The Solstice East Family
Kyle Gillett, PhD, LMFT
Executive Director, Founding Partner
Kyle received his Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Texas Tech University, and his Masters from Brigham Young University. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Kyle has a great deal of experience in treating adolescents and specializes in processing difficulties, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, OCD and difficult family systems. Kyle has worked in a variety of clinical settings over the last twelve years, most recently as the Program Director at Solstice RTC in Layton, Utah.
Kyle's favorite things include spending time with his beautiful wife and three wonderful little boys, playing all sorts of games, Crossfit training, hiking, camping, fishing, reading, watching movies, and a variety of sports.
Jenny Selent, M.S., LMFT
Director of Clinical Services
Jenny is our Director of Clinical Services, and she directly oversees the clinical teams for both Solstice East and Asheville Academy for Girls (a program for younger girls that we share campus with). Jenny received her Master's degree in Marriage and Family therapy from Western Michigan University. She specializes in trauma, attachment, and other women's issues (including self-harm, body image, identity, and relationship issues), and believes that Solstice's relationship-based focus and experiential approach are essential when working with these issues. When not working, Jenny can typically be found hiking, camping, snowshoeing, or just about anything that gets her outside and in the mountains.
Dan Hadley, M.S., LMFT
Clinical Director, Primary Therapist
Dan received his Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Psychology. He has worked in a variety of settings over the years including private practice, adolescent inpatient and residential treatment, as well as conducted supervision for Marriage and Family therapists and taught in a Master’s-level counseling program. Dan has specialized with adolescents and family therapy for over 20 years. When he is not at his job Dan very much enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, hiking, kayaking, camping and generally goofing off.
Georgia DeFrancia, M.S.W., LCSW
Equine Director, Primary Therapist
Georgia DeFrancia, a Colorado native, has been living in Western North Carolina for 10 years. She received her Masters in Social Work from the University of Denver and has over 15 years of experience in the mental health field with a specific focus on children, adolescents and families in both out patient and residential settings. She has extensive experience working with anxiety, depression, trauma and emotion regulation disorders. Georgia is rostered as a Trauma Focused CBT clinician and is in the midst of becoming certified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). In addition, Georgia incorporates equine assisted psychotherapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy into her work. She truly believes that her clients have the wisdom and skills within them to overcome their struggles. Outside the office Georgia enjoys skiing, hiking and creating memories with her family.
Sarah Hollis, M.S., LCAS, LPC
Addictions Program Director
Sarah received her master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Georgia State University, and has worked in both outpatient and residential settings, as well as substance abuse specific treatment centers. She specializes in the treatment of depression, mood related issues, anxiety, trauma, and specific issues related to women. In addition, as a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist, Sarah also specializes in treatment of both substance and process addictions from a trauma-informed and strengths-based perspective. Sarah is passionate about Solstice East’s philosophy of working with the whole individual and family, and feels it is essential to treat addiction from a holistic approach. When not in session, you can find Sarah mostly running or hiking a trail, trying new restaurants with friends, or drinking a latte while reading a good book at the local coffee shop.
Katie Hornowski, M.S.W., LCSW
Primary Therapist, Equine Specialist
Katie received her Masters in Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work. She holds an additional Masters Degree in Applied Healing Arts from the Tai Sophia Institute. Her educational experiences have taught her the importance of recognizing the connection of mind, body and spirit in the healing process and she is therefore passionate about Solstice's commitment to holistic healing. Katie has worked with adolescents and their families in a residential setting for the past 4 years and has a wide range of experience with depression, anxiety, and self-esteem development. She specializes in treating trauma and is certified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and is a rostered Trauma-Focused CBT clinician. Katie has also grown up with a love for horses and is certified in equine therapy, a healing modality she finds unique and powerful for individuals, groups and families. Outside of the office, Katie finds joy in horseback riding, dancing, and hiking with her dog, Gracie.
Susan Elaine, M.Ed., LMFT
Susan Elaine completed her B.A. degree in Psychology/Sociology at Emory and Henry College, Emory, Va. After several happy years as a stay-at-home parent, she completed her Masters of Education degree, with a specialty in Marriage and Family Therapy, at East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tn. Her training, in the interaction between individuals and systems, led her to identify a therapeutic gap in the unique developmental needs of adolescent girls and young women. After completing licensure as a marriage and family therapist, she focused her training and her passion on issues particular to adolescent girls, including disordered eating, body dysmorphia, trauma, and self-harm. She worked in a service-based counseling center, a private practice, and most recently in the Dept. of Psychiatry at the Quillen College of Medicine in Johnson City. She co-founded an eating disorder coalition in N.E. Tennessee, and created an eating disorder resource and provider network in her region.
As a woman, daughter, sister, and mother, Susan believes in the intuitive power of the female spirit. She recognizes the power of healing, within a safe, trusting, and compassionate relationship, and deeply values the role of connectedness and mutual support. She remains committed to the valuable work of empowering girls and women within the sacred context of the healing journey.
Rob Jacoby, M.S., LPC
Rob Jacoby has years of experience in a wide variety of therapeutic settings. He has worked in private practice, in residential school/home settings, and been responsible for facilitating therapeutic groups in the areas of dual diagnosis, CBT, interpersonal process, mindfulness, and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Rob has assisted in the creation and implementation of Positive Peer Culture behavior modification programs in residential and day treatment programs. Rob enjoys spending time with his three year old daughter, horses, writing and the outdoors.
Lauren Rothwell, M.S.W., LCSW
Lauren Rothwell first became excited about the possibility of working in the therapeutic setting during her undergraduate career at UNC-Chapel Hill, while studying Psychology and Women's Studies. She continued pursuing this passion by obtaining a Masters degree in Clinical Social Work at Smith College, MA and finding ways to work with young people in different healing capacities. Lauren's experiences with working with youth have included wilderness and residential care, enhanced therapeutic school-based services, and out-patient child and family work. Lauren has years of experience with trauma, anxiety, depression, ADHD, LD, behavior disorders, emotional disregulation as well as many other diagnoses common with young people. Throughout Lauren's experience as a therapist, she has developed her practice to focus on building strong therapeutic rapport, mindfulness work, CBT skill building, group processing and family systems work. She also enjoys having her therapeutic dog Ellie be a part of therapeutic sessions. Lauren believes that healing and change are rooted in a safe, positive and healthy therapeutic relationship and environment and values being able to hold this space for her clients.
In Lauren's spare time she loves being outside with her dog Ellie, camping, hiking and spending time on the water.
Dan Keith, MS, LPCA, NCC
Dan received his Masters degree in Counseling from Western Carolina University and draws from experience having worked with adolescents in residential, day treatment, outpatient and in-home settings. His experience has taught him the value of a program rooted in a holistic perspective that emphasizes the importance of family and relationships , and for that reason was drawn to Solstice. He has witnessed how pivotal adolescence can be in the lives of many youth and is grateful for the opportunity to provide guidance during particularly challenging times. In his practice, Dan has worked with adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, emotional regulation, communication, defiance, trauma and relationship issues. When not at the office, Dan enjoys time with his family, reading, kayaking and hiking with his two year old shepherd, Keetna.
Of his role, Dan says “I am really excited to join the clinical team at Solstice. Having worked in the local community, I’ve known of the program since early in its development and have continually been impressed with the therapeutic work accomplished here. Solstice East has developed such a compassionate and impactful culture, one which I look forward to contributing to.”
Michelle Piper, M.S., LMFT
Michelle earned a Masters in Counseling, Summa Cum Laude, at California State University, Northridge and her Bachelor or Science in Human Development and Social Policy, Cum Laude, at Northwestern University. Working with teens and their families for over 20 years, she has extensive postgraduate training in Trauma, EMDR, Couple and Parenting Communication, Addiction Recovery, Depression and Anxiety Reduction, Post-Induction Therapy (PIT) Supervised by Pia Mellody, Adult & Adolescent Excellence. Michelle enjoys creative writing and any excuse to be active outside in the mountains from hiking to kayaking.
Danielle Andrews, MA, LPCA, LCAS
Danielle worked in the business sector for 12-years, specializing in Labor and Employee Relations, Employee Growth and Development, Organizational/Leadership Development, Mediation, Collective Bargaining, Regulatory Compliance/Training, and Crisis Intervention. In 2008, Danielle chose to follow her heart, and deepest passions, pursuing a graduate degree in counseling. She notes, “I truly believe that our greatest gifts come from our deepest wounds & struggles; I am inspired by, and believe in, the human capacity for growth and connection, which is one of many reasons I was moved to work with individuals, families, and groups.” As Helen Keller notes, “character cannot be determined in ease and quiet; only through the experience of trial and suffering, can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
Throughout the years, Danielle has worked with adolescents, young adults, and families, in both wilderness programs and school settings. She is thrilled to combine her background in leadership development, strengths-based approaches, counseling, coaching, and family systems therapy to her role at Solstice East. She notes, “When Tim Thayne, the author of Not By Chance, called about the unique opportunity to work with families following their stay at Solstice East, I felt completely aligned with the need, Tim’s philosophy/outlook, and inspired to assist in the delicate journey toward sustainable change."
Tiffany Sauls, MD
Dr. Tiffany Sauls is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with a focus on integrative approaches to diagnosis and treatment of adolescent mental health issues. Not only does she provide medication management, she also assesses for nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, and food sensitivities that can contribute to mental health problems. She approaches psychiatry from a holistic model, using medications sparingly and only after contributing factors have been addressed and corrected. Dr. Sauls is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and completed her undergraduate degree at Davidson College in North Carolina. She attended medical school at the Medical College of Georgia and completed residency in Pediatrics, Adult Psychiatry and Child/Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky. She is board certified in Child/Adolescent Psychiatry, Adult Psychiatry and Integrative Medicine. Dr. Sauls worked in adolescent psychiatric residential treatment in Corvallis, Oregon for three years prior to moving to North Carolina in 2013. She lives in Asheville with her husband, two young children, and four animals. She enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, biking, kayaking and picnicking. She is very excited to be a part of the outstanding team of mental health professionals at Solstice East.
Wes Selent, M.S.
Wes has been working with adolescents for over five years in both the residential treatment and therapeutic boarding school settings. As the Program Director, he trains and supervises the milieu staff and also spends time with the students on a daily basis. Wes has a B.A. degree in Communications and an M.S. in Sports Administration. Due to his passion for sports and recreation and the positive effect those activities have on the mind and body, Wes is a huge supporter of Solstice East’s physical fitness program. When not at work, he enjoys watching and playing most any sport--especially soccer, which he played in college. Wes also enjoys exploring the outdoors with his wife, son and crazy dog.
Megan "Chase" Bissell, BSN, RN
As a registered nurse in the State of North Carolina, Chase has worked at a summer camp for boys and in the long term care setting. Prior to receiving a nursing degree, she worked for three summers as a camp counselor at the oldest all-girl’s summer camp in the Southeast. She graduated from the University of Florida and moved to North Carolina to enjoy the mild weather and beautiful scenery. Chase utilizes her knowledge and experience in child development to provide the best possible care for the students. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, playing board games, and running.
Jennifer Snyder, RN
Jennifer lives in Marion, NC with her husband, daughter and two step daughters. She graduated from Foothills Nursing Consortium in 2007 with Associate Degree in Nursing and obtained licensure from the State of North Carolina to work as a Registered Nurse. She has ten years of experience working in emergency medicine as an ER Nurse and with McDowell County EMS. Jennifer am a certified trauma nurse and certified in advanced life support for pediatrics and adults, and previously work at Stone Mountain School for Boys as the School Nurse. In her time away from work, Jennifer enjoy camping, music, cake decorating and spending time with her family, friends, and pets.
Michelle Shelfer, RD, LDN
Nutrition Director and Dietician
Michelle has been a licensed and registered dietician for seven years, and a certified fitness instructor for 21 years. Having worked in a myriad of settings including public schools, hospitals, residential and long-term care facilities, fitness centers, and providing outpatient services as a dietician, Michelle brings a wealth of experience to the Solstice East team. One of Michelle’s primary areas of specialization is in the treatment of eating disorders and other nutritional issues in adolescents. Balancing this specialty with her vast fitness experience, Michelle helps our students to discover a healthy relationship with food and exercise. Her highly charismatic attitude inspires our girls to meet their full potential.
Chef Casey spent 4 years in the United States Coast Guard developing her food preparation and kitchen management skills. She graduated from Tracen Culinary School with a degree in Food Service in 2006. Casey also received a certificate in Nutrition and Wellness while working under Chef Patricia Harte. She was awarded the Good Conduct Medal 2007, Sailor of the Quarter Award 2008, and the Sea Service Ribbon 2008 by the USCG. She has experience in residential school kitchen management as well as years working as an artisanal baker. Casey enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and puppy!
Kendall Williams, B.A., QMHP, LMT
Recreation Director, Yoga Instructor
For over ten years Kendall has facilitated transformational experiences for young adults. After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill in 2006 with a degree in environmental science, she spent five years traveling, studying and guiding wilderness expeditions both abroad and in the US. Along her journey, she became a Qualified Mental Healthcare Provider (QMHP), Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), Wilderness First Responder (WFR), a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) instructor, and HeartMath life coach. Kendall firmly believes in the healing power of the natural world.
As the Recreation Director, Kendall shares her passion for self exploration and growth through guiding weekly wilderness experiences, teaching yoga, organizing service work and facilitating creative experimental activities. Kendall works with the clinical team to develop and implement appropriate individual and group experiences which serve to shift students and families into a greater sense of well being. Kendall loves to spend time outside hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and camping. She also enjoys travel, cooking and a of variety creative pursuits.
Bryan Tomes, BA
Bryan has been leading girls’ therapeutic middle schools for over seven years. He began as a classroom teacher at New Leaf Academy (NC) in 2004, quickly became lead teacher, and was academic director before his second full year. He is now utilizing his unique experience designing and implementing therapeutic programs to lead the academic component at Solstice East
His primary focus, other than his job, is his family. With his wife and six year-old son, he explores all that Western North Carolina has to offer; hiking, arts and crafts, music, and sports.
Kate Shelton, M.A.T.
Learning Styles Coordinator
Kate Shelton has been collaborating with students, teachers, and counselors for over ten years within a variety of dynamic educational settings throughout Western North Carolina. She received her B.A. at Earlham College in Global Studies and her Masters in Teaching Exceptional Children from Western Carolina University. Kate works to find connections within the academic milieu and strives to help students and parents advocate for their specific learning styles. She has extensive background with both public and private schools. She is excited to be joining the Asheville Academy and Solstice East team.
Kate currently is juggling the energy needed to enjoy her 2 1/2 year old little boy and settling into her home in West Asheville. To keep the balance, she tries to find herself on the river at least once a month or finding a nice vista via a trail. Kate approaches daily and life challenges with curiosity and innovation, looking for spaces where connection can be made.
Dan Coleman, B.S.
Lead Teacher, Mathematics Teacher
A lifelong Western North Carolina native, Dan Coleman received his B.A. in Mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2009 with University Honors and Departmental Distinction. Dan is a licensed, highly qualified math instructor and a North Carolina Teaching Fellow that has spent his professional career working with adolescents in therapeutic education environments. In the previous milieu where Dan worked, a longitudinal study performed there concluded that students’ math achievement scores had increased by an astounding 40% under his instruction. In his time outside the classroom, Dan enjoys cooking, music, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying the great outdoors. Dan came to Solstice with a vision for developing a classroom environment that encourages young women to become more engaged in science and mathematics.
Leslie Rosenberg, M.A.T.
Art Teacher, Asst Recreation Director
Leslie comes to Solstice with more than five years of experience teaching art. She received a Master’s degree in Art Education in 2007 and has taught students from preschool to adults, most recently in Juneau, Alaska and Ghana, West Africa! Before teaching she worked as a wilderness therapy instructor for two years and genuinely appreciates the teaching environment the wilderness provides. Leslie believes that creativity is an essential element in the health of one’s life and education. Through art we develop confidence by trying something new and pushing an idea. We learn how to problem solve and think outside the box. We make room for play, learn to think innovatively, and apply those skills to other parts of our lives. Leslie is a working artist and has a studio space in the River Arts District in Asheville where she creates mixed media pieces with paint and wood.
Leslie has been meditating for six years and is an active member of the Shambhala Meditation Center of Asheville. She is a Shambhala Meditation Guide and is excited to be presenting mindfulness techniques to the students at Solstice. Leslie believes that we can all connect with our true selves through meditation. We can learn to calm our minds and make enough space to approach our lives with gratitude, genuineness, and prudence. Leslie is teaching Solstice students mindfulness through the lens of running, art, and contemplation. When she’s not making art or meditating, she loves being in the woods hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking.
Allison Hughes, B.S.
Allison received a B.S. in Outdoor Education from Georgia College and State University a few years before moving to North Carolina and getting her teaching license in Middle and High School History. During her undergrad, Allison choose to minor in Environmental Science, and she really loves being able to incorporate Science as well as other engaging, hands-on activities into her lessons. Allison has always known teaching was her passion, and she greatly appreciates being at a place that values small classroom sizes and strong relationships. She especially loves North Carolina history, and the ease at which you can apply all history to real life. She worked at Girl Scout camps for many summers, and enjoys canoeing, kayaking, sailing, rock climbing, and backpacking. She also led Environmental Education field trips for her college, tutored in public high schools, was a Teacher Assistant at a residential day treatment program, and is currently a Girl Scout leader. An avid runner, Allison just recently completed her second half marathon. She also spends her time crafting, making brunch, taking road trips, and curling up with a book, some tea, and her cat, Captain.
Phillip Brown, M.A.
Social Studies Teacher
Phillip is a Western North Carolina native, having finished bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Interdisciplinary History from Appalachian State University in 2002 and his MA from Appalachian in History, Education in 2004. In the intervening years he has taught in independent co-ed and all-girl’s schools in the Washington, DC area and the Midwest. He has extensive experience teaching to multiple intelligences and across learning styles, but his particular area of expertise has been developing simulation-based lessons and extracurricular experiences to create a uniquely differentiated classroom that reaches all learners. Outside of the classroom, Phillip’s focus is on his family; his wife and two beautiful little girls. He also keeps their small family farm running, is learning French and the piano, paints, and coaches, officiates and plays lacrosse.
Megan England, MA
Megan received her BA in Government from Centre College. While at Centre, she participated in a study abroad program in Strasbourg, France. In 2012 she received her Master's Degree in Secondary Education. Prior to joining Timbersong Academy, she taught U.S. History and World History at S.H.A.P.E American High School. S.H.A.P.E American High School is a Department of Defense School located near Mons, Belgium. While at S.H.A.P.E, she gained an appreciation for working with diverse student populations. As a member of a military family she has had the opportunity to live in Texas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Alabama, Germany, Virginia, and Belgium. Megan is new to the Asheville region and enjoys to travel and cook.
Kelli Carmack, B.A.
Learning Styles Interventionist
Kelli Carmack has been supporting youth and young adults in a variety of educational and therapeutic settings for over 13 years. She attended Wilmington College of Ohio where she was a member of the women's basketball team and received her BA in Social Studies Education. Kelli began her career working with youth in an alternative setting and has continued that path as an Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Teacher, Therapeutic Teacher, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, and Substance Abuse Wilderness Therapy Guide. Throughout this journey she has created a variety of interventions to assist all youth in understanding their gifts and utilizing them to create positive change in the world.
Sara Pilcher, B.A., QMHP
Winter Team Manager
Sara is a Qualified Mental Health Professional who holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y. She is a native of Syracuse, N.Y. who moved to North Carolina to enjoy the sunshine and be close to the mountains. Sara has spent the past several years of her life exploring and guiding the treatment and care of teenage girls with varying mental health diagnoses. Prior to joining the Solstice East team, Sara spent two years working with adolescent girls in a DBT-focused residential treatment center. She is dedicated to creating a kind, validating, and non-judgmental environment in which girls can heal and grow in mind, body, and spirit. When not working, Sara can be found cooking, playing with her two cats, reading a good book, or going on a hike.
Stacy Elliker, B.A.
Spring Team Manager
Originally from Durham, NC, Stacy moved to the western part of the state after falling in love with the mountains during her 500 mile hike across Spain last summer! Having earned her Bachelor's degree in communication studies from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Stacy went on to hold several business and marketing jobs across the county. Unfulfilled, she had an epiphany and finally decided to pursue her passion to work with troubled youths. She is extremely excited to be a part of the Solstice team and the holistic approach to improving the lives of each of the girls in the program.
Danielle Manion, B.A.
Summer Team Manager
Danielle graduated from the University of North Carolina Asheville with a BA in psychology. Following college Danielle has worked in developmental childcare centers, YMCA summer camp and after-school programs and a Psychiatric treatment facility. Danielle has always has been passionate about helping young people who were "at-risk" or in need of extra guidance and support, find a greater peace and meaning in their lives. Since coming to Solstice Danielle has enjoyed using the relationship based model to not only build relationships with these young women, but has continued to learn more about herself. Danielle hopes to foster an understanding of self worth in the youth that she works with so that they may see the great potential their lives have in store for them.
Away from work, Danielle loves creek hopping, waterfall jumping and any outdoor adventure she can find with her dog by her side. She has grown up in these beautiful mountains and is constantly finding new outdoor treasures. Danielle value the importance of a healthy active lifestyle and the benefits that working out and running have on everyday happiness.
Ashley Butawan, B.A.
Ashley earned a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Upon graduating, she gained experience working with students from a variety of backgrounds, volunteering with AmeriCorps and establishing free day camps and after-school programs for socioeconomically disadvantaged youth, and then working in a psychiatric residential treatment facility with at-risk youth.
Her passions revolve around human connection and fostering healthy relationships--with the self, with others, and with one's surroundings, as well as promoting optimism and altruism through service to others. Ashley is currently pursuing a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Appalachian State University.
Aubre Jean, B.S.
Aubre has graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Outdoor Recreation and Resource Management, with a focus in Parks and Recreation Management. She has moved to North Carolina for the love of nature and ample amounts of outdoor adventure. Her passion is to educate the youth. Aubre has experience being an Outdoor Adventure Guide in the Rocky Mountains, a Science Educator for the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, an Environmental Educator at The North Carolina Arboretum, as well as a Science Educator at the Colburn Earth and Science Museum.
Aubre has experience working with youth of all ages ranging from pre-school to 18 years of age. She has also worked in equine therapy with elders with differences. With her leadership skills, passion to help others, and an understanding of peoples needs and emotions, she has chosen to work at Solstice to combine all of her passions into one.
Bethany Shingleton, B.A.
Bethany graduated from UNC-Wilmington with a degree in Social Work and spent time interning in public schools with middle school girls working to prevent relational aggression. She also worked with youth in residential YMCA summer camps, wilderness therapy programs and developmental daycare facilities as well as being a nanny across the US.
Bethany is passionate about learning creative ways to help young people communicate and understand their feelings more effectively so they can live bright and full, loving lives. She is excited to be in Asheville with Solstice East, and feels very strongly about good attitudes, good food, all colors, spontaneous travel and outdoor ventures.
Lauren Miller, B.A.
Lauren moved from Brooklyn to the mountains this past spring to be closer to her family and help out on their new heritage turkey and organic hops farming ventures. Upon leaving New York City, she had a desire to work in the counselling field specializing in trauma work and addictions therapy. She found Solstice East to be a dynamic community of dedicated individuals invested in the healing of adolescent girls and the creation of empowered, impassioned young women. She has found the work to be challenging, enlightening, enriching and humbling.
She holds a bachelors degree in Comparative Literature and Philosophy from Susquehanna University with an emphasis in Russian novels and poetry of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, as well as Stoic philosophy. She has traveled through Russia, the American West, Alaska, Central America and one day hopes to travel the Silk Road. She is particularly fond of trains. Lauren believes that compassion, grit, a global perspective and healthy curiosity are essential to a fulfilling life. She likes impromptu dancing, a good yarn, Katherine Hepburn films and raccoons.
Christina Ladish, B.A.
Assistant Lead Mentor
Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, Christina attended Boston University and received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Prior to coming to Solstice East, Christina worked in the behavioral health care field at psychiatric residential treatment facilities in both Tennessee and North Carolina. She has spent the last two years working with, caring for, and learning from children and adolescents with diverse backgrounds and diagnoses.
Christina enjoys discovering and trying new activities that are helping her grow into the person she hopes to become. She has recently taken up yoga, running, and meditation. She expresses her creativity through dance and making art. She loves to explore by taking spontaneous adventures around the city of Asheville and hiking in the mountains.
Sarah Matulich, B.A., QMHP
Assistant Lead Mentor
Sarah graduated from North Carolina Wesleyan College with a Bachelors in Psychology and a minor in Justice Studies. She is a native of Buffalo, NY who moved to North Carolina to be with her family and attend college. Before Solstice East, Sarah has worked at the autism society and worked with male adolescents at a therapeutic boarding school.
In Sarah's free time, she loves to play lacrosse and soccer. and explore the many delights Asheville has to offer. She is currently going to a bootcamp class and enjoys being outside. She enjoys spending quality time with family, friends and her two cats.
Katie Law, B.A.
Assistant Lead Mentor
Katie has her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Education from the University of Albany, N.Y. Katie has experience working as a Teacher’s assistant in Albany, providing one-on-one interventions with students who have learning disabilities. Post grad, Katie worked as a Community Service Coordinator for individuals who sustained Traumatic Brain Injuries. After which, Katie spent over two years managing a Group home for developmentally disabled adult ladies in N.Y., advocating for their needs and providing them with quality of life supports.
Katie moved from New York to North Carolina to be closer to her family and for her love of the outdoors. Katie joined the Solstice East team because she believes in their relationship based approach and focus on family. “Solstice’s team of dedicated individuals empowers young women and provides them with the supports that they need to transform their lives.” Katie spends her time outside of work exploring the Asheville area, hiking, going on waterfall adventures, doing yoga, reading, and spending quality time with family and friends.
Assistant Lead Mentor
Nalda is a transplant from Daytona Beach, FL and came to North Carolina by way of her culinary career. After decades in the culinary field, Nalda yearned to be of service on a grander scale and thus pursued an education in Human Services. She has had opportunities to work in wilderness therapies, family violence, and substance abuse. She brings her life experience, compassion, empathy and passion to the Solstice East culture.
Her interests are hiking, cycling, reading, and higher education. She lives in the Weaverville area with her two dogs and cat.
Theo Saslow, M.A.
Assistant Lead Mentor
Theo enjoys walking in the woods with his shoes off. He was lucky enough to do this with an autistic youth in Boone, NC, where he pursued two degrees from Appalachian State University. Concluding with a Master's in Appalachian Studies and a minor in Sustainable Development, Theo had planned to become an educator. However, Theo discovered through beautiful people and amazing experiences that he wanted to continue to help others (and himself) reach their full potential.
Theo was still unsure of what specific life path he wanted to walk, and went through his pre-mid-life crisis trying to figure this out while working near Las Vegas. Realizing that mountains, waterfalls, and friends were a lot healthier than the grossest place in earth, Theo moved to Asheville, where he graduated from the Asheville School of Massage and Yoga and a teaching program at Asheville Yoga Center. Theo likes to have a body and to use it, to eat vegetables, to giggle at his own jokes, and to learn about himself while facilitating the growth of others. If Theo was in Hogwarts, he would have been Hufflepuff, but have tried to be friends with everyone.
Kat Allred, B.A.
Kat holds a bachelors degree in psychology from Warren Wilson College. Kat's vast experience in this field includes working in residential treatment settings, and personally experiencing the growth that can come from being enrolled in a program like Solstice East. When not at Solstice East, Kat can be found exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, hanging out with friends, visiting her parents in Atlanta, GA, rock climbing, or making arts and crafts.
Jana Eilerman, B.A.
Jana has a dual bachelor’s degree from Brevard College in Wilderness Leadership & Experiential Education and Social & Environmental Studies. Jana loves the outdoors and is passionate about the therapeutic value of outdoor recreation, particularly for women and girls seeking to discover themselves. Jana is a competitive mountain biker as well as recreational paddler, climber, and runner. By participating in activities that require the engagement of both mind and body, Jana has worked to fully develop a healthy sense of self and is excited to help others through their journey and developmental processes.
Jenna Haddock, B.A., QMHP
Jenna obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She then went on to be an intern at a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility in Asheville, NC. After working with children ages 6-17 with a variety of diagnoses and using different treatment models, she pursued a position as a residential counselor working with adolescent girls, using a DBT model. Jenna’s experience increased her passion for learning how to better assist adolescent girls with building a better life for themselves. She is excited about the approach that Solstice East uses and looks forward to seeing each resident grow in their journey to a better life.
Outside of work, Jenna spends her time watching movies, reading, playing with her two dogs, cooking, and going out to eat with her family and friends. In the warm seasons, she likes to be outside hiking, camping, and fishing. She enjoys the beauties of nature, as well as the time she gets to just relax at home.
Brinkley Werley, B.S., QMHP
Brinkley graduated from the College of Charleston with a Bachelors degree in Sociology and is currently pursing her Masters in Social Work at Western Carolina University. Brinkley has worked with adolescents in a residential treatment setting for over seven years and enjoys working in Solstice East's relationship-based model. In her spare time, Brinkley can be found cooking plant based meals, hiking, and spending lots of time with her son, step-son, husband, and two pugs.
Mary Pembleton, B.A.
Prior to joining the Solstice team, Mary spent five years working with children with autism using ABA therapy, and most recently worked on an adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit. Through these experiences, she discovered the power of encouragement and positivity to reveal the inherent value and beauty within each individual, and hopes to have the opportunity to inspire many young women through Solstice’s amazing program.
Mary holds a BA in Creative Writing from Appalachian State University. She cultivates her happiness by practicing yoga, spending time in the kitchen, writing, and immersing herself in nature with her husband, son, and two dogs.
Born in Memphis, Haiz has found the home of his heart among the beautiful mountains of southern Appalachia. In addition to mentoring at Solstice East, Haiz is involved in a variety of projects where the core thread is his passion for unlocking untapped creativity in individuals, organizations, and communities. As an avid practitioner of tai chi and a dedicated whitewater canoeist, Haiz desires to live with rooted and dynamic energy, listening deeply and observing the currents to flow with a line of grace, power, adventure, and openness to whatever comes.
Jordyn Phillips is a native Canadian who moved to the US last year and to the Asheville area two months ago. (She's excited about the winter to come, eh?) She has supported people with disabilities and pregnant and parenting moms. She taught and modeled appropriate parenting skills for families experiencing crisis. She has a 20-year-old daughter and five fur-kids (two dogs and three cats). She is in the process of transitioning to a vegetarian diet and doing all she can to learn more. She works out at the YWCA of Asheville and has become active in her fight against diabetes. She enjoys singing and is learning to play the drums and re-learning guitar.
Lana Phillips, M.Ed.
Lana received her BA in English and psychology from Erskine College in Due West, SC, and her Master of Education degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Louisville. She is also a certified life coach. She has experience in an inner-city mission center, homeless families, individuals receiving public assistance, people with disabilities, and adults and youth reintegrating into the community after incarceration.
Lana is excited about helping to build a healing community with Solstice. She enjoys learning about a variety of subjects and hopes to encourage the girls at Solstice to challenge themselves in as many ways as possible.
Michael DeHart, MT-BC
Michael DeHart is a Board Certified Music Therapist. After receiving his education at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania he moved to Asheville to complete his internship with a local hospice. Currently Michael works with Solstice East and Asheville Academy for Girls, and is also running a private practice.
He is a member of the Music Therapy Association of North Carolina. Additionally, Michael enjoys performing with both Cantaria and the Asheville Choral Society.
Steve started working with youth in his early teens and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. In the early 1980′s, he went to work for the Boy Scouts of America holding various positions including Program Director, Camp Director and District Executive. It was because of his passion and devotion of working with youth in scouts that he started Adventure Wilderness Programs in North Carolina, a summer camp and year round education center working with boys and girls ages 7-18. Steve is a Licensed Real Estate Broker and General Contractor in North Carolina and has served on various non-profit boards, including a recent stint as President of the Buncombe County Schools Foundation. As a father, raising his daughter Taylor, he is very familiar with the needs of young girls and their families.
Pennie McLean, B.F.A.
Human Resources and Finance Assistant
Pennie has her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Georgia. Originally from the Atlanta, GA metro area, Pennie came to the North Carolina mountains in 1999 because of its creative arts community and beautiful scenery. While in Asheville, she has worked in various roles including office management, accounting and marketing in real estate and manufacturing companies. Pennie, her husband, and young son live close to the Asheville Academy for Girls and Solstice East campus. In fact, her husband grew up just down the road and they were married on our campus in 2001, when it was a retreat center.
Pennie spends her time outside of work on art projects and home design. She is especially interested in sustainably built homes, having taken courses in drafting, CAD and green building practices.
Director of First Impressions
Gaynor has over 25 years of experience in office administration, having worked on three continents and in a myriad of working environments from Defense Force to Private Game Reserves. She accepted her position as Administrative Assistant at Asheville Academy for Girls and Solstice East in 2013. Gaynor is also a notary public and does endorse documents for both schools.
From Africa to Europe to the United States she arrived in Asheville in 2011, and fell in love with the Asheville culture and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway. She has two daughters and has a loving relationship with her partner with whom she shares her love of antiques and collectibles. Their three cats complete their family.
Patrick Belser, B.S.
Julie Walicki, B.A.
Barn Manager/Equine Specialist
Julie has been working with horses and youth for over ten years. She began working with horses as a young, horse-crazy girl, and it turns out it was not just "a phase"! She went on to compete in the Hunter/Jumper world as a teen and through college, where she began to combine her two passions of being around horses and working with kids. Julie majored in Equine Studies at Virginia Intermont College and graduated with a degree in Outdoor Education from Warren Wilson College. After college, Julie worked with adolescent youth at several therapeutic boarding schools and wilderness programs before joining our team. She enjoys horseback riding (of course!), knitting, gardening, playing the banjo, and hanging out with her many animals.
Terry Kozak, B.A., ES
Terry grew up in Lincoln, NE then moved to Fort Collins, CO where she graduated from Colorado State University (CSU) with a Bachelors in Sociology. Terry worked in community mental health with children and families for a few years and then ran a not-for-profit foster care agency for ten years. Terry has always been drawn to horses and began riding at a young age. She took equine equitation classes at CSU and has been taking private lessons ever since. She has always dreamed of blending her love for horses and her devotion to helping children and families, she now feels she has the perfect job as an Equine Specialist at Solstice East. Terry is certified in EAGALA and Trauma Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy; she is passionate about equine therapy and has seen first hand how horses change lives. With a background in natural horsemanship, Terry has been partnering and dancing with horses for over 20 years.
Terry enjoys spending time outside hiking, running and at home on her farm with her husband, 2 children, horses, dogs, cats, chickens, goats, llamas, etc....
Kristin Weeks, B.A.
Kristin brings to Solstice East over a decade of experience working in the field of mental health. She favors a recovery model that is holistic and helps clients get in touch with their life's purpose. After spending several years working with adults in treatment, Kristin decided to expand her experience to work with adolescents. Kristin moved to Asheville in 2002 to complete her education at UNC Asheville where she earned her B.A. in Psychology. Kristin has continued to deepen her knowledge of best practices in the field through her writing gigs with several academic publishers specializing in college-level Psychology textbooks.
An aspiring aerialist and gardener, Kristin draws inspiration from nature and sustainable practices, thus she is always looking for opportunities to cultivate connection with the environment and community. When not at Solstice, Kristin enjoys learning with (and from) her amazing children and husband.
Alex Drown, B.A.
Alex graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in special education. Since then, she has spent time working with at-risk middle school students and teaching community and life skills to children with Autism. Having experienced the personal change that happens when stepping outside of one’s comfort zone, Alex is excited to continue her educational journey at Solstice helping young women reach their potentials.
Alex enjoys creative writing, trail-blazing, knitting with the girls at Solstice, gardening, wild crafting, and playing with her dog.
Rachel Edwards, B.S.
Rachel Edwards works as a mentor part-time with Solstice East while pursuing her last year of graduate school for a Master's in Social Work. Rachel holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Health Psychology and Spiritual Studies and has worked with adolescents as an intensive in-home counselor, substance abuse counselor, and in a day treatment program. She also spent two years working as a naturalist and environmental educator with elementary and middle school-aged youth. She is a western North Carolina native but has traveled abroad and lived for five years on the west coast.
Rachel enjoys the natural world, gardening, cooking, and living a healthy life. She is passionate about working with youth and is most grateful to be able to be a part of a young person's self-exploration, growth, and transformation.
Jessica Johnson, MSW
Jessica is a skilled professional with a Bachelor of Social Work from Shaw University and over three years of experience in counseling, assessment, crisis intervention, behavior management, youth education, program and project management, agency partnerships and community outreach for individuals with mental illness and at- risk youth and families from diverse ethno- cultural and racial backgrounds.
In her spare time, Jessica enjoys attending NFL games and trying new experiences with my family and friends.
Kim Lindsay, CNA
Kim became a Certified Nursing Assistant and Med Tech while working on her bachelor degree in Psychology from Mars Hill University. Since then, she has worked on the Memory Care units of various long term care facilities. In the medical department, she helps with the reorder and distribution of medications, transporting the girls, as well as help address certain medical needs.
Rebekah Jopling, B.A.
Rebekah graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in Anthropology, with a focus on environmental issues. Since then, she has worked with children and teens from a wide range of backgrounds and abilities at outdoor schools and farms across the country. In these programs, she utilized experiential education and the healing power of the outdoors to teach a variety of subjects, from environmental science and history, to horse-back riding, to healthy living and gardening, all built around the theme of universal respect- for self, others and the earth. In that time, she has also worked as a baker, farmer, and community organizer, and traveled extensively. She is excited to be a part of the Solstice East team, where she can put all these skills to use empowering young women to make their own lives and their world a better place.
Outside of Solstice East, Rebekah enjoys baking, reading, building things, backpacking with her dog, farming, cooking for friends, waterfall jumping, playing music with her husband, wild foraging, hammocks, traveling, being in the sunshine, and general adventuring in the blue ridge mountains.
Nick Peterson, B.A, QMHP
Nick, originally from the Pittsburgh PA area, earned his Bachelor’s degree in Recreation from Western State University of Colorado, located in the small mountainous town of Gunnison. There he sharpened his outdoor skills through water, land, and snow based classes as well as participated on the Western State Mountain Rescue team for two years. After college he continued his outdoor pursuits in Colorado and Utah, where he spent over two years working for Second Nature Wilderness Programs. While out west his passion for the mountains and mountaineering grew as well as his knowledge of wilderness settings where he started challenging himself with major self-led backcountry excursions. Some of his more memorable trips include summiting Mt. Rainier (WA), Mt. Hood (OR), Mt. Whitney (CA) and most recently, Gannett Peak, deep in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. To be closer to home on the east coast, Nick and his dog Duke then moved to North Carolina to work with students in the Autism Spectrum though Talisman Academy and the Autism Society of North Carolina. Before starting at Solstice East, he was the Program Manager for a Therapeutic Day Treatment facility for elementary aged students in Waynesville, NC for three years through Haywood County Psychological Services, where he also earned his QMHP letters. When not working, Nick enjoys long distance running, climbing, carpentry, cheering his hometown teams that will most likely beat your hometown teams, hiking with his longtime companion, Duke Spartacus and mountaineering. Once and a while you can find him performing on stage with several musicians in the Asheville area in different genres and if you are lucky, you’ll hear him sing the National Anthem at local Baseball games.
Katia O'Connor, B.S.
Katia has a B.S. in physics, with a focus on renewable energy and sustainable technology, from the University of Illinois. She also has a background in botany and permaculture. She has been teaching in various diverse settings throughout her life, including in environmental and experiential education. She is always trying to find new meaningful and interesting ways of teaching science.
Assistant Lead Mentor
Assistant Lead Mentor