Leader Bios 2023: Introducing our Europe Coast to Coast Crew!

Happy spring, Apogee world (and happy Star Wars day, of course)! The arrival of May means that the countdown to the Apogee summer is officially underway (39 days until Leader Training, for those of you keeping track) – and it also means that it’s time to start sharing our (incredibly qualified and impressive) summer staff with the world!

Our first batch of Leader Bios covers our multi-talented team headed overseas to lead our Europe Coast to Coast bike trips – check ’em out!

Leader Name: Mark House (he/him) Teen European bike trip leader Mark House

2023 Trip: Europe Coast to Coast

Hometown: Troy, Michigan

School: University of Michigan, Class of 2017 

Previous Apogee Experience: Pacific Coast Support ‘17, Costa Rica Language & Community ‘18, Europe Coast to Coast ‘19, America Coast to Coast ‘21, Europe Coast to Coast Support ‘22

Certifications: Wilderness First Aid, Lifeguard & CPR

Highlights of the past year: After many years as a snowboarder, Mark (finally) traded in his board for a pair of skis and spent the winter in Utah skiing with fellow Apogee Leader superstars. 

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Snowboarding, skiing, running, and cycling

Where you can find Mark when he’s not on his bike or on skis: Playing basketball, skateboarding, fixing cars, or making milk fly out of peoples’ noses as he cracks joke after joke. 

Mark rocks for many reasons – here are just a few: This summer will be Mark’s sixth season as an Apogee leader, which is the longest tenure of any leader since the company’s founding in 2001. And Grace and Mark are no strangers to co-leading long bike trips together – the dynamic duo completed our (now defunct) America Coast to Coast trip together back in 2021. Lastly, Mark has always claimed to be a 90% free-throw shooter, and this year, we hear that he has finally hit 91%. A round of applause for Mark!

Teen European bike trip leader Grace LeslieLeader Name: Grace Leslie (she/her)

2023 Trip: Europe Coast to Coast

Prior Apogee Experience: Vermont to Montreal ‘19, America Coast to Coast ‘21

Hometown: Orono, Minnesota 

School: Carleton College, Class of 2021

Certifications: Wilderness First Aid, CPR, Lifeguard

Highlights of the past year: Grace spent the last year working in Atlanta, Georgia at the Center for Transportation and the Environment, which is a non-profit organization that helps accelerate the switch to clean energy in transportation. On top of that, Grace also ran the 2023 Boston Marathon! Last but not least, she officially got her citizenship to Luxembourg – so cool! 

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Along with running and biking, you can find Grace playing tennis and cruising around on her rollerblades! 

Where you can find Grace when she is not busy working in clean energy or on her rollerblades: Trying out different fitness classes, walking dogs, and exploring different ice cream shops. 

Bonus reasons why Grace is so cool: She spent a semester backpacking in Patagonia doing environmental research and has also volunteered with Paper Planes as an English tutor. She also ran for the Carleton Cross Country and Track and Field teams and played Club Hockey, too! This summer, she can’t wait to rank each and every chocolate croissant her ECC trip encounters.

Leader Name: Nellie Simmonds (she/her) Teen European bike trip leader Nellie Simmonds

2023 Trip: Europe Coast to Coast

Hometown: Northfield, Massachusetts

School: Vassar College, Class of 2023

Certifications: Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Lifeguard, CPR

Prior Apogee Experience: Pacific Coast ‘21, Alaska Mountains & Coast ‘22

Favorite Outdoor Activities: “All of them.” But mostly, skiing, running, hiking, and biking. 

Highlights of the past year: Leading in Alaska last summer, surfing in Costa Rica, and road tripping through the Northeast and Canada. 

Where you can find Nellie when she isn’t on the trail or shredding waves: Nellie has the dancing bug and she just loves it. She also loves making art collages with just about anything she can find (newspapers, magazines, pressed flowers, fabrics, grass – you get the gist…). She’s also a big podcast listener, especially anything science-oriented.

Nellie has done a ton of amazing things – check them out: After spending a semester of her junior year in Uganda, Nellie’s research paper about women working in the Ugandan salt mines was recently published! She is also conversational in Swahili and captained both Vassar’s Cross Country and Track and Field teams. On top of those very impressive accomplishments, Nellie also won her camp’s hula hooping competition two years in a row. Fingers crossed she breaks out her skills in Europe this summer!

Teen European bike trip leader Dana McRaeLeader Name: Dana McRae (he/him)

2023 Trip: Europe Coast to Coast

Prior Apogee Experience: Colorado’s Rocky Mountains ‘22

Hometown: Warwick, Massachusetts

School: Vassar College, Class of 2022

Certifications: Wilderness First Aid, CPR, Lifeguard

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

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

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 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. Last but not least, he can also wiggle both ears, independently or together – and he has bunions (boo!), but when he makes footprints, it looks like he only has four toes – now that’s talent!

Leader Name: Sarah Shepard (she/her)Teen European bike trip leader Sarah Shepard

2023 Trip: Europe Coast to Coast

Prior Apogee Experience: Pacific Coast ‘22

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

School: Colorado College, Class of 2025

Certifications: Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard & CPR

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Biking, skiing, and backpacking

Highlights of last year: Sarah got an adorable new puppy named Birdie, got to see a few of her favorite artists perform at Red Rocks, and spent time camping in Moab! 

Where you can find Sarah when she’s not donning a bike helmet: Learning a new tune on the guitar, playing club soccer, curling up with a good book, or exploring all of the great hiking trails that Colorado Springs has to offer.

Super fun facts about Sarah that will make you smile: Sarah and Ben first teamed up last summer as a leader (Sarah) and Support Staffer (Ben) for our Pacific Coast trip. Before her time with Apogee, Sarah’s passion for soccer included several years of coaching at all levels. More recently, she has rafted in one of the most remote areas in the U.S., and her NYT mini crossword record is 15 seconds. Now, Sarah is counting down the days until she gets to meet her students and eat a whole bunch of great bread in Europe!

Teen European bike trip leader Ben ThibeauLeader Name: Ben Thibeau (he/him)

2023 Trip: Europe Coast to Coast

Prior Apogee Experience: Cape Cod & the Islands ‘21, Pacific Coast Support ‘22

Hometown: West Newbury, Massachusetts

School: University of San Diego, Class of 2021

Certifications: Wilderness First Aid, Lifeguard & CPR

Favorite Outdoor Activity: Biking and hiking

Highlights of 2022: Ben moved to Washington D.C. to start his grad school program in US Foreign Policy and National Security and has been having an incredible time exploring the city and meeting new folks.

Where you can usually find Ben: Ben has been pursuing a new mission of learning to bake without burning anything, and he also loves to cook, read (and re-read) the Lord of the Rings series, play board games, and find any way he can spend time on his bike. 

Just a few other reasons why Ben is amazing: Ben graduated with a B.A. in International Relations from San Diego – during his time as an undergrad, he studied abroad in Vienna, Austria. On top of that, he speaks German and is looking forward to exercising his language muscles while on ECC. Before his time with Apogee, Ben worked as a camp counselor, too. (Oh, and we applaud him also on his ability to cook “minute” rice in 58 seconds.)

Leader Name: Donovan “Donny Cannons” Fiore (he/him)Teen European bike trip leader Donovan Fiore

2023 Trip: Europe Coast to Coast Support

Prior Apogee Experience: Vermont to Montreal ‘18, Europe Coast to Coast ‘19, Maine Coast Photo ‘21

Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona

School: Washington & Lee University, Class of 2020

Certifications: Wilderness First Aid, CPR, Lifeguard

Highlights of the past year: Donny got to spend a week camping and hiking around Zion (and was absolutely stunned by seeing Angel’s Landing). He also backpacked the Triple Crown in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains.  

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Hiking, biking, pickleball, climbing, running, disc golf, and ultimate frisbee

Where you can find Donny when he is not busy pedaling or hiking somewhere: Donny is a part-time musician and plays an array of string instruments (including the mandolin, banjo, guitar, and ukulele), and you can find him playing farmer’s markets and fundraising events in his spare time. He was also the Director of Worship at his church for the last year. 

Some other reasons we think Donny is just the bee’s knees: Donny has been in the Apogee Universe for four years now, and he blows us away every year! Another fun fact about Donny, he rode his bike across the entire Outer Banks! Donny has taught choir and music lessons, and he also served as a captain of his Track and Field team at Washington & Lee. And perhaps his most exciting talent? He has impressive eyebrow control that has led to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson comparisons…

Teen European bike trip leader Elijah SarveyLeader Name: Elijah Sarvey (he/him)

2023 Trip: Europe Coast to Coast Support

Prior Apogee Experience: Cape Cod & the Islands ‘22, Vermont to Montreal ‘22, Maine Coast Junior ’22

Hometown: Newton, Massachusetts

School: Tufts University, Class of 2024

Certifications: Wilderness First Aid, CPR & Lifeguarding

Favorite Outdoor Activities: Cycling, hiking, finding any type of waterfall to cool off in, and soaking in the sun rays after finishing an outdoor adventure. 

Highlights of the past year: Elijah’s words, not ours: “Leading for Apogee last summer, of course!” Along with that, Elijah got to race with the Tufts cycling team and also directed a student-run production of Little Women! 

Where you can find Elijah when he’s not biking: Playing guitar, singing in the shower, or cooking up something fun in the kitchen 

Other awesome things to know about Elijah: Between being a four-time Apogee student and leading in 2022, Elijah has now completed every single one of Apogee’s active bike trips! He went on Pacific Coast in 2016, Europe Coast to Coast in 2017, and America Coast to Coast in 2018, and he capped off his Apogee participant career with our Maine Coast College Essay in 2019. On top of that, he has spent all four years of college working at the local bike shop and also worked as a camp counselor and wilderness trip leader at another summer program before his time with Apogee.