Russell grew up in the burgeoning metropolis of Phoenix, AZ. In search of a cozier and less sweltering place to live, he moved up to Flagstaff in 2003 to get his degree in History Education from NAU, and spent his summers as a camp counselor in nearby Prescott. After finishing up with school, he decided to put the ideas and knowledge he had gained from his education and camp experience to practice by taking a job with AZCC in September of 2008. Between the stunning locations, rewarding work, appalling caloric intake, and lifelong friendships here at AZCC, he would have a hard time doing anything else. When he's not out saving the world, one trail at a time, he likes to eat Mexican food, hike, canoe, play sloppy blues riffs on his guitar, root around in the garden, ride his bicycle, play astonishingly nerdy games, and most of all, sit out on the front porch with good friends and a grill full of brats.
Joel began his foray into conservation in August of 2014 as a Field Crew Supervisor for the local crew program. Prior to AZCC, Joel worked in outdoor recreation as a field leader and in outdoor education as a camp leader at the magnificent Grand Canyon National Park. Through those experiences he quickly found that the natural world is where his heart is. Since then, he has dedicated himself to experiential education in all its forms. Most notably, the local crew program at AZCC has presented Joel with the opportunity to impact the community both environmentally as well as at a grassroots level through the professional development of Corpsmembers. Outside of work, you'll find him painting and hiking all over Arizona!
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 careers 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 joins the AZCC team as an Associate Director focusing on Local Programs.
Matt began as a corps member in 2012, and worked his way up through leadership and staff as Field Program Coordinator, and to his current staff role as the Training and Logistics Director. He is often in the office but relishes every opportunity to go back in the field and get dirty doing work with crews. Matt is a Wilderness First Responder and a Wilderness First Aid Instructor through Desert Mountain Medicine. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.A. in Political Science.
Allison has been part of the AZCC family since 2006 and has worked with service and conservation corps programs since 2003. Allison was born and raised in the Green Mountain State of Vermont. After earning a B.A. in Human Studies with an emphasis in Environmental Studies from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC, Allison moved across the country to Durango, CO and became a Crew Leader with Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC). Allison has served in several capacities with conservation corps programs over the years including a Corpsmember on the Leadership Development Program crew with Northwest Youth Corps (NYC), a Crew Leader, VISTA, and Program Coordinator with SCC, and as a supervisor with American Conservation Experience (ACE). Today Allison serves as the Regional Director and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Flagstaff Office of the Arizona Conservation Corps program. Outside of work, Allison enjoys spending time with her wife Jamie, gardening, playing soccer, cross country skiing, and traveling.
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.
Paul joined the Arizona Conservation Corps in May of 2015, bringing with him experience working with a number of conservation corps across the country. Starting in 1995 as a Crew Leader with the Minnesota Conservation Corps, his passion for corps has translated into a career of progressive leadership at corps organizations. After three seasons in Minnesota and directing the summer program, he moved to Oregon and worked with the Northwest Youth Corps in a variety of positions. In 1998, he joined the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC), starting as a seasonal Field Assistant but quickly moving into a year round staff position. After a collective 14 years working with VYCC, including most recently as Chief Operating Officer, Paul moved to Arizona to become the Executive Director of Arizona Conservation Corps. As Executive Director, Paul is responsible for the Arizona Conservation Corps and Conservation Corps New Mexico operations. His primary focus is developing and maintaining projects and partnerships in support of these programs and providing supervision and guidance for the team of approximately 25 year round staff.
Krysta first joined Conservation Legacy in 2013 as the Sustainable Agriculture VISTA for the Southwest Conservation Corps in Durango, CO. She helped develop a community program where young people learn to grow food using sustainable and ecological farming practices, then donate that food to low-income families. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Northern Arizona University and an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon. In 2019, she returned to Conservation Legacy as the Recruitment and Member Support Coordinator for the Arizona Conservation Corps. In her spare time, she can be found growing flowers, reading poetry, writing songs, and helping children explore their creativity.
Nate was born and raised in the lakes region of rustic New Hampshire. He first started serving with AmeriCorps in 2008, when he joined a wildland fire crew with AmeriCorps NCCC in Sacramento, CA. The following year, he returned to school in Plymouth, NH to earn a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Policy. Nate spent a few summers in between school semesters running trail crews with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in northwestern Colorado. Following graduation, he went on to serve in leadership roles with AmeriCorps NCCC, the Utah Conservation Corps, and the Texas Conservation Corps. In 2015, he became a staff member with TxCC and ran their trail program for several years. Nate made the move to the Arizona Conservation Corps in 2018. In his free time, Nate likes to hike, kayak, boulder, and go on long road trips to pretty places.
Monica joined AZCC in 2016 as a corpsmember with the Gila Watershed Partnership out of Tucson. Following her term down south, she went on to be a crew leader for American Conservation Experience in Utah. After a brief stint with them, she felt a pull back to AZCC, and followed it. She then lead a couple crews out of the Flagstaff office, including Escalante and the Professional Leadership Development crew. After those terms, she went up to Washington state to work as a forestry technician for the U.S. Forest Service. While she loved her time fighting fire, she was again pulled back to the southwest and to AZCC and is glad she was! In her free time, she likes to do all things “outside.”
Emily grew up in the fine state of Iowa. Much of her extended family are farmers– something she has always found admirable. She is inspired by her Dad, the hardest working person she knows! Emily always knew she wanted to move out of the state to learn more about herself and see new places. It wasn't until many years after college that she had that opportunity. She and her husband Andrew decided it was the right time to take the leap and move to a new and exciting place–Flagstaff! They bought a business and began to put down roots. She has always loved the outdoors and being in such a beautiful and diverse place makes all the adventures even that much better! Every time she sees the beauty around her she feels very thankful to now live in Arizona. She's looking forward to a new adventure with AZCC, working with others who care about the world around us.
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!
Sarah Lopez Au (they/them/theirs) was born in Tucson, Arizona, the traditional homelands of the Tohono O’odham Nation. They were raised amongst desert people and Saguaros, where summer rains smelt of creosote. Sarah learned Sonoran Desert survival strategies from their gritty, outdoor-loving parents, learning early that surviving smoldering summers meant more tacos de nopal and agua de jamaica. They received an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Public Health from the University of Arizona. With the duality of experiencing poverty first hand from childhood, to being the first-generation in their family to have access to an understanding of the systematic power constructs that perpetuate that poverty, a fierce fire was sparked in their core and fueled toward facilitating equitable change. This led Sarah to pursue a path of healing and environmental justice work. Sarah is a writer, body-worker and earth-appreciator passionately using their gifts to create sustainable, healing and environmental justice communities, working toward collective liberation."
Victor joined the AZCC family in the summer of 2010 as a corpsmember. He grew up in the Valley of the Sun and moved to Flagstaff to attend NAU in 2008. After falling in love with working and living outside, he took flight to New England to apply his trade with Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and then down south to try his hand at teaching with Mountain Trail Outdoor School in North Carolina. However, the allure of the southwest was too great; in 2015 he returned to AZCC and has supported crews in a variety of positions since then. When not tinkering in the shop, Victor likes to cook, cross country ski, and make things out of wood.
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 Technician supporting field crews’ logistical needs. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and exploring the outdoors with friends.
Zuhaila began as an AmeriCorps state member in 2018 during her undergrad at the University of Arizona. Following her graduation in May 2019, she joined AZCC as a VISTA. She spent many years traveling and living abroad, but is happy to be back in her hometown of Tucson where most of her large Mexican family lives. Zuhaila enjoys nature, hiking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. She is also currently working on her Masters of Human Rights Practice at the University of Arizona.
Andrew was born and raised in the Tucson area, and grew up with Saguaro National Park West as his backyard, and spent his childhood hiking with his parents and riding his mountain bike around the desert. After graduating from the Evergreen State College in 2015, Andrew relocated back to Tucson to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA and then as a VISTA Team Leader. Andrew continued to work in AmeriCorps program management and joined the Arizona Conservation Corps/Conservation Corps New Mexico staff team in 2019. Andrew loves spending his free time camping, hiking with his partner and her dog Lou, petting cats, and cooking delicious food for his friends and family.
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 the Arizona Conservation Corps in 2017.
Julia 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 Coordinator position!
After spending time with the Larimer County Conservation Corps, Montana Conservation Corps, and the Student Conservation Association, Emily joined AZCC as the Local Program Coordinator in June 2018. Growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado, an early love of everything outdoors was instilled in her. Attending an international high school in Northern New Mexico made her fall in love with the Southwest. Emily came to AZCC after finishing a degree in Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. Outside of work, she is often found hiking, skiing, backpacking and adventuring. She is also passionate about traveling, cooking, gardening and art of many varieties.
White Mountains Office
Kyle started with AZCC in the summer of 2014, having left the heat of Phoenix for the heat of a fireplace in Flagstaff. After serving three terms as Assistant Crew Leader and Crew Leader of saw and trail crews, he again moved to Lakeside, AZ to work as Field Assistant and eventually became Local Program Coordinator for the White Mountains operations of AZCC. Before joining, he worked in construction and facilities maintenance in the greater Phoenix area and is grateful to be able to breathe deeply and work in the most beautiful places in the Southwest (especially Rim Country). In his spare time, he enjoys playing guitar, penning words that don’t really rhyme, and talking about the most exhilarating sport in all the world: baseball.
Danielle began her experience in the outdoors with Americorps St. Louis in 2013, where she gained skills in wildland fire, trails, and invasive species removal. She then discovered her passion for serving America’s outdoors through conservation work and moved on to the Sam Houston National Forest in southeast Texas as a recreation technician. She soon made her way out west to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona as a member of the Stray Horse Initial Attack Hand Crew. After a couple of seasons on the crew and working as an interpretive ranger for Kartchner Caverns State Park she wanted to challenge herself further by working a season on the Black Mesa Hotshots on the A-S Nat’l Forest. She joined AZCC as a field supervisor for the White Mountains in 2018. Other than working, Danielle’s hobbies include learning how to drive her manual Subaru Forester and exploring Eastern and Southern Arizona.