El Ranchito Camp Director
Justine joined the El Ranchito tradition in 2016 as Nature Discovery Camp Director. She 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 as a community. Over the years her own experiences at camp have resulted in beautiful friendships and invaluable personal growth.
For over 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. She brings a strong intention to make camp a safe and fun experience for everyone.
Conservation Corps Director
Ben Fehlen is the Conservation Corps Director. He was previously with us in 2014 (through Literacy First) as the NDC Assistant Director where he trained and supervised the Junior Counselors, and before that he was an NDC Counselor and Conservation Corps Crew Leader.
Ben is currently the 6th and 7th grade Language and Cultural Studies teacher at Kipp Austin College Prep School. Ben wants to be able to influence the kids at camp to develop a deeper connection to nature, and to see that it is possible to make a career from their love of the outdoors.
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.
Becca Harkelroad, RN BSN
A School Nurse for Lake Travis Middle School, Becca also brings camp nurse experience along with her to El Ranchito.
Having grown up in a nature-loving family, Becca started camping and hiking as an adult with her husband when they moved to New Mexico. Her favorite places to backpack are in Colorado and the Texas Hill Country.
Becca is passionate about introducing young people, who may not otherwise get the opportunity, to nature, the outdoors, and conservation.