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 outdoors. 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.