SOAR’s Treasured Staff

by Andrea Wackerle

SOAR Staff
noun | ˈsr ˈstaf
: A team of compassionate, patient, and understanding people
: A team of people responsible for encouraging, motivating, and building up your child this summer
: A team of qualified, well-trained, and passionate individuals

Synonyms: Counselor, Instructor, Teacher, Mentor


The staff here at SOAR are special. This time each year, we are fortunate to see the familiar faces of veteran staff and to also have the opportunity to get to know our new staff! For two whole weeks, we spend full days and nights reviewing standard protocols and procedures, role playing situations, learning more about our kids, participating in activities, renewing certifications, enhancing outdoor skills, and so much more. But it all starts with the relationship. Just like our staff build relationships with our campers, we build positive and strong relationships with our staff. And like all relationships here at SOAR, we focus on the strengths.

This year’s theme is Treasure, specifically what our own inner treasures are. We started our extensive, two week staff training by getting to know each others’ inner treasures. Turns out, our staff are a bunch of positive, personable, caring, empathetic, and helpful listeners! We are always happy but never quite surprised, as it takes this type of person to truly be passionate and effective at what we do, and we feel confident in each and every one of our SOAR staff! Meet some of them below!

Laurel Wolfe
Degree or Area of Study: Psychology

Laurel enjoys creating new recipes from scratch and trying out different craft projects she finds on Pinterest. She believes laughter truly is the best medicine for life, and when she’s not here at SOAR this summer, you might find her out trail running on one of WNC’s amazing trails! When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Laurel said, “Seeing the improvement each camper experiences throughout his or her SOAR course!”

Something unique about Laurel? She is a D1 collegiate cross-country athlete!

Dave Theiss
Degree or Area of Study: Social Studies Education

Dave spends most of his time making Social Studies/History fun and memorable for our students here at the Academy at SOAR! In his spare time, he enjoys collecting records, making music, climbing, backpacking, trail running, playing outside, throwing frisbie with his pooch, reading books, watching movies, and writing stories. Needless to say, Dave has A LOT of hobbies! When asked what he is looking forward to the most this summer, Dave said, “Meeting new students and collaborating with new staff! I am also enthusiastic about being given the opportunity to teach Language Arts, because I initially began my college education as a Journalism major and then a Language Arts Ed major.

Something unique about Dave? He believes that music is the best and most intimate way to understand a nation’s culture! Well, that and their culinary traditions. He loves food too! That being said, Dave has starting collecting ‘world’ records to try and study them! He also temporarily worked in Zimbabwe during the period in which they were experiencing hyper-inflation, the cholera outbreak, and Mugabe was being challenged by the MDC.

Raynor Ward
Degree or Area of Study: B.S. History with a Minor in Political Science/ Pursuing: B.S. Parks & Recreation Management with a minor in Natural Resource Conservation and Geology

Raynor is currently working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Parks & Recreation Management with a minor in Natural Resource Conservation and Geology. When he’s not studying, you might find him hiking, backpacking, sea kayaking, fishing, playing soccer, and learning new things. As an army veteran, Raynor understands the true value in being resilient in times of difficulty and excited to help instill this in campers as well! When asked what he is looking forward to the most this summer, Raynor said, “I am most excited about being outside and helping others discover their true potential!”

Something unique about Raynor? He has never met a stranger. His instinct is to always meet and greet everyone who crosses his path.

Mallory Ament
Degree or Area of Study: Human Services with a Minor in Psychology

Mallory is coming up on her 3rd summer at SOAR and loves the new adventures that each day brings! She also recently decided to take up triathlons. No big deal. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, she had a hard time choosing just one thing, but said, “I can’t wait to get back to the horse ranch, I’ve known the family and ranchers since my beginning at SOAR and it’s always great to see the kids so excited about going horseback riding.”

Something unique about Mallory? In honor of the greatest pi day for another century that happened this past march (3/14/15 9:26.53), she now has the first 100 digits of pi memorized!

Cara Fitzgerald
Degree or Area of Study: Outdoor Recreation
Cara enjoys kayaking, hiking, canoeing, playing racquetball, and ultimate Frisbee. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Cara said, “Being outdoors and working with the campers!”

Something unique about Cara? She can make a sound like a whistle using only her mouth.

Coral Irwin
Degree or Area of Study: Community and Therapeutic Recreation with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation
Coral is excited to play a role in impacting the lives of our campers this summer! She enjoys crafting, jigsaw puzzles, knitting, exercising, singing, dancing, playing volleyball, and reading. Her favorite outdoor activity is kayaking and has fond memories of learning how to water ski as a child at summer camp! When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Coral said, “Meeting new people and experiencing the wilderness!”

Something unique about Coral? Although she is 6ft tall, she still sleeps with a stuffed animal named Tigger!

Chelsea Crowley
Degree or Area of Study: Recreation Management with a Concentration in Outdoor Experiential Education
Chelsea, like many of our campers, learned during her childhood camp days that getting dirty is actually kind of fun! She enjoys horseback riding, painting, hiking, rock climbing, camping, and reading. She is a 10 year old at heart (in a good way) and is able to connect with youth on their level. When asked what she is looking forward to most, Chelsea said, “ Getting to know all of the campers while doing awesome and adventurous activities. And meeting the other staff.”

Something unique about Chelsea? She took a year off after college and moved out west to Estes Park, Colorado where she was a lifeguard for the YMCA of the Rockies. This experience led her to her interest in Recreation Management!

Karina Lorenc
Degree or Area of Study: B.S. Adventure Education with a Minor Sociology/Anthropology
Karina truly believes in alternative education! She spent many summers in her youth exploring the outdoors and found it to be life changing! Karina enjoys singing, traveling, learning new languages and cultures, and meeting new people! She is excited to be working for an organization whose mission strongly aligns with her own. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Karina said, “Meeting dedicated, talented instructors and working with equally talented students all with different stories and goals.”

Something unique about Karina: She was homeschooled as a child and is a professional classical vocalist!

Myria Tsai
Degree or Area of Study: Exercise and Sports Science
Myria is originally from Taiwan! She enjoys pottery, living in nature, cooking, swimming, running, biking, kayaking, SCUBA diving, and camping! She also loves ice cream, but who doesn’t?! She has worked as a summer camp counselor before and is excited to take on new challenges at SOAR. Myria believes in living like sponge, always absorbing and learning new things and being open minded to new things! When asked what she is most excited about this summer, Myria said, “To live in nature, have fun with the kids, and be wild!”

Something unique about Myria? Before moving to the states, she was never very coordinated. So she took up Zumba and fell in love! She is now a certified Zumba instructor and believes that nothing is ever impossible if you just try!

Timothy M. Carlson
Degree or Area of Study: B.S. Psychology/ Pursuing Masters in Recreation Therapy and Outdoor Experiential Education
Timothy has spent most of his professional life working with individuals with special needs and also growing up with his brother who has Down Syndrome. He has a passion for the outdoors and is lucky to have the opportunity to combine that with his passion for serving and teaching others. One of his greatest memories is helping a young man in wheel chair make it to the top of a High Ropes Course with the help of his team! When asked what he is looking forward to the most this summer, Timothy said, “the chance to work in NC and lead wilderness trips on and off shore.”

Something unique about Timothy? He has reached the summit of two 14,000+ ft peaks in CO. Oh, and he’s from St. Louis and will forever be Cardinals fan. GO CARDINALS!

Katharine Tison
Degree or Area of Study: Marine Sciences and Marine Geology
Katharine enjoys camping hiking, cooking, eating, dancing, and playing games. She not only knows that she has the ability to make a difference in the lives of campers, but she also knows that our campers will make a different in her life too! When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Katharine said, “Fishing in the Dry Tortugas.”

Something unique about Katharine? She has spent time on mission in Haiti and Nicaragua.

Santino Thorton
Degree or Area of Study: Recreation and Leisure Management
Santino or “Tino” enjoys hiking, backpacking, and just being in the outdoors. He benefited greatly from the advice of his counselors while attending camp as a child and is excited to teach our campers life skills through various outdoor activities. When asked what he looking forward to most this summer, Tino said, “I am excited about the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in a natural setting.”

Something unique about Tino? He is always looking for ways to improve himself.

Jill Bundy
Degree or Area of Study: Early Childhood and Special Education
Jill enjoys all types of outdoor activities as well as working out and playing volleyall. She has a passion for the outdoors and for teaching children. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Jill said, “I am excited about how I can impact the youth and make them love the outdoors just as much as me.”

Something unique about Jill? She is afraid of the dark! Good thing we always have our headlamps.

Parker Battista
Degree or Area of Study: Business Administration
Parker enjoys fly fishing, competitive archery, hunting, mountain biking, distance running, ice hockey, and wood working. He has spent summers working at camp before and always enjoys seeing a shy and quite child be completely comfortable with his/her new friends and having by the end of camp. Parker wants campers to see that he cares about them and that they matter! When asked what is looking forward to the most, Parker said, “having fun with the kids and being a part of their progress.”

Something unique about Parker? He can juggle!! (And will probably prove it if you ask)

Devin Fleet
Degree or Area of Study: Outdoor Education
Devin enjoys rock climbing, kayaking, surfing, backpacking, and eating ceviche. Some of his favorite memories of camp as a child center around meal time and just being with his friends. When asked what he is looking forward to most this summer, Devin said, “Teaching campers new outdoor skills.”

Something unique about Devin? He lived and worked in Hawaii this past winter.

Saralyn Voltz
Degree or Area of Study: Special Education: Deaf and Hard Of Hearing and Learning & Behavior Sciences
Saralyn enjoys swing dancing, theatre/performing arts, deaf culture, and flying with her little brother. And yes, she means small airplanes. She is excited for the opportunity to work and learn from our campers. When asked what she is looking forward to most, Saralyn said, “traveling, making new friends, using and learning new skills, and adventures through the outdoors.”

Something unique about Saralyn? She previously lived on a Pumpkin Patch and currently resides on a Christmas Tree Farm!

Byron Saunders
Degree or Area of Study: Sport/Health and Social Care
Byron enjoys playing rugby, going to the gym, cooking, running, swimming, and playing cricket. If you haven’t guessed by now, he’s from the UK! Byron says the opportunity to work at SOAR was something he simply could not refuse. Working with children in such a beautiful environment, doing activities that he loves, and watching campers have new experience are memories that will last a lifetime! When asked what he is most excited about this summer, Byron said, “Arriving in America, meeting my team, the constant warmth of the sun, but mostly meeting the campers and setting off on our adventure!”

Something unique about Byron? He is spontaneous and loves a new challenge!

M.E. Culbertson
Degree or Area of Study: Special Education
M.E. enjoys surfing, reading, exploring new places, and traveling. Some of her favorite memories of camp include the opportunity to be creative and participate in skits and songs that got everyone involved. She believes that SOAR provides kids with an environment where they can find their strengths and be themselves. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, M.E. said, “all of the nature we get to explore!”

Something unique about M.E.? She has an adopted Manatee that lives in Florida. His name is Squeaky!

Andy Farnworth
Degree or Area of Study: Outdoor Studies
Andy enjoys cycling, hiking, camping, kayaking, swimming, running, playing guitar, and listening to music. This will be his second summer at SOAR and has spent the past year since working in schools with children with learning disabilities in England. He also heads up a local scouting group! When asked what he is looking forward to most, Andy said, “The adventure of camp and watching kids realize their leadership potential.”

Something unique about Andy? He loves participating in charity events! Last year he ran a 43 mile race to raise money for a local school to receive a sensory room for children with learning disabilities.

Sarah Teeple
Degree or Area of Study: B.S. Recreation, Parks, and Leisure Services Administration
Sarah enjoys hiking and kayaking, and excited to be returning to SOAR for her second summer! Sarah wants to make sure that every camper has the best summer possible and wants campers to know she is there for them 24/7. When asked what she is looking forward to most, Sarah said, “seeing familiar faces and having fun.”

Something unique about Sarah? She has recently begun practicing meditation and gaining insight from silence.

Mary Barber
Degree or Area of Study: B.A. Engligh-Creative Writing
Mary is lovingly known around SOAR as our “Llama Mama.” This is her second summer at SOAR, and she is also a member of our year round Academy at SOAR staff. Mary enhoys camping, shopping, watching Netlfix, and working with children and animals. When asked what she is look forward to most this summer, Mary said, “ I am so excited to see all our new Llama Trekkers meet their llamas for the first time. These fuzzy bundles of joy cannot help but put a smile on your face. But watch out for spit!”

Something unique about Mary? She is very tall! 6’1” to be exact. Mary played college basketball and her team made it to the NCAA tournament for division 3 schools her junior and senior year. They were the first team in the school’s history to do this! She is also an avid animal lover and has a couple of pets, including a pug named Princess, who was a gift for her 16th birthday!

Jordain Cedrone
Degree or Area of Study: Recreation Therapy
Jordain enjoys traveling, photography, and all things outdoors! This is her first summer at SOAR but she has spent two previous summers working as a camp counselor. She strongly believes in the power of the outdoors to help people learn about themselves and realize their strengths, and is excited to watch that happen this summer at SOAR. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Jordain said, “doing all of the activities!”

Something unique about Jordain? She has been on 7 mission trips, her favorite being to Ghana where she helped build rainwater harvesters in a community with little access to naturally clean water.

Lauren Clark
Degree or Area of Study: Community Health Education
Lauren enjoys listening to live music, drinking coffee, and traveling. She has worked with children with special needs in the past and is excited to help our campers try new things this summer. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Lauren said, “Meeting the other staff and campers and being in the mountains.”

Joshua Nabinger
Degree or Area of Study: Business Management
Josh enjoys backpacking and participating in Air Rifle competitions. He has a unique staff perspective as he is Dyslexic and can relate to some of the challenges are campers face, especially at school. When asked what he is looking forward to most this summer, Josh said, “I am most excited about all of the fun that we all get to have with my fellow staff members as well as the campers.”

Something unique about Josh? He is a Boys Scouts of America Eagle Scout.

Orlena Tilton
Degree or Area of Study: B.S. Outdoor Recreation Administration
Orlena, or “Lena”, is one of SOAR’s Activity Specialist for Rock Climbing. She enjoys slacklining, rock climbing, rafting, yoga, knitting, and reading. She is excited to share the outdoors with campers and help them see the beauty in rock formations and appreciate the challenge of climbing. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Lena said, “meal time!”

Something unique about Lena? As a little girl, she and her mom had a pet bat named Virgil.

Saige Sentell
Degree or Area of Study: Outdoor Recreation, Parks, and Human Ecology
Saige enjoys backpacking, climbing, knitting, crocheting, jewelry making, sewing, and cooking. Growing up in a cabin in the middle of the forest, Saige fell in love with all that nature has to offer. When asked what she is looking forward to most, Saige said, “to create love and stewardship for the outdoors through various forms of outdoor recreation.”

Something unique about Saige? She spent the past year traveling through the US backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, canyonerring, canoeing, and more all while crocheting, knitting, and sewing products for her recreating habits!

Jackie Rybin
Degree or Area of Study: Public Health
Jackie enjoys hiking, swimming, listening to all kinds of music, cooking, and playing with her 3 Chihuahuas. Summer camp was a very influential part of her life, and she is excited to give campers an experience they will never forget. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Jackie said, “I am excited to meet and get to know all my awesome campers and see them grow throughout my time at camp with them. I am pretty excited for backpacking and rafting too!”

Something unique about Jackie? She has been bungee jumping and can live to tell the tale.

Melissa Knowles
Degree or Area of Study: B.A. Biology, Master’s Certificate in Environmental Education, Pursuing M.S. Biology
Melissa is our Science teacher at the Academy at SOAR and will be teaching Math during our NC Academic Discovery courses this summer! She wants you to know that she will use every strategy she has available to help your child become successful in Math! She loves the small class sizes that allow her to get to know each student and help them most effectively. She enjoys herpetology, knitting, and gardening. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Melissa said, “Meeting and working with all of the campers!”

Something unique about Melissa? She grows and produces her own herbal medicines!

John Addington
Degree or Area of Study: B.S. Environmental Science
John is a member of our year round Academy at SOAR staff. Growing up with ADHD and Dyslexia himself, John loves being able to use his experiences to help others. He enjoys backpacking, hiking, swimming, rafting, and having fun! When asked what he is looking forward to most this summer, John said, “Meeting all of the campers and having a great time.”

Something unique about John? His dream is to one day concert a van or truck into a camper and use it to travel across America.

Joe Nicholls
Degree or Area of Study: B.A. Sport Development and Coaching
Joe enjoys playing soccer, going to the gym, running, watching movies, and listening to house music. He has experience as a soccer coach and working with students diagnosed with Autism and Asperger’s. When asked what he is looking forward to most this summer, Joe said, “having lots of FUN!”

Something unique about Joe? He completed the Mount Everest Base Camp Trek for a charity called ChildReach and won a competition to play at the legendary home of Liverpool Football Club!

Sloan Harrill
Degree or Area of Study: B.A. Psychology and Studio Arts
Sloan enjoys reading, traveling, DIY projects, camping, and any water-related activities. She learned so much about herself through camp and hopes to give that same sense of empowerment and love for the outdoors. When asked what she is looking forward to most, Sloan said, “meeting and getting to know new people.”

Something unique about Sloan? She has an identical twin sister!

Kelsey Thomas
Degree or Area of Study: Applied Physiology and Kinesiology/Dance
Kelsey has been working the Florida Keys Adventure for the past 2 summers and is returning this year for her 3rd adventure! Originally from Florida, Kelsey enjoys beach volleyball, deep sea fishing, dancing, tennis, hammocking, and basically any sport that is outside. Kelsey has found SOAR to be one of the most rewarding jobs she has ever had. When asked what she is most excited about, Kelsey said, “Seeing kids learn how to breathe underwater for the first time while SCUBA diving.”

Something unique about Kelsey? She is has visited and lived in more European countries than American states.

Ian Christopher Moore
Degree or Area of Study: Currently Pursuing Geology Degree
Ian is from the western NC area and is excited to spend his summer outdoors in this beautiful place we call home. He enjoys coaching and playing baseball and mountain biking. Ian overcame his own fear of heights while rock climbing at Boy Scout as a child and is ready to help our campers conquer their fears! When asked what he is looking forward to most this summer, Ian said, “getting to spend the summer outdoors!”

Something unique about Ian? He is an Eagle Scout!

Ashley Riddle
Degree or Area of Study: Recreation Management with a Concentration in Recreation & Park Management
Ashley enjoys hiking, backing, and crafting in her free time. She also likes helping people come out of their shell and be who they are without being judged. When asked what she is looking forward to most this summer, Ashley said, “I’m excited to spend a great deal of time in the woods and creating new relationships with all the new campers I’m going to meet.”

Something unique about Ashley? Strangely enough, she doesn’t like chocolate.

Andrew Harris
Andrea Harris attended SOAR as a camper and has been a member of the SOAR team for many years working with in our summer programs and at the Academy at SOAR. He has the unique perspective of being on both sides of the SOAR experience, as camper and instructor. He enjoys all types of white water rafting and all things star wars/star trek. When asked what he is looking forward to most this summer, Andrew said, “White water!”

Something unique about Andrew? He was a SOAR camper!

Francis Kopp
Degree or Area of Study: B.S. Adventure Education
Francis has been serving as SOAR climbing activity specialist for the past few years. He is an avid climber, and when he’s not teaching campers to climb at SOAR, he’s working on improving his own skills in the off season. He also likes to go trail running! When asked what he is looking forward to most this summer, Francis said, “Helping out his new staff members and campers.”

Something unique about Francis? He gave up sanity a long time ago, along with his deep love of coffee.

Ally Henderson
Degree or Area of Study: Therapeutic Recreation
Ally enjoys cooking, baking, hiking, running, and exploring the outdoors. After much research, she chose SOAR because it represents and stands for changing lives through adventure. and that is exactly what she stands for as well! When asked what she is looking forward to most summer, Ally said, “Meeting and getting to know the kids and people she’s working with. And llama trekking!”

Something unique about Ally? She is adopted!

Dan Scherer-Emunds
Degree or Area of Study: Journalism; Recreation & Park Administration/Pursuing Master’s in Special Education
Dan has worked with kids and adults with a wide range of disabilities and has always enjoyed watching them grow outside of their comfort zones in some way every day. Dan enjoys sports, hip-hop, music, food, traveling, comedy, and writing. When asked what he is looking forward to most this summer, Dan said, “Meeting interesting and diverse new people, seeing beautiful new places, and having epic new adventures, and helping others learn and grow.”

Something unique about Dan? He was born and raised in Chicago, which he believes is one of the greatest cities in the world. His dad is from Germany, and he’s been to Europe several times to visit family. He spent a semester in Cape Town, South Africa during college. His eyes change colors from blue to green. His favorite sport to play is racquetball.

Cary Gavin
Degree or Area of Study: Outdoor Experiential Education
Cary enjoys trail running, slacklining, cooking, ultimate Frisbee, backpacking, whitewater rafting, and playing board games. Outdoor adventure has had a tremendous positive experience on his life as a child and he is happy to be a part of organization that will allows him to do that for others. When asked what he is looking forward to most this summer, Cary said, “I am most excited for guiding campers as they break out of their comfort zones through the different outdoor activities that SOAR has to offer.”

Something unique about Cary? He can juggle, slackline, juggle a slackline, and he’s an amateur unicyclist!