Lee joined AZCC after spending 20+ years with the Montana Conservation Corps as a Regional Supervisor, Program Director, and Director of Partnerships. He grew up in North Carolina but headed west to attend college in Colorado. He started his outdoor career leading wilderness programs with adjudicated youth in New Mexico. He spent 7 years with the Colorado Outward Bound School interspersed with times as a counselor at a community college, a high school teacher, and perpetual graduate student. He returned home and worked with the North Carolina Outward Bound School for 3 years before coming back out west and discovering the world of national service and conservation corps. Lee is married and he and his wife, Teresa have a teen age daughter, Sadie.
Lee joined the AZCC team in 2018 as Associate Director focusing on Local Programs. He now is excited to take on the role as Corps Director for both Arizona Conservation Corps and Conservation Corps New Mexico.
Kayla has always maintained a passion for community involvement, social connectedness, and environmental stewardship through volunteer opportunities. Kayla joined AmeriCorps in 2007 as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the City of Phoenix to develop a city-wide program focused on combating childhood obesity among low-income families. Needing to escape the city, Kayla followed a desire to focus on environmental ethics, and moved to Flagstaff in 2008 to complete a second term of service as a crew member with AZCC. She holds a B.A. in Sociology, with a minor in Environmental Studies, and has held various roles in conservation corps programs, land management agencies, and social service agencies. As the Enrollment and AmeriCorps Manager, Kayla is most excited to encourage and inspire young adults to navigate their own sense of community and environmental engagement.
Afton was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona. She began her career as a 17-year-old Youth Conservation Corps member with the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) in 2000. That is where she caught the "corps bug", and spent the next nine years working in different roles at CREC. In 2006, Afton was awarded Corpsmember of the Year, and it was at this point that she decided to dedicate her career to protecting Arizona's natural environment. After her time at CREC, she spent two seasons on a fire crew with the Coconino National Forest. Following that opportunity, Afton joined American Conservation Experience to manage and grow their restoration program. Now, after seven years of expanding that program nationally, and developing herself both personally and professionally, she is excited to return to her home region in order to help conserve and protect Arizona's natural wonders. When not working Afton can be found playing with her puppies and horses and going on adventures, hiking, fishing, hunting, and kayaking.
Celia has been working with AZCC since 2003, when it was in its infancy as the Youth Corps of Southern Arizona. Celia is responsible for the overall administrative management of AZCC and feels very honored to contribute to the mission of AZCC. In this role she oversees administrative tasks for the daily operations of AZCC and the administrative staff of Conservation Legacy. Celia was born in Chicago to Mexican parents and was fortunate to have lived in both countries at various stages of her life until she settled in Tucson over 25 years ago. When not at work, Celia enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.
Julia (she/her/hers) was born and lived in Saudi Arabia until she was 7 years old. She then moved to Missouri, where she grew up exploring the lush green woods, flowing creeks, and dirt trails behind her childhood home. Julia graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing and a minor in French. She spent much of her time working for the Environmental Leadership Office on campus. In 2017, Julia moved from Missouri to Tucson to serve in the Arizona Conservation Corps as a crew member building sustainable trails in Kartchner Caverns State Park. After her service term, she developed her education management and marketing skills as a manager at Children’s Learning Adventure in Tucson. Julia is thrilled to be back working for the Arizona Conservation Corps. Outside of work, Julia can be found running, hiking, climbing, or hosting a potluck.
Marissa has lived in Tucson since 2015 and though it is far different from her home state of New Hampshire, she has grown to love and appreciate the year round sunny weather. She does wish that Tucson had more rivers to kayak and more snow to ski, but she fills that void by hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking with her husband and their dog-child Tonka. She grew up with a love for the outdoors and spent much of her college years participating in various conservation projects on and off campus. From the mountains of New Hampshire to Arches National Park to rural communities in Thailand, she has enjoyed the adventures and appreciated the hard work (and definitely caught the travel bug). As for her next adventure, she is excited to step into the Individual Placements Program Director position!
Steven grew up in the Midwest and received a degree in Wildlife Science from Ohio State. He initially got started in the field of conservation with the Student Conservation Association in 2013 as an Environmental Educator/Interpretive Ranger in New Hampshire. From there Steven went on to lead a variety of youth and adult crews in six different states. He also had the unique opportunity to serve as the Chainsaw Team Lead and Project Coordinator in the Caribbean for All Hands and Hearts, a disaster response organization following hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Between doing all of that, Steven has spent time teaching at an Environmental Learning center in Northern Minnesota and travels as much as he can. In his free time, Steven tries to stay active through hiking, sports, or anything that gets him moving.
Andi (she/her/hers) grew up in New York and Indiana and always knew she wanted to move west. She came to live in Flagstaff in 2011 to go to college at Northern Arizona University and has been here ever since. She graduated with a degree in Forestry and spent some time working in the restaurant industry. She started with AZCC in 2018 as a Crew Member, then led a variety of crews as a Crew Leader before joining staff as a Field Supervisor in 2020 and a Project Coordinator in 2021.
She spends her free time camping, hiking, climbing, kayaking, doing archery, crafting and building things, playing D&D, and hanging out with her cats.
Originally from rural Vermont, Jessica Wheeler joined the Arizona Conservation Corps in 2018 as an Administrative Assistant. She brings years of experience in both customer service and administration. An early love for everything outdoors prompted her move to the beautiful Southwest in 2001. She is happy to call Flagstaff home. Jessica is passionate about her family and friends, and is often found spending time with her son, traveling, hiking, skiing, backpacking, playing volleyball, and gardening. Jessica is happy to be a part of the AZCC family and looks forward in supporting their continued success.
Joe joined the Conservation Legacy team with Arizona Conservation Corps in 2019. He started out as an AmeriCorps crew member with the Utah Conservation Corps in 2014 and went on to lead a handful of crews with the UCC throughout Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. He then worked as Program Coordinator with the UCC in Cedar City, supporting crews from Escalante to Zion to Capitol Reef and everywhere in between. Joe currently lives in Flagstaff, AZ where you'll find him climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and exploring the canyons. He also creates art under the name Lone Coyote Art. If you're ever in Cedar City, UT go check out his mural on Cedar Sports shop!
Sofya (she/her/hers) grew up in Southern California and developed her love for the National Parks and the outdoors on yearly camping trips with her family to Yosemite. After graduating from UC Riverside with a B.S. in Biology she moved to Los Angeles and completed a year of service with an education focused AmeriCorp program, City Year. Following her year of service, she decided to focus on her love of both education and conservation by completing an M.A. in Biology from Miami University (Oxford, OH). Focusing on community-based conservation and inquiry-based learning, she completed a portfolio of work centered on saving species through the education and involvement of underserved communities. Her graduate program took her to conservation hot spots around the world, including Baja, California, Hawai’i, and Kenya. It also allowed her to learn from local indigenous members and conservationists. She joined the Stewards Individual Placement team as a Program Coordinator in March 2021. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, especially if it involves rock climbing, reading a good book, cooking, and spending much needed down-time with her cat Quasar.
Mike (he/him) hails from Michigan where he studied wildlife conservation and evolutionary ecology at the University of Michigan. After field research seasons with tree kangaroos in the Australian Rainforest and lizards on islands in the Greek Aegean Sea, he moved to Seattle to shift from wildlife research to human action. 3 years of conservation corps work with EarthCorps gave him a passion for using environmental service to empower lifelong leadership development for himself and his crews. He’s excited to trade in the rain for some sunshine as a Field Supervisor with AZCC in 2021. In his free time, Mike likes to stay active hiking, climbing, and backpacking in the great outdoors. He also enjoys cooking, reading, geeking out about plants, and making coffee for friends.
Born and raised in Tucson, Sierra (they/them/theirs) has worked with Conservation Legacy since 2015, but started their Corps experience in Maine as a member. They worked from member to leader, stepping into a staff role in 2018, and now works as the Program Coordinator. In their off time, they enjoy hiking, drawing animals, and shaking down antique stores for their crosscut collection.
DeeAnn joined Arizona Conservation Corps in the Spring of 2017. DeeAnn started her work in conservation with Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources as an AmeriCorps trail crew member after completing her B.S. of Forestry at Iowa State University in 2012. She continued her work in conservation working for Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources, Utah Conservation Corps, and Southwest Conservation Corps. She has served as an Adult Crew Leader, Field boss, and Veterans Fire Corps Crew Leader. She now serves as the Logistics Coordinator supporting field crews’ logistical needs. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and exploring the outdoors with friends.
James first came to AZCC Tucson in the spring of 2009 as a Corpsmember on a backcountry saw crew, shortly thereafter serving on the Crew Leader Development Program and going on to lead a variety of AZCC crews throughout the Southwest, where he developed a strong passion and desire for serving alongside today's youth completing conservation projects. James' love of the outdoors was instilled at a very young age while adventuring through the mountains of Appalachia and the swamplands of the South. Upon returning to Tucson, his interest in the Sonoran Desert and the surrounding mountains grew exponentially, and often times you will find him searching out rare sources of water in the desert, crawling into/out of hidden caves, and enjoying the history of the Southwest while soaking up the Arizona sunshine.
Preston was raised in Tempe, Arizona, where he developed a love for the outdoors through his father, the Boy Scouts, and conservation projects. Preston’s desire for adventure has led him to explore much of Arizona’s mountainous and backcountry areas over the years, seeking waterfalls, archaeological sites, old trails, and mountain peaks. Organizing outdoor-related volunteer efforts and writing for the hiking community has given him a sense of purpose and direction. Outside of work, Preston can often be found hiking, backpacking, kayaking, photographing nature, or searching for the next out-of-the-way place to explore. He and his wife Shauna enjoy adventuring together and spending time with their bear-dog, Lola. Preston graduated from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Geography, and became a part of Arizona Conservation Corps & Conservation Corps New Mexico in 2017.
Phoebe’s family moved to Tucson when she was 2 years old so she considers herself ‘almost’ a native. With a deep love of the Sonoran Desert, she had no desire to leave and has worked and raised her own 3 children in the Tucson area. Phoebe is a former small business owner with a strong background in Customer Service, and was thrilled to accept the invitation to work with the Arizona Conservation Corps in 2021. She respects the AZCC mission and looks forward to being a part of all of the amazing things they do in the future. In her free time Phoebe and her husband tend to be homebodies with the occasional Star Trek or Comic Convention thrown into the mix. She loves to spend time with her children and granddaughter and cooks extensively to lure them home whenever she can.
White Mountains Office
Red Thunder (he/him/his) is Northern Arapaho and Oglala Lakota from the Wind River Indian Reservation. He most recently coordinated, facilitated and developed programs for the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) focused on engaging Native youth and young adults from the Wind River Indian Reservation. During this time Red Thunder was also instrumental in the success of native programming including a leadership Summit for young adults in Yellowstone National Park. Before his experience with MCC as a Field Coordinator, he served 3 terms as an AmeriCorps member and VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) member. Red Thunder continues to expand his knowledge by completing 4 National Outdoor Leadership school courses, the most recent course being Tanzania Scientific Research (TSR) expedition. The TSR Expedition focus was on the passion for science with wilderness exploration and cultural learning. Their team collected microbiome samples from various elevations and where the glacier receded on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Red Thunder has the distinction of being the first Northern Arapaho and Oglala Lakota from Wind River Indian Reservation to Summit Kilimanjaro. In 2015 he served as an intern with the Ancestral Lands program with Conservation Legacy where he gained leadership and interpretation skills while being stationed at Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park. It was here that Red Thunder started his journey in the conservation world and looks forward to continuing to further himself and others. He is looking to pursue a masters in Environmental Science in his future. Red Thunder is excited to further his management and leadership skills with Arizona Conservation Corps.