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, coaches, 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 approximately one out of every ten applicants.
  • We check references thoroughly and perform a full background check (SORI, CORI, and when applicable, driving record) on every staff member.
  • Our leaders are a minimum of 20 years old, and 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 files 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 and CPR. Many also hold higher wilderness certifications, such as Wilderness First Responder or EMT. Additionally, all of our trips that engage in swimming activities will have at least one leader certified as a Wilderness Lifeguard.
  • 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.


Leader Name: Megan McKeown (she/her/hers)

Hometown: Verona, New Jersey

School: University of Vermont, Class of 2020

Prior Apogee Experience: Alps Explorer ’23, Maine’s Downeast Explorer ‘22, New England Mountains & Coast ‘22

Certifications: Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness Lifeguard, CPR

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Birding, biking, and backpacking. the three B’s! Oh, and swimming and hiking, of course!

Highlights of the past year: Traveling in the Alps with her awesome Apogee groups, then exploring Europe on her own afterwards!

Multi-dimensional Megan: When she’s not working with Apogee students, Megan can be found printmaking, making and sharing food with friends, and studying (and winning) the board game Wingspan (the hit game all about birds). Megan ranks as one of Apogee’s most dedicated ornithologists — she has seen (and identified) 352 different bird species! When she’s not working for Apogee in the summer, Megan works as a teacher. She even spent two years working at a “forest preschool” where they spent 100% of their time outside – even in the winter!

Leader Name: Dana McRae (he/him/his)

Hometown: Warwick, Massachusetts

School: Vassar College, Class of 2022

Past Trips: Europe Coast to Coast ’23, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains ’22

Certifications: Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness Lifeguard, CPR

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Biking, climbing, hiking, backpacking, running, and ultimate frisbee

Highlights of the past year: Dana worked in the High Mountain huts in the White Mountains and then moved to New York City!

If Dana isn’t outside, he’s probably: Cooking, reading, building pillow forts, playing board games, tutoring and teaching, or planning his next outdoor adventure!

Some other reasons we think Dana is just the bee’s knees: He is a classically trained vocalist, he spent three summers working as a carpenter restoring historic New England houses, and has worked as both a tutor and a youth soccer coach. Dana also worked previously with the Poughkeepsie Public Schools Foundation to help raise money and produce marketing videos to close the opportunity gap in the local schools.

Leader Name: Nellie Simmonds (she/her/hers)

Hometown: Northfield, Massachusetts

School: Vassar College, Class of 2023

Major: Biology

Past Trips: Europe Coast to Coast ’23, Alaska Mountains & Coast ’22, Pacific Coast ’21

Certifications: Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), CPR

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Paddle boarding, hiking, and running

Recent life highlights: Hiking on Mt. Kilimanjaro during her semester abroad in Uganda.

Where you can find Nellie when she isn’t on the trail: She loves listening to podcasts of all sorts, but especially science-oriented ones and adding to her art collage journal.

Nellie has a million great qualities, so here’s a few more: In addition to being conversational in Swahili, Nellie is also an expert traveler and is comfortable hostel-jumping across many countries (most recently in Portugal and Spain). Oh, and she must be good at running because she has captained both Cross Country and Track and Field teams! Last, but certainly not least, Nellie has worked as a camp counselor, a ceramics instructor, and as a mentor for an academic summer program for youth of color.  

Leader Name: Kendall Hermanson (she/her)

Past Trips: Cape Cod & the Islands ’23 and Vermont to Montreal ’23

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

School: Wake Forest University, Class of 2025

Certifications: Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness Lifeguard, CPR

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and skiing

Highlights of the past year: Hiking in the Central Alps while she studied abroad in Vienna!

Where you can find Kendall when she is not hiking or exploring: She is passionate about sustainability and fashion, and she enjoys making her own clothing by sewing and up-cycling materials from second-hand stores or from her own wardrobe. Kendall also plays club field hockey at Wake and loves to crochet and garden!

Further proof of Kendall’s awesomeness: She has volunteered for the past two years at a local elementary school to tutor and interact with native Spanish speaking-students who are learning English. Kendall also considers herself an expert on all things regarding niche 90’s rock bands, and she hosts her own radio show at her school where she interviews her guests about their favorite albums and music in general. She also leads backpacking, canoeing, and climbing trips for other students through the Outdoor Program at Wake Forest!

Leader Name: Saul Cuevas-Landeros (he/him/his)

Hometown: Oakland, California

School: Bowdoin College, Class of 2023

Past Trips: Maine Coast College Essay ’23

Certifications: Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness Lifeguard, CPR

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Hiking, backpacking, fishing, and ice fishing!

Highlight of the past year: This year, Saul wrote an op-ed piece about artificial intelligence and it was featured in Politico’s tech newsletter! He also was able to visit his family in Mexico and travel around Jalisco with them.

Where you can find Saul when he’s not fishing or being featured in news pieces: Saul loves to read and averages about a book a week! (A perfect hobby for someone leading Maine Coast College Essay, we might add.) He finds himself reading all sorts of books, but especially focused on histories, memoirs, and many different novel styles. He also enjoys going to the gym and playing rugby!

Other reasons why Saul is phenomenal: He speaks Spanish and is learning Italian! Saul also was the club leader of a mentoring program at Bowdoin, where he mentored middle school students who had instability in their backgrounds. He worked to help them build confidence and develop important life skills. After working with Apogee for the 2023 summer, Saul went to Senegal where he will be a Peace Corps Volunteer working on environmental issues.