First Light Field Team
The Field Team includes outdoor experts with an array of professional and personal experience. Wilderness specialists bring expertise in safety, compassion for struggling youth, enthusiasm for utilizing the outdoors as a catalyst for positive change, and are the core of the team. They frequently bring creative use of natural resources to individualized interventions.
Jeff found his love for working with adolescents while tutoring under-privileged children as an undergraduate, and this experience influenced his decision to major in social work. Jeff earned his bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of South Dakota, and then his Master’s in Social Work at the University of Iowa. For the next decade, Jeff specialized in working with issues related to childhood trauma in a variety of treatment settings, including residential treatment, in-home services, foster care, and outpatient therapy. In 2002, Jeff relocated with his family from Iowa to Georgia, where he worked in administrative roles at a therapeutic boarding school, a therapeutic wilderness program and a boarding school specializing in learning disabilities. These experiences further honed his expertise in working with adolescents and with complex family systems. His desire to help families find the right treatment options for their children led him to educational and therapeutic consulting, where he helped to facilitate hundreds of therapeutic placements.
Of joining the First Light Wilderness team, Jeff stated, “Having the opportunity to join the family of New Vision Wilderness programs and to return to working directly with children and families refuels the fire that was started over 20 years ago when I discovered how powerfully healing working in nature with a group of kids could be. I am so excited to work with this incredible team of professionals to provide healing, growth and service to families at First Light. “ Jeff has lived in North Georgia since 2002 with his wife, Debi, and their three college-aged children. When not working, Jeff enjoys golfing, practicing martial arts, and driving through the mountains on his Harley.
Drew Hornbeck, co-founder and CEO of New Vision Wilderness, stated, "I couldn't be more excited to have Jeff's leadership at First Light Wilderness. He brings a depth of knowledge and industry experience to the team, and represents many of the core values that we hold at New Vision, particularly those of trusting relationships and evidence-based outcomes. He has a proven ability to work effectively with others, and his leadership is a critical component to ensuring the best possible experience for children and families who trust us to deliver high quality treatment."
Jeff can be reached at: Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victoria Nolen, LPC, E-RYT, YF-A
Victoria Nolen, LPC, E-RYT, YF-A, is a Lead Field Therapist at First Light Wilderness Therapy in Northeast Georgia. Her primary focus is providing therapeutic services to adolescents and their families through individual, group and family psychotherapy. Victoria’s clinical approach is mindfulness-based, somatic-oriented and holistically focused.
Victoria graduated with her Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Richmont Graduate University and her Bachelor of Science from the University of Georgia. She also received her yoga teaching certification from Five Points Yoga Studio in Athens, GA, while receiving additional certifications in Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Sozo and Somatics, and Somatic Coaching. She is currently pursuing additional training in the Trauma-Conscious Yoga Method, which focuses on utilizing trauma-informed yoga for collective healing and social justice. Victoria has been a practicing clinician and instructor since 2015. Prior to coming to First Light, she offered counseling services in a variety of settings, including a therapeutic boarding school, private practice, a private college campus and a local community center. Since then, she has become committed to bringing the power of embodiment into treatment for sustained healing and systemic transformation in family members’ lives.
As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher, Victoria continues to offer her services in the fields of both counseling and yoga - you will find her often integrating the two. She also boasts of a background in the creative arts and often implements the life-changing techniques of music, writing, dance and narrative approaches into therapy. She enjoys bringing this diverse skillset to the families of First Light, along with offering classes and trainings within the local community.
In her free time, Victoria delights in participating in her own yoga practice, along with spending time with her husband and pup hiking waterfalls and contemplating the “deep wells” of life.
Theresa Hasting, MA, LPC-S, LMHC, SP
Theresa Hasting received her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from McMurry University in 2003 and earned her Masters of Arts degree in Family Psychology from Hardin Simmons University in 2005. Theresa has been a licensed counselor since 2007 and practiced in a wide variety of mental health settings. She is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute.
Theresa specializes in working with students with trauma histories, grief and loss, and attachment difficulties. She approaches her work from a depth psychology perspective and works with clients to understand and heal the roots of their pain rather than focusing solely on symptom management.
Theresa has extensive training in trauma informed care; examining the impact that trauma and stress have on a person’s neurochemistry, brain development, attachment style, cognitions and behaviors. She is a Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Educator, a registered Sandplay Practitioner, and National Trainer for Nurturing Parenting Programs®. There is also trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and EMDR. Theresa tends to utilize a holistic approach to working with students, working with somatic experiences through mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and regulating activities; utilizing evidence based modalities to address emotional and cognitive difficulties; and addressing underlying intrapersonal and interpersonal systems. Theresa enjoys working with family systems and helping families work on new, healthier means of interaction.
Prior to joining the New Vision team, Theresa worked in an outdoor behavior health program for 5 years where she provided individual therapy to adolescent clients and their families. Theresa has expertise in developing training for staff and families on Trauma Informed Care topics, Nurturing Parenting®, and Trust Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI) principles. She also has experience as a clinician for adolescents and adults in psychiatric settings. Theresa has worked with youth and adults who have experienced physical and sexual abuse, attachment trauma, adjustment issues, depression, anxiety, emotional and behavioral dysregulation, substance abuse issues, psychosis, and interpersonal conflict. Theresa has presented at many state and national conferences. She is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA) and Sandplay Therapists of America (STA).
Emily Smith, MSW
Emily comes to First Light with an excitement that has been driven since her early years in undergraduate education, when she first learned about wilderness therapy. From the moment that she knew that there was an industry that coupled her two passions, empowering young people and being submersed in nature, she knew that she had to be a part of it. Emily earned her bachelor’s in social work at Western Illinois University and her master’s degree in social work from Aurora University. She first began her work with young people and their families at a state-operated residential treatment program, where she quickly saw how interaction with nature, or a lack of such contact, can impact the health, development, and overall well-being of those who are finding their way in the world.
Emily has experienced a variety of roles while working in the wilderness therapy industry, from direct care as field staff, logistical support, working with canines, supporting families, and serving as a clinical intern while completing her degree. She steps into her clinical role with awareness of the value that each component of the wilderness experience contributes to a student’s growth and progress. Emily’s clinical focus begins first and foremost through building relationship and trust with her students. She believes that there is no better avenue for healing than a strong relational approach coupled with thoughtful and intentional harnessing of the naturally powerful wilderness setting. Emily enjoys exploring with her family and their dogs, a good game of cards, and singing, dancing and listening to any and all music whenever the opportunity arises.
Nicholas Pellitteri, BS
The power of nature and the transformative experiences that occur there have always been evident to Nick. He started recreating outside as a child in his home state of Wisconsin and by age 14 spent his full summers working a variety of outdoor jobs. Despite his love of home, the draw of the woods and far away adventures kept Nick traveling and working at a variety of camps, trail crews, and anywhere he could breathe the fresh air and explore new forests, rivers and mountains.
After finishing his degree in Forestry and Recreation Resource Management at the University of Wisconsin Nick moved to Utah to work in wilderness therapy. Over his nearly seven years there he honed his skills in therapy, staff development and program leadership finding ways to help youth and young adults grow, first as a field staff and later as a field director.
In 2014 Nick made a switch to the non-profit world to help improve access to the outdoors for people of all abilities and socioeconomic statuses. He continued to grow as an industry leader in experiential and adventure education before his love of wilderness therapy drew him back to join the NVW team.
Stephanie Lewis, BA
Stephanie brings 10 years of Wilderness Therapy experience with her to the New Vision team. She began as a field staff before moving into the office to support parents during their child’s time in the woods. She has spent the past 7 years in admissions connecting with parents and supporting them through what can be a challenging and emotional process and is passionate about helping families find the help they need.
Prior to her time in wilderness, Stephanie earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from New Mexico State University. She spent time teaching in South Korea and traveling the United States as a tour guide. Stephanie is an avid reader and enjoys spending time outside with her son and husband.
Lacey grew up in Southern Missouri where she developed a love of the outdoors. She followed this passion, and spent over three years working in an outdoor therapeutic wilderness program as a Senior Field Instructor. While there, she mentored under a respected trauma therapist in a young adult and adolescent girls group. After Lacey’s time in the woods she transitioned into the role of Parent Coordinator, where she created lasting relationships with parents and referral partners. In 2016, Lacey accepted a role with Calo Teens and Preteens where she flourished in the admissions department, advancing to a Senior Admissions Coordinator. After spending four years with Calo, she transitioned to New Vision Wilderness. Lacey is a Wilderness First Responder and has over a decade of outdoor leadership experience. Lacey lives in the Blue Ridge mountains with her partner and their two boys, Harvey and Arthur, and their dog, Tuesday. The family often create their own outdoor adventures.
Emilio Acosta is a graduate of Georgia State with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He is passionate about working with youth. Emilio has worked with students of varying abilities, ranging from reading disabilities to Tourette’s syndrome. He is an avid backpacker and a lover of the outdoors.
Hanna Brooks grew up in North Caroline and spent several years majoring in psychology from UNC and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains. Most recently, Hanna pursued environmental education/trail stewardship in Massachusetts and wilderness therapy at NVW Northwoods. What draws her into the field of wilderness therapy is utilizing empathy and supporting youth along their therapeutic journeys in a calm wilderness setting. In her spare time, you’ll find Hanna hiking, jamming to music, drawing, and spending quality time with friends.
Maureen Fitzgerald is a strong woman who believes the benefits of nature can provide growth and development in all aspects of our everyday lives. Nature/wilderness have provided her with so much patience, love, kindness and compassion that she feels determined to keep that fire burning! Maureen loves cooking, horses, and playing music. Maureen’s motto: let’s make this world a better place with one person at a time!
Raquel Leal is an outdoor enthusiast and has been in the recreation industry since 2015. She enjoys helping people of all ability levels and providing exposure to the outdoors. She has been passionate about inclusion ever since her first summer camp counselor/care giver position at Camp Red Leaf. After completing her bachelor’s degree at Western Illinois University in RPTA (Recreation, Parks and Tourism), she has been looking for ways to help introduce the wilderness to others that haven’t had the accessibility to it. She enjoys canoeing, kayaking, and hiking as leisure activities. She also has a love for all animals and hope to adopt a dog one day!
Erik Matlock is a husband, father and grandfather with a wide variety of skills from several industries and a Georgia native. He’s been involved with children and youth mentoring since the early 90s.
Steven Nutt is from the north suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and has a passion for helping all types of people in an outdoor setting. He graduated from Western Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration and a double minor in communication and outdoor leadership. Steve has worked in the outdoor industry for seven years with experience in guiding wilderness expeditions, directing outdoor recreation program for at-risk youth and people with developmental disabilities as well as after school programs and summer camps. In his off time, Steve loves to canoe, kayak, car camp, travel and find live music.
Shannon Poulos grew up playing and exploring the forests and rivers of northern Illinois. She quickly recognized the impact the woods had on her life and how important spending time in the wilderness is. After graduating from Carroll University, Shannon took her degree in clinical psychology and began her journey in wilderness therapy. She moved down to the Blue Ridge Mountains and has been facilitating growth and healing in the Southern Appalachian wilderness for some time.
Josh Prince has spent most of his life in North Carolina and is currently pursuing a Master's in Social Work at Appalachian State University. Josh developed a deep appreciation for nature while studying Geology as an undergraduate. While teaching high school science a few years ago, he realized that his true passion is working with young people in behavioral health settings. When not working, Josh enjoys golfing, cooking, fishing, working on cars, traveling, and hiking.
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