Position: Director of Admissions
Melissa was born and raised in Connecticut. She attended Central CT State University where she earned a BA in Psychology. Melissa then earned her Masters of Social Work (MSW) at Fordham University’s graduate school of social services where she elected a plan of study with a clinical concentration and family and children’s specialization. Melissa’s career has focused on building relationships with adolescents, parents and care providers. She is trained in attachment-based family therapy and holds a certificate in DBT skills training. Melissa’s experience brings a therapist that not only understands the admissions process, but also understands adolescents, young adults and their parents.
In addition to holding an LCSW, Melissa is a certified school social worker for the state of Connecticut. Melissa’s clinical work in schools focused on supporting students with trauma, ADHD, anxiety and depression. During her work in public schools, Melissa also worked part time as a therapeutic mentor and parent coach. The passion she felt for this work led her to transition to full time work with an in-home support program, where she managed the tri-state region of CT/NY/NJ, eventually taking on the role of National Clinical Director. Building on this experience, Melissa and a colleague developed a remote services program aimed at filling gaps in treatment for children and adolescents. Melissa helped to launch and run this program nationally, where her responsibilities included admissions, development and implementation of clinical protocols, and staff supervision.
Melissa holds a certificate from the integrative nutrition program, enjoys running, tennis, and skiing. She lives with her husband and daughter. If they are not doing these activities together they are likely at Disney World.
Position: Senior Director of Professional Relations
Mary Jo brings more than 20 years of experience in therapeutic settings to her role at First Light Wilderness. She began her career as a child advocate, working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in native Alaskan communities, where she discovered how impactful it could be to provide therapeutic treatment in outdoor settings. She went on to earn her master’s degree in Ecopsychology and Child Development from Antioch New England University, and subsequent roles included facilitating growth-focused young adult expeditions abroad, working as a wilderness therapist and as a clinician in therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment.
Mary Jo’s career has remained centered around serving children and complex family systems in a variety of treatment and community-based settings. Her outgoing nature and desire to build relationships and connect with others led her to roles in clinical outreach, admissions, and business development, with the goal of increasing awareness of and access to treatment options. Mary Jo believes strongly in engaging with others from a place of compassion and integrity, whether that be with a referral partner, a colleague or a family in need of treatment.
Mary Jo is married with 2 young children and 2 young adult stepsons. She is a passionate Italian cook who loves hiking around the woods of Vermont, traveling and exploring new places, listening to live music, getting her hands dirty in the garden, and enjoying time with family.