Thomas Hark, President & CEO
Thomas has been with the VYCC since its inception and has led the organization from five summer Corps Members in 1986 to more than the 250 year round positions. A former Crew Leader for the Youth Conservation Corps in Young Harris, Georgia, and Camp Director for the Minnesota Conservation Corps, Thomas is recognized nationally for his vision in making VYCC one of the nation's leading youth leadership, education, and training organizations.
Thomas received the prestigious Sterling College Environmental Leadership Award in 2009. He currently serves on the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) Board, Chairs the Williston Boy Scout Troop Committee, and is president of the Western Slopes Business Association. Thomas lives in Williston, Vermont, with his wife, Dana Hearn-Hark, and their three children, Eli (14), Zachary (12), and Rosie (10) where he is helping organize community volunteers to restore the historic Brennan Barn.
Thomas holds a Masters of Science Degree in Experiential Education from the University of Mankato. He is the former Vice President of the Board of the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (Corps Network) as well as a past Chair of the Catamount Trail Association, Recycle North Board, Mallets Bay Homeowners Board, has served on the Vermont Environmental Consortium Board as well as many others and was a founding member of the Vermont Alliance of Non-Profit Organizations (VANPO).
Thomas is as passionate today as he was back in 1986. He is driven to enroll as many young people as possible as he believes the experience the VYCC provides equips them with the opportunity to step up into leadership roles in their own communities and thru these combined efforts create a better world! He is full of passion for his work and loves people to stop into his office (sometimes whole crews from the field!) to talk about the corps’ future – be careful if you do, as his enthusiasm is contagious!
- 802.434.3969, ext. 100
Paul Schmidt, Chief Operating Officer
Paul grew up in Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. He started working with conservation corps in 1994 as a Crew Leader for the Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) and spent a total of three summers with MCC also filling the roles of Assistant Camp Director and Camp Director. He traveled west for the off seasons and worked as a Program Development Coordinator with the Northwest Youth Corps in Oregon. In 1998 he started with the VYCC as a Field Assistant.
Paul grew with the organization, assuming the roles of Trails Coordinator, Conservation Director, Operations Director, and finally Vice President. In 2004 he took a sabbatical from the VYCC and spent four years living and working in Alaska, building cabins, dogsledding, and coordinating projects for a local Parks and Recreation Department. He returned to the VYCC in the late summer of 2008 as the Vice President of Operations, responsible for much of the day-to-day operations at the VYCC including administration, finance, IT, project development and partnerships, logistics, facilities, and lands. He lives in Starksboro with partner and fellow VYCC alum JJ Boggs, and Daisy, a mature Irish Setter who is a fixture on the couch in Paul’s corner of the office.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 121
Breck Knauft, Chief Development Officer
Breck calls Vermont home after growing up in suburban Connecticut. Following a senior year of high school in Rennes, France, he attended Lawrence University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and French. Breck settled in Vermont in the mid-90’s where he worked as the dean of students and a teacher at the Gailer School for 10 years, with one year away in pursuit of a Masters in Education from Saint Michael’s College. In addition to his time in the classroom, Breck has worked nine summers at Camp Keewaydin where responsibilities ranged from being one of four directors to leading month-long canoe trips on the rivers of northern Quebec. Outside of work, Breck spends his time thinking about the Red Sox, art, and potential answers to the Sunday crossword. An avid skier and general outdoor enthusiast, he lives in Huntington with his wife, Margaret and his two daughters, Ada and Frances. The family dogs, Percy and Clyde, also provide exceptional company.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 110
Keegan Tierney, Operations Director
Keegan grew up in Vermont and attended the University of Vermont where he earned a Bachelors of Science in Wildlife Biology. When not focusing on his academic pursuits Keegan also served as the director of the University's Alternative Spring Break program, worked various construction jobs, and re-discovered his love for skiing. But, it was his interest in service that led him to the AmeriCorps NCCC program in Denver, Colorado where he worked on a variety of projects including teaching adaptive skiing and educating elementary school students at a historic farm museum. Keegan began work with the VYCC in May 2005 as a Ranger at Elmore State Park. He has since worked at HQ in various roles with the program and operations departments and is now the Operations Director. Keegan lives in Starksboro and when he is not at work you can find him on his skis or in the woods...or both. If not at either of those locations, check to see if he is banging nails on the house he is building with his partner and daughters.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 141
Paul Feenan, Food and Farm Director
Paul was born and grew up in Bennington, Vermont. After studying sustainable agriculture, community development, and education at UVM and Evergreen State College, his real education took place in his own classroom when he was given the opportunity to teach alternative high school right out of college. Teaching is extremely important to Paul. He believes that his work in agriculture, education, and coaching has taught him exponentially more than he has taught his students. In particular, working with disadvantaged students and coaching high school basketball galvanized Paul’s core values for working with people. Paul also credits his family. His parents instilled a strong work ethic and the importance of “working hard and smart.” His brothers and sisters helped raise him and continue to help with his own children. Most importantly, his wife Kirsten and their children John and Ruby are the foundation and driving force for all of Paul’s work. Paul recently moved his family back to Vermont after having lived, worked, and farmed in Western Washington State for the past twenty years. He finds himself lost on roads that he once could navigate without thought, but is happy to be back living and working in his home state.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 133
Christa Finnern, Conservation Program Director
Christa Finnern graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and Art History from St. Olaf College in her native state of Minnesota. After several years of experience as a guide leading backcountry canoe, kayak, and backpacking trips in Northern Minnesota she moved to the “East Coast” where she served as an AmeriCorps member with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) program in New York's Adirondack Mountains. Christa started working with the VYCC as a Crew Leader in the summer of 2003 and over the years she has held various positions at the VYCC. Her passion is working with emerging leaders to hone their leadership skills. She is currently the Conservation Program Director and oversees the training and field support of the Conservation Program.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 123
Naomi Galimidi, Development Director
Naomi planted roots in Vermont after living and travelling in many states and countries. She brings experiences that have had a lasting impact on her including a year in New Zealand, where she worked on organic farms, camped, hiked, and had countless adventures. For Naomi, Burlington provides a perfect balance of access to the outdoors and small city life with a robust music scene. Naomi earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University at Albany in 2006. Today, she lives in Winooski with her husband, son, and 2 cats. She loves the outdoors in all seasons and has a particular affection for snowboarding. On a rainy day, you’ll find her at the piano.
- 802.434.3969 ext. 112
Pam Schirner, Business Enterprise Program Coordinator
Pam grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She earned an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Development and a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice before realizing her passion for service, business, and the restaurant world. She has traveled and lived in many states, opening restaurants in a variety of locations before finally settling here in Vermont. Pam has held several positions within the restaurant industry from management and multi-unit supervision to consulting. Pam joined the VYCC early in 2011 to expand on her passion for service and to utilize her business experience to enhance the success of the Business Enterprise Program.
Hannah Clark, Human Resources ManagerHannah grew up in North Carolina and completed her undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia. Hannah has previously worked with VYCC as a Park Educator, Conservation Crew Leader, and Field Assistant. Through her experience with VYCC, Hannah has become chain saw and crosscut certified, ATV certified, and certified as an instructor in the Project Learning Tree educational curriculum. When not at work, Hannah enjoys pressing cider, bowling, and riding her bike. Hannah believes that the biggest difference one can make happens in the small space around them. In the future, Hannah hopes to continue working with youth, especially with a focus on gender, technology, and the importance of body awareness.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 130
Kaelyn Modrak, LEAP Program Coordinator
Kaelyn Modrak grew up in Rochester, NY where she developed great love for Jane Austen, The Band and cheeseburgers. She studied English Literature and Classical Mythology at St. Michael’s College, while also discovering enchantment in the wilderness. After graduating, Kaelyn served for two years with AmeriCorps through Habitat for Humanity in Maine, and the Cape Cod Conservation Corps in Wellfleet, and worked as an environmental educator last year in the beautiful state of Alabama. Kaelyn finds happiness in books, tea, writing, hiking, swimming in oceans and eating burritos.
Nick Prechel, Conservation Operations CoordinatorA native of Western New York, Nick joins the VYCC after serving as a Crew Leader for two seasons. His interest in conservation work stems from his time serving for AmeriCorps*NCCC in Denver, Colorado followed by another AmeriCorps term with the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association in Juneau, Alaska. An alumnus of both the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Outward Bound Costa Rica, Nick recently attained a master’s degree in Recreation Management at SUNY Cortland. In cooperation with the VYCC, Nick completed his master’s thesis focusing on examining the impact that conservation corps have on their participants. He is excited to back in Vermont with the VYCC in a more behind the scenes role as the Conservation Operations Coordinator. His interests include fine woodworking, hiking, backpacking, traveling and bird watching.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 148
Laura DeMaria, Administration and Finance CoordinatorLaura has had a long history with the VYCC starting back in 1995 as an impressionable 16 year old. She was immediately drawn to the rich community and confidence that came from life on a trail crew. She completed two solid summers as a Community Corps member, as a Roving Corps member, and in 2001 as Assistant Crew Leader for the Richmond Community Crew that was involved with laying the foundation for the West Monitor Barn. After going to art school in Portland, Maine, she moved to Chicago to pursue her creative interest in floral deisn, printmaking, and yoga instructing. Through these creative jobs, she moved into highly detail oriented managerial positions and not only learned the nuances of running a small business, but also found her passion for training and leadership. Laura transitioned back to Vermont two years ago and came back to the VYCC as a Crew Leader for the Female Leadership Development Crew and had the pleasure of sharing her experience and creative passion with her crew. Laura now returns to the Corps with even more business and managerial experience to bring to her new role. In her free time Laura practices and teaches yoga, gardens, and enjoys nature in any way possible.
- 802.434.3969 ext. 200
Jackie Bishop, Development and Events Coordinator
Jackie moved to Vermont almost 12 years ago from upstate New York to attend school at Champlain College in Burlington. There she double majored in Professional Writing and Graphic Design, graduating with a BS degree in each. Today she is continuing to take classes as a non-degree student in hopes of someday obtaining her master's degree in a conservation related field. Jackie's professional background includes various roles in the fields of copywriting, marketing and graphic design, as well as several management bartending positions at catered events and in downtown Burlington restaurants.
When not at work she likes to spend time creating artwork, reading, spending time outdoors with her two dogs and traveling whenever she can find time to get away. Jackie's new role at VYCC is particularly exciting for her as it melds together her passion for conservation, her love of the hospitality industry and the challenge of marketing/fundraising for a non-profit.
- 802.434.3969 x113
Melanie Katz, Development Coordinator VISTAMelanie joins us after just graduating from the University of Vermont. She majored in Public Communication with a minor in Community and International Development and a focus on Sustainable Development. Originally from Connecticut, she is thrilled to be staying in Vermont where she can enjoy many of her favorite outdoor activities such as hiking up Mount Elmore and biking down to Burlington's waterfront. During her time at UVM, Melanie spent a semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark studying renewable energy systems and photojournalism. She was an intern for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center where she gained valuable skills in fundraising and non-profit development. Melanie is thrilled to be joining the VYCC's development team and helping organize and promote the Farm at VYCC's Health Care Share program.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 114
Don Bicknell, Volunteer Extraordinaire
Don is a retired Waterbury senior with over 15 years of volunteer work for the VYCC. Don grew up in Bellows Falls, VT and worked for IBM, the VT Sheltered Workshop from 1957-1971, and the State of Vermont's Waterbury offices from 1972-1995. Don is truly invaluable to the organization. He takes on projects that enable numerous outreach and communications efforts. Don is also essential to office conservation allowing the reuse of numerous supplies. He volunteers whenever asked and is known for staying until the job is done! Don has one of the best attitudes in the world; he keeps us all smiling. Outside of the VYCC Don is very involved in the community. He volunteers at the State Hospital library three days a week, is active in the Waterbury Grange, the Waterbury Historical Society, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and the Council on Aging in the town of Waterbury. When you come to our headquarters office make sure to meet the man who deserves the title Volunteer Extraordinaire.
Natasha Steinmann, Conservation Program CoordinatorHailing originally from Boulder, Colorado, Natasha grew up nestled against the striking Flatirons of the Rocky Mountains. From the power of exploring those mountains, she cultivated a strong connection with the natural world and an intense enthusiasm to share that magic with others. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon in 2012. Natasha then led trail crews in Idaho with the Northwest Youth Corps, and crewed on two small sailboats from Boston, Massachusetts to Boquerón, Puerto Rico. Most recently she led a 6-month AmeriCorps carpentry crew with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, before stepping into the role of Conservation Program Coordinator at Headquarters. When she’s not at work researching leadership lesson plans, Natasha enjoys downhill skiing, falling on her new snowboard, hiking through the hardwood forests of Vermont, and singing Lone Bellow harmonies with her two roommates.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 140
Stephen Cohen, Conservation Program CoordinatorStephen Cohen hails from the southeast corner of the country where he, from an early age, came to have a love of being outdoors exploring and recreating. He attended Georgia State University where he procured a degree in Sociology and a love and interest for working with people. After testing his hand at many trades from printmaking to goat herding Stephen moved to Vermont where many of his skills and passions culminated in the form of conservation work. He led crews with VYCC in 2014 including the Rutland Community Crew and an OYSI AmeriCorps Crew. When he’s not working he loves to backpack, cycle, rock climb, ski, carve wood and do anything that his dog is on board for.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 135
Carolyn Tallman, Conservation Field AssistantBorn and raised in the flatlands of the Chicago suburbs, Carolyn realized at a young age that the world is one giant playground. As a high-school and college student she spent her summers volunteering with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) as a trail crew member in red rock, granite capped and island environments around the United States. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in Environmental Studies and Geology she embraced her passion of working outside with youth by leading trail crews in various wilderness settings throughout the fifty states. She found a home base for a couple years at High Trails Outdoor Science School in the mountains of Southern California and recently returned from a year-long travel experience abroad where she realized that her true calling is to connect people to the outdoors. When not working at her first ever desk job, you can find Carolyn pursuing her true passions of traveling, cooking, thrifting, backpacking, farmers markets, and rock climbing.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 101
Ira Shadis, Conservation Field AssistantIra hails from the wilderness of Central Vermont and attended Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Massachusetts where he studied ecology. After college Ira yearned for the ability to have a positive impact on the world around him. From New Jersey to Alaska, from Hawaii to Los Angeles, and a slew of stops between Ira worked in a wide range of ecosystems and with an equally wide range of people. He recently returned to Vermont and is incredibly excited to work with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and continue his pursuit of an understanding of what makes strong and healthy communities. If Ira could be a caterpillar he would be the larva of the Phragmatobia lineata (Lined Tiger Moth).
- 802.434.3969, ext. 133
Zoe Erdman, Finance and Business ManagerI grew up in central Vermont where I learned to love the outdoors. I graduated from Middlebury College and have an MBA from Northeastern University. I spent most of my career in the banking industry in a variety of positions, most recently as Senior Operating Officer of the Merchants Bank. I've been involved with a number of nonprofit organizations, ranging from the Williston School Board to coaching youth nordic skiing.
My passions are skiing, bike touring, running, yoga and visiting my adult children in Colorado, Idaho and Texas.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 134