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
Kristin Freeman, Director of Administration and Finance
Kristin moved to Vermont in 2006 to live in a rural community and educate herself about the production of locally grown food. In addition to working on two vegetable farms, she hiked the Long Trail, assisted in an elementary classroom, and apprenticed for an eco-conscious fashion designer. Kristin most recently managed the office for a youth wilderness program. She brings additional experience from New York City where she managed a large music studio, worked at a concert hall, and earned a Bachelor of Music Business from New York University. Although she thoroughly appreciated the culture, architecture, and diverse food of the urban environment, she now prefers to live on a dirt road. Kristin is enthusiastic about promoting conservation and skill-based learning through the VYCC.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 134
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
- 802.434.3969, ext. 123
Naomi Galimidi, Annual Fund Manager
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
Lisa Nelson, Program CoordinatorLisa is originally from Colorado and made her way east to join the VYCC for the summer 2010 field season as the Conservation Program Specialist. She attended Colorado State University where she tailored her Liberal Arts degree to focus on human/environment interactions. During her time at CSU she served as president of the Campus Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, backpacked regularly and learned to rock climb. After graduating Lisa worked at a horse breeding facility in Sweden and as Site Director at a before- and after-school program in Colorado. Having rarely spent time east of Colorado, Lisa was drawn to the VYCC because it provided the perfect opportunity to explore someplace new while connecting her passion for working with youth with her love of the outdoors. When not at work she can be found riding her horse Penelope, hiking with her dog Maggie or gardening.
Chris Ricker, Conservation Program Coordinator
Chris Ricker holds a Bachelor degree in Adventure Education and Outdoor Studies and is no stranger to the West Monitor Barn. Chris spent the past three and a half years with the VYCC wearing a variety of hardhats. Chris was a Crew Leader for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, as well as an AmeriCorps Conservation Program Intern and a Field Assistant for the Conservation Program and School Program in 2011. Currently, Chris is the Conservation Program Coordinator. With a VYCC residential knowledge and a strong background in experiential and leadership development education, it is Chris's life goal to cultivate future competent outdoor leaders and environmentally conscious citizens. Specifically, those here in the Green Mountains.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 140
Hannah Clark, Conservation Program CoordinatorHannah 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
Kelsey Adams, Development and Events Coordinator
Kelsey found herself in Burlington for the first time ever in January of 2011. It was snowing—a lot—and she was starting her first job post-college at The Shelburne Museum. She is a proud alum of the University of Delaware (Go Blue Hens!) from where she received a degree in Material Culture Preservation and Art History. With family all over the country, Kelsey has lived and visited many places, but happily calls Vermont home. She loves how Vermont has created strong communities in so small a state, and jumped at the chance to join another great community at the VYCC. Having an Arts degree gives her an eye for design as well as an appreciation of natural beauty. Kelsey loves riding the bus, picking daisies, sailing, and cross country skiing.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 113
Alisha Kissell, Administration and Finance Coordinator
Alisha re-joins the VYCC family after spending a year working in environmental restoration and trail building with EarthCorps, a non-profit based in Seattle. Before making the move to Seattle she worked as a VYCC Park Educator around the Lake Champlain area. She is thrilled to be back in New England and venturing into this new position with the VYCC. Originally from Ohio, Alisha received her Bachelor’s in Botany and Environmental Studies from Ohio Wesleyan University, and has since been looking for the perfect opportunity that intertwines her love of environmental stewardship and strengthening communities of all sizes. She thinks some of the finer things in life include chopping garlic, the smell of crushed sassafras leaves, knitting, and drinking a cup of coffee prior to an early morning hike.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 200
Pam Schirner, Business Enterprise Program Coordinator
Pam grew up in Buck 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.
Matt DeFrange, SerVermont AmeriCorps VISTA, Development Specialist
It was the fall of 2012 when Matt left Ohio. His future uncertain, the imagery of a land far removed from his modest rust belt beginnings seemed to bring him a kind of solace. Located at the foothills of the green mountains, the VYCC Monitor Barn seemed a perfect fit. Matt graduated from the University of Akron with a degree in International Studies, and spent a great part of 2011 interning with a Columbus, Ohio based nonprofit working towards youth development. He is excited to continue this work at the VYCC, pursuing his passion for civil service as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Currently residing in Burlington, Matt enjoys spending his free time playing guitar, listening to albums, and exploring what Vermont has to offer. He like turtles, history, and has developed a particular fondness for the maple creamy.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 114
Jeremy Schleining, Land and Facilities Coordinator
Jared Fehr, Conservation Program CoordinatorJared graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor’s in History and a certification to teach High School Social Studies. He immediately shunned the classroom for the great outdoors, hiking part of the Pacific Crest Trail and ultimately becoming involved in the conservation corps world. His tour has taken him from the Student Conservation Association to the Southwest Conservation Corps and the Montana Conservation Corps, where he had the opportunity to lead multiple crews from the Great Sand Dunes to Glacier National Park. When he’s not somewhere outside running, jumping, or climbing up trees, he can be found reading, playing guitar, and scheming up his next adventure.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 135
Prechel Nick, 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
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.