El Ranchito Executive Director
As Executive Director of El Ranchito, Terri has worked closely with the owners of the Shield Ranch and our camp partners Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center and El Buen Samaritano to realize the vision of this nature-immersion camp for youth.
She supervises camp staff and facilitates all aspects of camp operations, with the help of camp staff and many volunteers.
Terri has more than 30 years of experience sharing nature with people of all ages. She has worked with Youth Conservation Corps summer camps in national parks and national forests. She has also developed and managed conservation and education programs in parks and preserves for local non-profits and for Travis County, and has camped and backpacked extensively.
Since 2000, Terri’s work as Ranch Steward with the Shield Ranch has included program development and administration, land management, ecological inventory and monitoring, endangered species monitoring and habitat management, trail design and construction, prescribed burning, and youth and educational programming.
Nature Discovery Camp Director
Justine has a life-long love for camp, beginning as a Girl Scout while growing up in palmetto forests of the gulf coast of Florida. Her favorite thing about camp is the relationships that form while dedicating time to appreciating nature and having fun together. Over the years her own experiences at camp have resulted in beautiful friendships and invaluable personal growth.
For a decade Justine has been working in the field of experiential education. This includes guiding young people on study abroad trips in Latin America and Europe, outdoor education adventures in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and hands-on workforce development training in the Austin community. She has a degree in International Affairs and Spanish from Florida State University and is a certified Special Education teacher. Her approach to creating and implementing nature education is to make activities as inclusive, engaging and enriching as possible. Believing there is so much potential to grow while stretching one’s comfort zone, Justine likes to encourage new things and first steps.
Justine was drawn to El Ranchito because of a desire to spend the summer outside in the Hill Country with an amazing community of campers and staff. She brings a strong intention to help make camp a safe, creative and rich experience for everyone. She is so happy to join the El Ranchito tradition!
Conservation Corps Director
Forest grew up climbing, camping, backpacking, and learning through a variety of outdoor adventures with family and friends. Exploring and learning about the environment are part of Forest’s life throughout the year. The natural classroom in its many forms has ingrained in Forest an appreciation for diversity and a keen desire to help connect people with wild spaces.
Involved with El Ranchito since our very first camp sessions in 2007, Forest has filled several previous roles including counselor, lead counselor, crew leader, and inventory specialist. He spent two summers as Conservation Corps Project Coordinator. In his work outside of camp, Forest has provided trail maintenance at the Shield Ranch and Travis County Parks, and has organized and trained crews for private land management.
Forest looks forward to summers with the El Ranchito camp community and the chance to teach and share his experiences with youth. His desire for Conservation Corps is to build the Corps Members’ confidence and teach skills that will make them versatile and excited to take on challenges. Through the strong natural connections we build at El Ranchito, Forest hopes to plant the seed of inspiration and curiosity to help youth find themselves and their place in the natural world.
Nature Discovery Camp Assistant Director
Sarah Kelty is a Kentucky native who first made her way to El Ranchito as a Conservation Corps Crew Leader in 2011. In 2012 she moved to Nature Discovery Camp as Assistant Director, a position she is excited to return to in 2016!
Sarah grew up camping in the forests and lakes of Western Kentucky, where she spent many summers as a camper and staff at two Girl Scout resident camps. She loves being outdoors, and has enjoyed camping and backpacking in the U.S. and beyond. In recent years, she has enjoyed working for several youth organizations, such as YouthBuild Louisville, Amigos de las Americas (Oaxaca, Mexico), and Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana.
Currently, Sarah is pursuing a Masters degree in Environmental Planning at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. She holds a B.A. in Spanish from Murray State University. When she’s not studying, she likes to hike, paddle, salsa dance, garden, cook, and bike. Her current research includes exploring green burial as a conservation tool, and developing analytical frameworks within the U.S. food system.
Sarah is stoked to return to the magical Texas Hill Country, and can’t wait to see new and old campers at El Ranchito this summer!
Conservation Corps Project Coordinator
Daniel became hooked on exploring the outdoors after college, when he did conservation work as an Americorps volunteer in the wilds of Oregon and Washington. In order to help others make that connection to the natural world, he became a Youth Crew Leader for Montana Conservation Corps.
Eventually, he came back to his native Texas and retained the desire to lead and teach youth in the outdoors. He has taught at the Austin Nature and Science Center and led crews for Austin Youth River Watch. In 2014, he served as crew leader for El Ranchito’s Conservation Corps. He had such a valuable experience connecting youth from his home state to their natural setting and knew he wanted to return in 2015.
This fall, he’ll enter the classroom for the first time to become an upper elementary Assistant Teacher at a public Montessori school in Austin.
Dianne works with families, community groups, schools, and the public to recruit and register campers for El Ranchito. She works closely with each family to guide them through the application process and help them prepare for their child’s time at camp.
Dianne enjoys finding ways to spark the imaginations of young people about the wonders of science and nature. She has worked on behalf of children and the environment for more than 15 years. She has been a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, a bilingual elementary teacher, a museum educator, and an environmental education program director. As the first Camp Director for El Ranchito in 2007, Dianne helped develop the programs and policies that formed the foundation for future years of camp.
Dianne has a Bachelor’s degree in Museum Science/Wildlife and Fisheries from Texas A&M University and graduate credit in Bilingual/ESL from Texas Women’s University. She has backpacked, camped, and hiked through much of South America and the American Southwest. She is a freelance educational writer, an avid photographer and gardener, and spends much of her time sharing nature with her young son.
Addie cultivated her connection to the natural world while spending summers with her grandparents, riding horses, fishing, gardening, building tree houses, and romping around the countryside under the Louisiana sun. Her love and passion of food is also deeply rooted in those summers, harvesting fresh summer cucumbers and cantaloupe and watching her beloved grandmother cook her favorite comfort foods.
She began her academic journey at Austin Community College as a general studies major, then ventured into the study of American Sign Language, ultimately earning a degree in Environmental Science. While obtaining this degree, she became deeply fascinated with Texas geology and hopes to pursue another degree in the study of rocks.
Addie’s enthusiasm for growing and preparing food served her well when she relocated to Austin nine years ago, where she quickly became an active member in the local food movement. Through her work at farmers’ markets and cultivating her own vegetables with friends and members of the community, she is able to bring a bounty of fresh and sustainable food to El Ranchito’s table.
Alana Thames, RN BSN
A country girl, Alana was born and raised on a farm in Mississippi and received her Bachelors and then Masters degrees in Special Education at Mississippi State University. She taught severely handicapped children and adults in Mississippi for 8 years before deciding to go back to school to become a nurse.
As a nurse, Alana had the great fortune to travel all around the United States working at hospitals in need of help. What she really felt lucky about, though, was when she landed in Austin, Texas in 2003. At first she took jobs working in several hospitals around the Austin area.Then she jumped at the chance to finally settle in at Lake Travis High School as the school nurse and Health Sciences teacher. Since 2008, she has had the distinct pleasure of working with high school youth on a daily basis, and she enjoys the school nurse community that includes elementary, middle and high school nurses.
It was through her work at Lake Travis High School that Alana and El Ranchito got to know each other. She considers this role as Camp Nurse for El Ranchito an awesome opportunity to work with the most amazing kids, for the most amazing people, and in the most amazing place. Alana truly looks forward to her summers with El Ranchito!