the U.S. Virgin Islands and working for the US National Park Service. What a lucky duck! Need an excuse to hang out with Freddy? Invite him to grab a scoop of, his favorite, Moose Tracks ice cream and he won’t be able to resist! Freddy is engaging, caring, spunky, and above all, tons of fun. We are overjoyed to have him with us!