Elyse (she/her) has worn many hats in the outdoor industry and education worlds. Since 2006 she has taken thousands of youth and adults on outdoor adventures all over North America, and during these adventures the interrogation of equity, access and privilege played a central role. Over the years, Elyse has worked tirelessly to reduce outdoor access barriers for all members of the LGBTQ community. This has resulted in dozens of publications, presentations, interviews, trainingsand program partnerships aimed at increasing queer visibility and further complicating the narrative of who goes outside and how. Elyse’s work has appeared in places such as the Rutledge International Handbook of Outdoor Studies, in print and person at industry events such as Outdoor Retailer, in Outside Magazine and in March of 2018 Elyse was named a “Top Woman in Conservation and Environmental Justice” by ECODiversity Magazine. Elyse is also the co-organizer of the annual LGBTQ Outdoor Summit. Outside of her work, Elyse is known for her sense of humor best conveyed through perfectly timed message GIFs, and in her [rare] free time she can be found paddling through the central Salish Sea.
Mo Kappes has spent 20 years working with youth in an outdoor and experiential setting. In her free time, she enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, telemark skiing, and canoeing. Mo believes that OTA meets a need that isn't currently being met. For Mo, the wilderness levels the playing field and gives youth a space to just be. She's excited for this opportunity to be available to queer youth.
Keith comes to OUT There Adventures with a deep love and appreciation for the outdoors, and desire to share all that it has to offer with today’s queer youth. He grew up in the Boy Scouts of America, earning the rank of Eagle Scout, and led his peers on hiking and mountaineering trips. After college he was invited to participate in the pilot class of Out in Front, the LGBTQ leadership program to train our community’s next leaders, and worked with some of Seattle’s premier business people, activists, and thought leaders on today's LGBTQ issues. Keith attended Stanford University for a graduate degree in education with a concentration in technology for learning, and when he has to be indoors, he works as a software interaction designer. In his free time he runs a close-knit group of gay and lesbian adult adventure-seekers, the "Dirty Gays," looking for ways to bring the queer community outside. Keith's favorite activities are backpacking and skiing, and his next big adventure is a 10-day trip circumnavigating the Bernina Mountain Range on the border of Switzerland and Italy in July 2016.
Pronouns: They/Them A Prescott College graduate in Ecopsychology, former Outward Bound student & Staff & Field Guide with Open Sky Wilderness Therapy & Pacific Quest. J.O is grateful to play a part in OTA's growth & thrilled to find an organization working directly with their community focused on empowerment, leadership & community. J.O is dedicated to lifting up the visibility of Queer, Trans & gender-non confirming people & the organizations that serve them. Their labor of love & vehicle to stay connected to community while living their Nomadic life is Queer Odyssey.
Chiara recognizes the urgency to make public lands more accessible. Public lands are a place where the LGBTQ2S community can build confidence, strengthen mental and physical wellbeing, learn about our interconnectedness with nature, and start to decolonize and queer western outdoor education models. She currently works for the USDA Forest Service and strives to create more opportunities for communities to connect with their public lands in ways important to them. When she is not on the forest hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing, she can be found at the market trying to select a perfectly ripe avocado.
Emily grew up in Canada. These days, she can be found in Wyoming. Emily has been working in wilderness education for a decade, and has been queer since the dawn of time. She's happy to have found an affirming, empowering crew at OTA.
Suzanne has learned most of what she knows through her experiences canoeing, hiking and skiing with youth through Camp Manito-wish YMCA in Wisconsin and Thistledew Wilderness Programs in Minnesota. She is committed to creating safe spaces for queer youth in the outdoor education world and is thrilled to be a part of OUT There Adventures as it is essential for LGBTQ youth to have a place to discover and value themselves as they are. Suzanne currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota after several years of exploring the Pacific Northwest and enjoys cross-country skiing, canoeing and any chance to be outdoors.
Pronouns: He/Him, They/Them
OTA is elated to have Erik Zepeda-Flores (he/him, they/them) joining the team as our California Program Coordinator. Erik comes to the field of outdoor education with a B.A. in Geography/Environmental Studies from UCLA. Through this lens, he developed a desire to address the social and environmental injustices that affect communities of color and to improve LGBTQ representation in outdoor spaces. In his second year of AmeriCorps service with Education Outside, he teaches outdoor science in an elementary school garden connecting his students to the natural world and empowering them to be stewards of the Earth. He is thrilled to help expand OTA's mission in the San Francisco Bay Area and wholeheartedly believes in the power of nature to transform the lives of young people.
Erik will be your point of contact for all things Youth Program related in California and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Skylar grew up in the suburbs of North Carolina. They found the outdoors through rock climbing but enjoy dabbling in all outdoor pursuits. Skylar spent several summers guiding wilderness climbing trips for teenagers. Skylar has witnessed the power of teaching youth to be self-sufficient in the outdoors and is excited to expand these opportunities to the queer community. They currently work as an independent economic consultant for environmental and economic development projects.
Meena is a dedicated youth worker and advocate, believing fully in the outdoors as a space for youth to grow and develop self-worth and leadership skills. Since graduating from Middlebury College with a degree in Political Science and Education, Meena has worked as a teaching assistant, trip leader and wilderness therapy guide for organizations across the country focused on youth development in the outdoors. She is currently a Program Coordinator with the City Kids Wilderness Project in Washington, DC. Meena is passionate about creating diverse, equitable and inclusive spaces for youth in the wilderness and is thrilled to be a part of the OTA team as they create these spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth and adults. Her favorite outdoor activities include backpacking, hiking, paddling, skiing and playing frisbee.