Breck Knauft, Interim President
Breck Knauft has been with VYCC since 2008 and has led the development office, help launch and oversee the Farm at VYCC, as well as the High School Leadership program.
After college and a three-year stint in western mountains, Breck taught and was an administrator at the Gailer School for 10 years, with one year away to pursue a Masters in Education at Saint Michael’s College. Post Gailer, Breck led the development efforts at Woodbury College. Breck brings significant outdoor education experience to VYCC, having spent 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 on the Mount Mansfield Modified Union School Board, thinking about the Red Sox, apple trees, and potential answers to the Sunday crossword. An avid skier and outdoor enthusiast, he lives in Huntington with his wife, Margaret, and his two daughters, Ada and Frances. The family pets also provide exceptional company.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 110
Bob Coates, Chief Operating OfficerBob Coates comes to VYCC from a career of over 20 years with the Student Conservation Association SCA, a national youth conservation service organization. He brings extensive partnership development and national program operations experience, having built five residential AmeriCorps programs.
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, Bob worked for a United States Senator from New Hampshire in Washington, DC, then left for the Peace Corps, serving in Cameroon, West Africa. Upon returning home, Bob pursued a Master’s in Public Administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. While at the Kennedy School, he helped sponsor a conference on national service with AmeriCorps national director Eli Segal and youth corps from around the country. After graduate school, Bob found his way to SCA.
Bob lives with his wife Philippa, a veterinarian, and three kids, Claire, Will and Ian, in Pomfret, Vermont where he serves on the local Pomfret School board and the Pomfret-Teago Volunteer Fire Department. He enjoys a good hike or walk in the woods along with the accomplishment of mowing his own lawn.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 121
Hapy Mayer, Finance DirectorHapy Mayer joined VYCC in 2015 to head up the finance department.
Hapy has over 20 years of finance and operations experience managing Small Dog Electronics, an Apple Computer sales and service company modeled on socially responsible business practices, he founded with his father, Don Mayer, in 1995. Hapy has degrees from Northwestern University in Philosophy and Economics. He lives with his wife Jessica and many rescued dogs in their house in Fayston.
Hapy likes to keep busy outside of the workplace, and is a USA Hockey Ice Hockey referee during the winter season. In the summer, he competes as a professional "heavy” athlete in the Scottish Games, competing at games all over North America, and occasionally in Scotland and Europe. Any spare time outside of that, he is honing his craft as an artisan blacksmith at his shop in Fayston.
- 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
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
Ryan Riddle, Finance CoordinatorRyan grew up in Shrewsbury, NJ and later attended Lafayette College where he received degrees in both Spanish and International Economics. His passion for language and travel led him to volunteer with WorldTeach as a volunteer EFL teacher in Ecuador for a year after graduation. Upon returning to the United States, Ryan worked with NBCUniversal’s Travel & Expense Department for just under two years. He has always had a love for the outdoors and is thrilled to be in Vermont for the next step of his career.
Ryan particularly enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and reading Calvin & Hobbes collections.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 137
Matt Roeder, Farm Field Assistant
Matt Roeder is new to the State of Vermont. He spent his childhood in Northern California where he first found a love for the outdoors, especially mountains and swimming holes. He spent much of his young adult life in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia where he attended Temple University. His academic focus was towards History, Religion, and Media Theory. Much of his time in PA was punctuated with travels abroad (Europe, India, and New Zealand) and an exploration of the Eastern United States via the Appalachian Trail in 2008. Additionally, his professional careers have been working with youth and facilitation programs for the YMCA. Matt is happy to merge his budding interest in agriculture with his love for the outdoors and working with youth. Finally, Matt loves soccer, kale, campfires, cooking, hikes of all shapes and sizes and music.
Caelan Keenan, Farm and Food Coordinator
A Mitten girl from the very start, Cae grew up jumping into one Great Lake after another. She still believes no water is too cold for a swim, and credits her dad for never letting her wimp out. Further inland, Cae was raised in the city of Detroit and its suburbs. She and her younger sisters were taught to love Motown, Red Wings hockey, and Vernors from an early age. The city – its music, people, blight and heart – remain a driving force for Cae even in faraway New England. Cae received a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Michigan in 2012. Her studies sent her gardening with Earthworks Urban Farm in Detroit, tutoring with the Boys and Girls Club in Brooklyn, and learning from Dutch dairy farmers in The Netherlands. Out of these experiences came a desire to work in the space where children and hunger intersect. As the Food and Farm Coordinator, Cae is particularly excited about adding cooking and farming to that intersection, and helping kids feel confident and literate both in the kitchen and in the fields. Cae is a runner, very close to her family and friends, and also very serious about ice cream. She is honored to be part of the Farm Team.
Eric Recchia, Development CoordinatorEric Recchia moved to Vermont over the summer of 2015 from the small town of Arcata, in coastal Northern California, where he lived for five years pursuing a degree in Sustainable Development and Economics at Humboldt State University. While at HSU, he was exposed to the concepts of experiential learning and leadership development through conservation projects when he became a member, and eventual Co-Director, of the student non-profit Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT). He spent 3 years as a student working to start a student-run food cooperative at HSU with the non-profit organization CoFED, whom he later completed a yearlong fellowship with as California Regional Organizer. Eric has spent the last four years working with the California Student Sustainability Coalition, serving as a board member for three of those years. He is excited to be living in New England and experiencing the fun and beauty of all four seasons for the first time, and is looking forward to building relationships with members of the VYCC community and documenting and sharing the stories of our Corps members and other leaders. Eric currently lives in Shelburne and enjoys spending his time sailing, hiking, swing dancing, playing samba, cooking, and generally spending time outdoors with his friends and his roommate’s dog.
- 802.434.3969 ext. 113
Daniel Schmidt, Watershed Partnership ManagerDaniel Schmidt has been with VYCC since May of 2015, first as a Farm Team member, then as the Land and Facilities Coordinator and now as the Watershed Partnership Manager. Prior to VYCC, Daniel worked for the Green Mountain Audubon Center as an educator and sugar maker, and at the Community College of Vermont as an environmental science instructor. Back in the 00’s Daniel spent 2 years as an Americorps volunteer, first at the Catskill Outdoor Education Corps and then at UC Berkeley’s Public Service Center. He also lived on a sailboat, finished grad school, went on a 6 month bike ride, found out his Burmese Zodiac animal is the Garuda and, recently, fell in love with kombucha.
Daniel is also involved in Vermont’s mountain biking and backcountry skiing scene and does his best to make sure that VYCC’s trails are well used. Daniel lives in Winooski with his wonderful wife, Jen, and a growing number of fruit trees.
- 802.434.3969 ext. 133
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, Office and Events Coordinator
Laura has a long history with the VYCC starting back in 1995 as an impressionable sixteen year old. She was immediately drawn to the rich community and confidence that came from life on a trail crew. After two solid summers as a Corps Member, and in 2001 as Assistant Crew Leader, she got her BFA in Printmaking from Maine College of Art. She moved to Chicago to pursue her creative interests, and ended up in floral and event design and also became a certified Yoga Instructor and Trainer. Laura returned to Vermont in 2012, and found her way back to the Corps as a Crew Leader, than in 2014 as Administration and Finance Coordinator. She now brings her talent for creative multi- tasking, customer service, and administrative support to her role as Office and Events Coordinator. In her free time she owns her own floral design business, practices bikram yoga, cooks from scratch meals, and spends as much time outside as possible.
- 802.434.3969 ext. 200
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.
Clarice Cutler, Development VISTAClarice grew up in Vermont and has just returned from a 6 year hiatus in the PNW where she attended Reed College and directed two non-profit programs dedicated to research-based adaptive management of non-native invasive plants. She’s passionate about land conservation and sustainable land management. When out of the office she is hiking, running, swimming, dancing, or reading with her husband Jonnie and pup Khoda.
- 802.434.3969 ext. 114
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
Thomas Hark, President Emeritus
Thomas founded the VYCC in 1986 and led the organization through immense growth over three decades. 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 and chairs the Williston Boy Scout Troop Committee.
Thomas holds a Master’s 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, and the Western Slopes Business Association. He has also 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).
In the summer of 2015, Thomas moved into the role of President Emeritus where he continues to be a tremendous asset to VYCC. He serves as a resource and as a mentor, and is the organization’s greatest champion. He lives in Williston, Vermont with his wife, Dana Hearn-Hark, and their three children, Eli, Zachary, and Rosie.