Photo by Heather Daniels Pusey


Mentoring Team

Caitlin Horigan

Field Director

Wilderness First Responder, Certified Forest Therapy Guide, Wildlife Track & Sign Level II

BA Psychology, Salem State University, Graduate Certificate in Ecopsychology

Caitlin Horigan has been a mentor in a wide variety of settings in numerous countries for more than two decades. She is an advocate of self-directed education and creating opportunities for deepening connection with the more than human world. Her teaching weaves together Joanna Macy’s The Work that Reconnects and Bill Plotkin’s Wild Mind model with expeditions, naturalist skills, and nature connection practices.

Caitlin has facilitated both day and residential place-based nature connection programming in the nonprofit sector, public and private schools, summer and after-school programs throughout the unceded territories of Wabanaki and Abenaki people.

She is on a journey of connecting with her ancestral lineages. Her introduction to tracking, bird language, plant medicine, friction fire, shelter building, scout skills, homesteading and off grid living began when she worked for the Maine Primitive Skills School in 2014. Caitlin is a Wilderness First Responder, certified in CPR, and pursuing a Recreational Maine Guide license. 

In 2018 she began training with Animas Valley Institute, one of the primary influences in White Ash Learning programming and has since completed Level 1 of the Wild Mind Training Program. She has also participated in Helping the Butterfly Hatch, a mentorship program for facilitators of Self Directed Education. Caitlin is committed to increasing the accessibility of programs she offers and continues to explore how to thrive in a capitalist system while creating a post-capitalist future. When she is not working Caitlin enjoys exploring the woods, following animal trails, making medicine, foraging food, creating art, running barefoot and dancing.


Moriah Helms

Lead Mentor

Wilderness First Responder, Certified Lifeguard, BA Spanish, Middlebury College

Moriah has lived most of her life in the bio-region of so-called New England and currently lives on Penobscot territory in midcoast Maine. The daughter of a woodworker and a Waldorf educator, she spent her Vermont childhood climbing trees, traipsing through fields, foraging and gardening, while receiving a Waldorf education. She understands, from an embodied place, the deep value of unstructured experiential outdoor learning and nurturing young people’s innate creativity.

A passion for learning languages has led Moriah to study French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and other languages at various times throughout her life. She is looking forward to learning more Farsi and Irish in the coming year. Moriah facilitates a Spanish language learning component through story and song in the semester program.

Moriah has been involved with The Wildwood Path in Unity, Maine for six years, first as a participant and then as staff, where she deepened her experience with shelter building, winter camping, friction fire, naturalist skills, medicine making, cordage, crafting, and tracing the lineages of story, song, and culture. Moriah brings exploration of her many ancestral traditions to White Ash Learning. From telling Irish folktales to celebrating the Persian new year Nowruz, we experience living culture together.

She is excited to be attending tracking workshops, and continuing with Animas Valley Institute programs in 2023, as well as continuing her own experimentation with various crafts — all of which she plans to bring to her work at White Ash Learning!

Moriah believes that the growing of a post-capitalist world must be accessible, collective, and adaptable. Her passion for history and anti-capitalist praxis has led to the creation of an online class for adults, Sowing Post Capitalist Seeds, in which participants explore the origins of capitalism and white supremacy, and work on creating alternatives in our lives and communities. Photo by Heather Daniels Pusey.


David Wessels

Lead Mentor

Wilderness First Aid, BA Religion, Oberlin College

David has been working and learning with local youth at the edges of the education system for more than 10 years. He has guided school groups along the banks of the Ducktrap River with Tanglewood’s Open Air Classroom and studied with the children of migrant farm workers at the Blueberry Harvest School. For the last 8 years, David has worked as the Garden Coordinator at the Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, where he (and 120 seventh graders) managed a ⅓ acre garden, year-round greenhouse, orchard, heirloom seed collection, sugar shack and mushroom yard. Students grew thousands of pounds of food for their cafeteria and offered student-saved seed through the THMS Seed Co. He has organized several free summer opportunities for local youth: the “Get Growing!” summer garden program, trips to Hurricane Island and a paid Internship in Sustainable Agriculture for High School students. These experiences have deepened David’s appreciation for the ungovernable magic of childhood and for the caretakers, elders and mentors that make it possible David continues to explore the radical reform of public education, democratic governance (especially for schools), complexity science, play, and expanding the accessibility of self-directed education. He lives by the headwaters of the Marsh Stream, along the Norumbega fault line, close to his favorite teachers: the garden, the woods and his 6 year old daughter.


Tyler Pierce “Dirt”

Mentor

Wilderness First Responder

Tyler Pierce (“Dirt”) grew up playing in the mucky, mossy lowlands of Duwamish territory. From there he sprang out and crossed the continent a few times, lately making home inside the lands of the Wabanaki Confederacy. His work history includes cooking and hospitality, organic farming, carpentry, and traditional Japanese landscaping. He is also passionate about hiking, climbing, the written word, bicycling, tending houseplants, yoga, and sacred geometry. He is perpetually working on listening and exercising compassionate communication skills. His favorite pastime is playing the drums and he has had a lifelong love affair with music of all styles. Dirt loves spending time around the curiosity and natural excitement of young people and is happy to have the opportunity to facilitate learning and growth within the self-directed model. He is looking forward to pursuing continuing education in wilderness studies and Self Directed Education as well as preparing for the Maine Guide exam.

 


Mev Grover

Mentor (Thistle Pond)

Wilderness First Responder, Certified Lifeguard and Sawyer, Certificate in Permaculture Design

Mev grew up with hands and feet in the mud of the tidal wetlands of traditional Abenaki land known as Scarborough, Maine, studying hermit crabs and watching the cycles of the tides and moon. This deep connection with nature fostered a lifelong curiosity with all forms of the natural world, from fungi and lichens to ever shifting weather patterns. They soak up information about nature through podcasts, songs, books, and stories, and delight in sharing what they find with others. Mev has spent much of their adult life tending plants and working with the earth through gardening, farming, landscaping, and trail crew, and has spent many hours exploring woods and streams with the children in their life. They bring diverse experience from working with Meeting House Herb Farm, Local Sprouts Cooperative, and the Beehive Design Collective. They nurture a creative practice of visual art, theatre, and song. They seek to unweave their own capitalist and white supremacist conditioning, and re-weave social patterns of deep listening, accountability, and mutualism.

 


“LAKE” aka Lisa Quatrale

Mentor

Certified Forest Therapy Guide, Certified Permaculture Designer, Graduate Certificate in Art Education

BS Architecture, Pennsylvania State University, Master of Architecture, Yale School of Architecture

LAKE was raised by The Woods, The Cranberry Bog, The Climbing Trees, The Brook, and The Pond in Connecticut, where as a child she led hiking expeditions in the forest with the intention of getting lost. Though she still gets lost, she also finds her way. Named by a lake in Maine called South Pond, she has come full circle back home to the woods where she was raised to share what she experienced as a child. With the support and inspiration of the more-than-human world and the Wabanaki land that she lives on, LAKE works to heal the human and more-than-human relationship by nurturing nature ecology, inner ecology, and community ecology—in the field and forest and around the table—through forest therapy guiding, the way of council facilitation, forest tea ceremony crafting, practicing Shamanism, designing educational experiences, photographing nature, vegan cooking/baking, and designing community meals. The gift LAKE brings to children is seeing their true nature and nurturing that nature. Like children, she holds a sense of curiosity and wonder when it comes to understanding the world. This curiosity keeps her on an endless path of growth. She sees herself as a guide who nurtures individual growth by creating consensual, spacious, safe, deep, and inspiring learning experiences where all can thrive and bloom. LAKE has worked with young adults and youth in various programs using project-based, place-based, and experiential educational approaches—as a Field Instructor in a wilderness therapy program in the mountains of North Carolina; as an Architect/Educator/Curriculum Developer and a Kayak Instructor in the wilds of NYC, and as an Elementary Art Teacher and an Undergraduate Architectural Studio Instructor in inner-city Atlanta. She has also been trained in Wilderness First Aid and CPR, Compassionate Communication, Leave-No-Trace Principles, and Non-violent Crisis Intervention. A lover of stories and with several ideas for children’s books up her sleeve LAKE looks forward to finding time and space for writing as well as learning more about her ancestral Mi’kmaq roots and imagines sharing these interests, among others, in her educational offerings.

 


Armonie Cohen-Solal

Mentor (Substitute & Summer Sessions)

Wilderness First Responder, Graduate of The Ecology Learning Center

Armonie Cohen-Solal graduated as valedictorian and class president from the Ecology Leaning Center, a public charter high school with a focus on place-based education. She was also awarded the Community Leader award in her senior year. While at the ELC she took college courses in environmental science, English, and psychology through UMaine and assisted with Wilderness First Aid training for students. Prior to going to school, she had been unschooled and has participated in many self-directed nature-based programs. Prior to going to school at 16, she had been unschooled her entire life and has participated in many self-directed nature-based programs. She has worked her way from participant to mentor. When not working at White Ash Armonie assists with the operations of Ancestral French Soaps, a family business. She also plays the fiddle and has been singing since she could make noise, and sings whenever she gets the chance, including while rowing and sailing on Belfast Bay.


As an aspiring outdoor educator, I deeply appreciate the thought and care that the staff community brings to our collaboration with one another in creating the inspiring and intentional experience that is White Ash Learning.

Work with Us

Program Support


Kyla Hershey-Wilson

Organizational Process Consultant

RN, BS Nursing, University of Maine

Kyla brings decades of experience in facilitating small groups and structuring new organizations to her work strengthening White Ash’s processes, structures, facilitating internal communication. She also brings this experience to facilitating group decision-making and workshops on a variety of topics in the midcoast area and beyond. Though she is happiest with a cat on her lap, and surrounded by family, Kyla is passionate about exploring the ecosystems that include her home. On any given day you may find her examining lichen on a little-used trail, processing nettle fibers, or making lotion bars scented with weeds that grew near her house.


Renee Palmer

Event Caterer

“The kitchen is where my passions for food, nutrition, art, and community harmonize.”

Dazzled by the many combinations of colors, textures, and flavors that meet on the plate, I draw inspiration from my early years growing up in Western Africa and Eastern Europe, where ritual celebrations, connection and sense of place were forged by mealtime gathering. I am part of the team at Global Kitchen in Mancos, CO where my hands and heart intertwine in service to the land and community. When I’m not in the kitchen, you can find me striding on my rollerblades, soaking at hot springs, drawing, and building my tiny house. I so look forward to cheffing up my latest inspirations, and sharing my love of food with you all!


Jesse Ash Newcomb, LMHC

Guest Mentor

MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts, Lesley University

Graduate Certificate in Ecopsychology, BA Sociology, Beloit College

Ash is a licensed mental health counselor, creative, and earth-loving being with training and experience in using the expressive arts, embodiment, and nature connection to support people and fostering relationship with themselves, others, and the natural world. They especially love supporting people of all ages in recognizing their own magic and bringing that into the world and feel passionate about creating spaces where people feel welcome to bring their whole selves to explore, create, and connect with themselves and others. They are passionate about supporting and listening to young people, the natural world, and the elements and wisdom inside each of us. Ash has been doing self study and attending workshops related to plants and herbalism for 10 years and loves spending time in the natural world and deepening their connection to, and learning from, all that is alive. They have experience working as a nanny for many ages, a camp counselor for teens of all genders, along with other youth support and empowerment work. They currently work as an individual and group therapist for all ages including several adolescents. In addition to the rivers, trees, and plants that have been teachers to Ash, they have been a participant and assistant with the Wildwood Path program in Unity, Maine, trained with the EarthBody institute in ecotherapy, have a certificate in Ecopsychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute, have participated in several programs through the Animas Valley Institute, and assisted with the Rising Moon program last year. They also have a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy from Lesley University and have trained with the Internal Family Systems Institute. Ash enjoys making art, singing, writing, movement, time outside, and spending time with good people laughing or talking about the hard stuff. They believe that part of creating a world that is best for all of us includes each deepening our relationship with the natural world inside and outside of us, and that being in touch with joy and creativity are important parts of creating sustainable futures.


Meg Gilmartin

Substitute Mentor, (she/they)

BS Environmental Studies, University of Vermont, UMaine Social Work Graduate Student

Wildlife Track & Sign Level I, First Aid, CPR

Meg lives on occupied Wabanaki territories in the wooded lands of Leeds. They have been tracking, birding and developing naturalist skills for the past fifteen years. She has experience mentoring a wide variety of nature immersion skills with adults and youth. She is deeply committed to youth autonomy and has supported the organizing of many youth-led efforts. She has taught tracking to a diverse group of audiences, including public school children, after school groups, and a wide variety of adults. Her approach is based in biocentrism, ecology, self-determination, and moving back towards a decolonial way of life. They are grateful to their mentors, ancestors and the inspiration they receive from their plant and animal companions. When she is not mentoring, she enjoys foraging for wild foods, especially seaweed, making plant medicine and studying mammals and birds.


Rose Gellman

Substitute Mentor

Wilderness First Responder, Maine State Trip Leader

BA History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, John Hopkins University

Rose grew up in Lenni Lenape homelands of New Jersey hopping between schools of varying levels of newness. She has always loved curiosity-driven exploration and being outdoors. She spent several formative summers in the Adirondack Mountains learning backcountry skills, small-scale farming, and how to live in community. She has a degree in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology and is always excited to talk about Medieval Astronomy or how our worldviews came to be. Rose has 5+ years of experience leading backcountry trips, and has worked as a farmer, environmental educator, and cook. She loves to climb rocks, paddle canoes, and meet new plants. Currently she is fascinated by tides and their mysterious workings. Rose is grateful to be joining the White Ash Learning Cooperative as a Lead Mentor in the Semester Program this Spring.


Daniela Vargas

Guest Mentor

Daniela is grateful to have been born at home with a midwife, in the unceded territory of the Payaya (San Antonio, Tejas), and to have had many mentors and wise people guide them towards self-healing and wholeness. As a healer, wilderness guide, ecstatic dancer, and democratic facilitator, they have over 15 years of experience mentoring and empowering young people, with 5 of those years focussed on facilitating self-directed education for youth in outdoor and wilderness settings. As a descendant of Native (Coahuiltecan, Tlaxcaltecan, Mexica, Zapotecan) Revolutionaries and French and Scottish (Celtic) Rebels, they feel enlivened by resisting oppression created by a pathological colonial culture of exploitation. By challenging hierarchy, patriarchy, gender-conformity, and authoritarianism, they seek to empower others to return to their roots, become self-actualized, and build a earth-based community of free human beings. Having lived through childhood trauma and adversity, Daniela brings special awareness and sensitivity to the process of healing the spirit, body, and mind. Letting go of the fear of becoming their true whole self has moved them into the work of transforming their life in relationship to the elements, the land, and their community. By focusing on their relationships with all of Creation, cultivating gratitude, and practicing self-care and love, Daniela invites others to discover what transformational spiritual work can look like for humans and communities in Yanaguana.


Leigh Seeleman

Guest Mentor

Wilderness First Responder, BA Environmental Studies, Biology Concentration, University of Pennsylvania

I grew up on Lenni-Lenape land with my parents and grandparents who joined me in wandering up brooks, marveling at crickets, lightning bugs, chickadee, black eyed susan and dandelion.  My love for the wild and my grief for environmental destruction led me to the concrete jungle of Philadelphia and the tropical forests of Costa Rica and Nicaragua to study environmental science.

While living in Philadelphia I supported students to connect with nature through teaching in a variety of settings including on a sailboat with Philadelphia CitySail, with Philadelphia Outward Bound, Girl’s Leadership Camp, Environmental Education Camp, and in classrooms and afterschool programs.  I also began to study and play at creative movement, song and music-making, wilderness awareness, women’s blood mysteries, rites of passage guiding, urban farming, herbalism, dreaming practices, massage therapy and healing arts. Participating in Niyonu Spann’s Beyond Diversity 101 curriculum gave me tools for the ongoing life-work of uprooting systematic oppression and taking actions toward creating a culture of equity.

I enjoy tending plants, weaving story, poems, performance art, song, music and dance, praising the wild ones in nature and giving my heart to the story of collective liberation. I love creating spaces for young people to be free, curious and connected with the wild within and around. I have a professional healing arts practice in the midcoast area and Philadelphia offering massage, bodywork, energy healing, mentoring & dreamwork.

 


Jason Millis Chandler

Guest Mentor

Wilderness First Responder, Maine Master Naturalist
Registered Maine Guide, BA Philosophy, Vassar College

I grew up following my imagination in cliffy spruce woods, roaming tide pools in rocky sandy shores, kayaking in my father’s hand-built boats, marveling at the sky, role-playing in games and on stage, seeking acclaim where I could find it, and sometimes obeying my mother and picking sweet peas and strawberries in the garden above a peninsular harbor in Small Point, ME. I learned inextricably from a young age that all life on earth is both completely amazing and in danger due to our human actions. As soon as I could, I got out of school and walked from Maine to Georgia on a footpath popular even in the gruesome yet budding 21st century. I found myself soon back in classrooms at the dream-realm of Vassar college and studying abroad in Tibetan communities, reveling as an outsider in language and old culture, glimpsing some of the faces of active genocide. Sickened by grief on my return, and emboldened by the practices of living outdoors, I sought life outside of the U.S. for some perspective that might help me, help us. I lived as a student, outdoor educator and Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia for two years. I taught at Chewonki. I led teenagers on expeditions along the coast of present Wabanaki land, to the mountains on foot, and into northern Maine and Quebec in that magnificent indigenous technology the canoe.

Then, somehow lost and wild and longing, I met Caitlin Thurrell and she asked me for a walk in the woods. I gave her a bowl carved of Apple wood. After nine years of study and the practice of farming, she was returning to Ladakh in the Himalayas to live. She said she was going alone. I wanted more than anything to be with her, and through some grace she finally said yes. We split our lives now between a small village there through a gorge above the Indus named Dar, where we help grow barley and wheat and take sheep and goats to the mountains, and coastal Maine where we have recently made a small cedar and straw and clay cabin we call home. Receiving and remembering such incredible gifts in life, I want to pass the best I can along to the coming generations, knowing that all we can do is prepare and practice for the unknown.


Caitlin Thurrell

Guest Mentor

Wilderness First Responder, BA Human Ecology, College of the Atlantic

I grew up a little queer in queer family among the foothills and waters of central New Hampshire, Abenaki Territory, mostly inside of doors and books. Only at last I turned outward to bring attention to rest (as it does still) in the greater-than-human world of root, leaf, and flower, track and skin and hollow bone. When I was eighteen I left high school and worked hard, supported by my parents, to earn money to travel to India.

The experiences of those ten months changed and opened many things in my mind and heart, including a beginning of my own journey understanding interdependence, suffering, whiteness, colonization, and capitalism, and also a deep hope that humans can live a different way, bringing more beauty and less harm. In the spring of that year I spent one month in Ladakh, returning then to the US with powerful desire to go back someday with more ability to be useful. Following this wish I left Brown University for the island called Mount Desert in English, Wabanaki Territory, to study Human Ecology, weave apprenticeship in sustainable agriculture with field natural history, art making, and wisdom-tradition philosophy. Finding work then as farmer and educator on a peninsula called Chewonki in corruption of its original name, I was given the office of Sunrise and came to love the mudflats and salt marshes, spartina and mink tracks in heavy clay. After these nine years training, I began to feel prepared.

Jason and I met and fell in love that year, traveled down the Kennebec River from its headwaters to the sea, and then continued our journey to the Northern Himalaya. Through volunteer teaching at the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) we met Chondol and came home with her to her village of Tar in Sham, western Ladakh, where apricot trees bloom in springtime over two-thousand-year-old fields of barley. In this village of thirteen households and many elders the strength and labor of our young bodies felt helpful, and we could learn some of the labors and songs of making life in this high altitude desert.

So far in my life I have served as reader and writer, quiet woods-walker, farmer (apprentice, journey person, and practitioner), teacher of soils, wood, forests, mountains, and waters, cooking on fires, and song. I strive to be a mindful student of solitude and death.

I love dancing and making art with natural materials, song, human and draft powered grain, vegetable, and medicine cultivation, and silent mountain sitting practices of attention. Being with young people out of doors, playing or working or sitting quietly watching and learning brings great joy and hope.