The difference between a good summer program and an exceptional summer program is the quality of its leaders. One of the main ingredients to the “secret sauce” of what sets Apogee apart from other organizations is our incredible leaders. We hire people who are not only committed to the success of our students, but are also responsible, compassionate, and just plain fun.

Simply put, our leaders love working with kids and they love the outdoors. Students look up to our leaders as role models and overwhelmingly rate them with the highest marks on end-of-trip surveys. Here are a few more details and important information about Apogee’s selective hiring processes, our extensive leader training program, and our leaders’ qualifications and certifications.

  • We look for individuals with outstanding leadership skills and wide-ranging experience working with young people in the outdoors.
  • We hire leaders from all corners of the United States who come to us from a range of backgrounds including top colleges and universities and related industries (teachers, wilderness therapy instructors, etc.).
  • Every applicant fills out a detailed application and is carefully interviewed by our directors. We conduct multiple rounds of interviews before hiring our leaders and are able to be highly selective – we hire one out of every twelve applicants.
  • We check references thoroughly and perform a full background check (SORI, CORI, and when applicable, driving record) before offering any position.
  • Our leaders are a minimum of twenty years old. Most are between 21 and 26.
  • Leader training takes place over the course of an intensive, two week-long program at Apogee’s headquarters in Brunswick, Maine. We work with our leaders both in the classroom and in the field to cover everything from safety and group dynamics to trip logistics and outdoor skills. Leaders also spend time reviewing student applications and calling families before the start of the program so they are familiar with each individual in their group. By the end of their training, leaders are well prepared to safely and effectively lead their group on the adventure of a lifetime.
  • All of our leaders are certified in Wilderness First Aid, CPR, and as Lifeguards. Many of our leaders also hold higher certifications, such as Wilderness First Responder or EMT.
  • Apogee enjoys a very high leader return rate. Many veteran leaders return for multiple summers.

Read more below to meet a few of our outstanding Trip Leaders.

To learn more about leading for Apogee, CLICK HERE.


Donovan Fiore, Gilbert, AZ
Washington & Lee University, Class of 2020

Trips as a Leader: Vermont to Montreal ’18, Europe Coast to Coast ’19, Maine Coast Photo ’21

Donovan Fiore enjoys exercising creativity whenever possible and has accordingly picked up a unique set of hobbies. In addition to wood carving, wood burning, lamp building, painting, and singing, Donovan also plays the guitar, electric bass, banjo, piano, mandolin, ukulele, cajon, and harmonica – wow! Outdoors, Donovan enjoys running, hiking, and mountain biking. He has explored the outdoors of Kauai, Four Peaks in Arizona, Zion National Park in Utah, and the Everglades in Florida. Still, he hopes to someday travel to the black-sand beaches of Iceland and the Kangaroo Bay Wildlife Preserve in Australia. Donovan loves working with kids and young adults and has plenty experience serving in leadership roles: throughout high school, he was a leader in his school’s mentoring program and men’s choir, taught guitar to middle school students, and was the Varsity Captain of the Soccer and Track & Field Teams. Donovan recently graduated from Washington and Lee university with a double major in Business Administration and Psychology, and was WLU’s first sophomore Track & Field Captain (he was, of course, elected captain his junior and senior years, too)! He also served as a Resident Adviser, and led Sunday Night Worship weekly.

Emma Norton, Kingston, NH
Middlebury College, Class of 2022

Trips as a Leader: New England Mountains & Coast and Maine Coast Junior ’19, Northwest Explorer ’21

Emma Norton grew up on the seacoast of New Hampshire, a stone’s throw from the ocean and driving distance from the White Mountains, cultivating a love of the outdoors from a young age. Alongside her parents and older brother, Emma loved rowing, exploring museums, summiting peaks, and wading in the ocean as a kid, which built a foundation for her love of rock climbing, backpacking, and skiing today. During her time at Middlebury College, Emma found Vermont to be the perfect location to combine outdoor adventure and academia. When she wasn’t leading and coordinating trips as the president of the Mountain Club, she could be found studying Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. On campus, Emma also served as a First-Year Counselor (mentoring new students and helping them adjust to college life), taught spin and yoga classes twice a week, and worked in the Office of Admissions providing campus tours for prospective students. She also somehow found time to backpack in Colorado, California, and Ireland over the last few years. To say Emma is an outdoor enthusiast with a knack for multitasking would be an understatement!

Nicole Greene, Peoa, UT
St. Lawrence University, Class of 2021

Trips as a Leader: California Mountains & Coast ’19, America Coast to Coast ’21

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii and raised in Peoa, Utah, Nicole Greene, a junior at Saint Lawrence University (SLU), now calls Canton, NY home. Back in Utah, however, Nicole is one of 13 siblings – assuming we’re counting her family’s two horses, two donkeys (Daffodil and Petunia), and six chickens. In high school, Nicole juggled the National Honor Society presidency, serving as a peer tutor for students with disabilities, and babysitting – while spending every free minute taking advantage of living around Park City: hiking, mountain biking, ski touring, and ski racing. Nicole keeps herself busy at SLU, too; she’s a member of the Division 1 Varsity Alpine ski team, captain of the Women’s Club Soccer team, and serves as the SLU liaison to the Little River School, where she organizes lessons for their alternative learning classrooms. Her passion for working with people in the outdoors includes her academic interests, as well – Nicole is a Environmental-Sociology major. After volunteering for several years at the National Ability Center in Park City, Nicole worked as a Recreation Program Instructor, where she empowered individuals of all abilities by building confidence through sports and educational programs. She worked with teenagers with spinal cord injuries, adults with Autism, and military veterans on skills including adaptive water skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing, and archery.

Jonathon Haist, Palm Harbor, FL
University of Florida, Class of 2020

Trips as a Leader: Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and Golden State Adventure ’19, Northwest Explorer ’21

Jonathon Haist joins us from warm and sunny Palm Harbor, Florida! Jonathon recently got his bachelors degree in Architecture from the University of Florida (UF), and is now at Yale University pursuing his Master’s in Architecture! Aside from being an architectural whiz at UF, Jonathon also put his six feet and four inches to good use, towering over the competition playing both indoor and beach volleyball. Jonathon’s passion and enthusiasm for meaningful work, good community, and fun don’t stop at school. In 2013, Jonathon began a five-year tenure as a counselor and supervisor at a camp in the mountains of North Carolina, so you know who to call on if you’re ever in search of a good group game! In his final role as one of the camp’s Assistant Directors, Jonathon oversaw several counselors and 60 campers. His motivation for returning to Apogee year after year? His love for the fun and openness of the outdoor-oriented community.

Nellie Simmonds, Gill, MA
Vassar College, Class of 2023

Trips as a Leader:
Pacific Coast ’21

Born in Germany, and raised in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts, Nellie Simmonds has always been adventurous and curious. Nellie loves to fill her time with different activities, and she’s certainly done that at Vassar College! Nellie is on the pre-med track at Vassar, majoring in biochemistry, but also has found time to be on the leadership team at Vassar’s outing club, organizing and leading hiking, kayaking, biking, and rock climbing adventures for her fellow Vassar students! She is also an intern in the Biology department at Vassar College and does independent research working with a variety of marine creatures such as coral, sea anemones, and brine shrimp. Nellie’s interest in the medical field led her to get certified as an EMT in 2020. Nellie has enjoyed working with students long before she started with us at Apogee, spending the summer of 2019 working as a camp counselor and ceramics instructor and leading a cabin of fifteen-year-olds. Before that, Nellie’s leadership chops led her to be chosen as a resident leader during both her junior and senior years of high school. When she’s not busy skiing, biking, hiking, working, or studying, you might find her listening to podcasts of all sorts or teaching herself how to play the guitar!

Finnegan Keilty, Winston-Salem, NC
Carleton College, Class of 2022

Trips as a Leader:
Costa Rica Mountains & Coast ’21

A spectacular baker, cook, and an even better outdoor trip leader, we’re lucky to have Finnegan Keilty on our team! While Finnegan currently calls Northfield, Minnesota his home while studying Spanish and Political Science at Carleton College, he actually spent most of his youth split between Las Vegas, Nevada and Southern California, taking advantage of all the wonderful climbing, cycling, and hiking that area has to offer in the variety of nearby national parks and forests. Before coming to Apogee, Finnegan spent his summers working at the Broken Paddle Guiding Company in Southeastern Minnesota, leading kayaking trips and cycle tours for families. Finnegan has plenty of experience working with students, not only in his guiding work, but also as a prefect at his high school, where he was in charge of a whole dorm of first-years! These days, at Carleton, when he’s not busy working on his various studies, you can find Finnegan whipping up the perfect Carnitas recipe for the campus culinary club, setting new routes at the rock climbing wall, or leading outdoor trips for the college outing club.