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.

Jason Lyle Field Staff

Jake Stibbe Field Staff

Haley Goodman Field Staff

Trinity Veach Field Staff

Jean Coyle Field Director

Luke Cottom Field Staff

Henry Thomas Field Staff

Steven Nutt Field Staff

Raquel Leal Field Staff

Maureen Fitzgerald Field Staff

Jason Lyle

Position: Field Staff
Jason loves people and loves the outdoors. His life and work experiences are broad, and include teaching middle school social studies in the public school system, working with kids in children’s homes in Georgia, teaching Dalit pastors in India, and working with an orphanage in Uganda creating systems of sustainable economic growth, to name a few. Jason simply has a desire to help people. He also has a great love of the outdoors and enjoys spending as much time as possible exploring and enjoying nature. His experience with Boy Scouts ignited a love for anything to do with being outside, and he has extensive experience in doing so. Jason holds an undergraduate degree in Christian Theology, and a Graduate degree in International Community Development. For recreation Jason enjoys hunting, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, running, reading good books, and cooking with his wife.

Jake Stibbe

Position: Field Staff

Jake Stibbe, BFA, is a Wilderness Field Instructor at First Light Wilderness. His primary focus is practicing the CASA model with his students in order to demonstrate and instill the practice of creating healthy relationships. Jake is certified as a Wilderness First Responder and is always attuned to the physical, emotional, and relational safety of each member of his group.

Stibbe graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emerson College and was working in the outdoor industry with Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School for the past year before coming to First Light in 2020. Since then, he has continued to find moments of joy with his students, feeling honored to be a part of each students’ therapeutic journey.

One of Stibbe’s most outstanding qualities he brings into the field is his emphasis on creating and maintaining a fun and joyous atmosphere. He continues to provide a space for learning and growth while simultaneously holding himself to a similar growth mindset.

Abigail Billingsley

Position: Field Staff

Abbie was born in Texas and fell in love with the outdoors at a very young age. Her passion for the outdoors has led her to explore every rock, river, nook, and cranny that this beautiful world has to offer. Her own experiences with nature as a facilitator of healing led her to pursue wilderness therapy as a career, wanting to share that experience with other young people. Abbie earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing at Texas Tech University in Lubbock Texas, and briefly pursued a career in communications and marketing. She quickly realized that she wanted more connection and adventure than was being met by a 40 hour/week desk job, so she found wilderness therapy and has not looked back. Abbie is passionate about introducing others to the wonders of nature and following them through their own personal journeys and all of the highs and lows that come with it, including the increased self-awareness, self-confidence, and a-ha moments. In her free time, Abbie loves to kayak, rock climb, ride her bike or just watch movies with her puppy. Her favorite quote is from J.R.R Tolkein: “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

Haley Goodman

Position: Field Staff

Haley grew up on the east coast, spending much of her childhood in the outdoors–hiking, kayaking, camping, swimming, and playing with any animals she could find. She studied Agricultural Science and Environmental Systems at the University of Georgia, where she was a member of the UGA diving team. She applies that level of passion and discipline to her work as as field guide. Haley is passionate about using the healing properties of nature in her work with young people, and sees wilderness therapy as an opportunity to introduce young people to connection with the Earth as a tool for mindfulness and growth, as well as to facilitate mutual regard and acceptance among the students with whom she works.

Trinity Veach

Position: Field Staff

Trinity was raised near the ocean and in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. She found a passion for travel and has backpacked thousands of miles across the US and around the world. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, Trinity broadened her experience and passion for helping others through working with adults with developmental disabilities. Her work as a field guide with First Light is a role to which she brings an enthusiasm for caregiving, living outdoors, and helping young people find happiness and health in the deeply healing simplicity of the woods.

Jean Coyle

Position: Field Director

Jean began her career in the outdoors when she was attending Loyola University Maryland by leading outdoor trips for incoming freshman as well as fellow students. During this time, she began volunteering with Outward Bound and working with the Police Youth Program. It was then, that she realized that she wanted to find ways to use the outdoors as a platform to discuss decision making skills, communication skills and self-worth. When she graduated in 2017, she accepted a position as an apprentice with North Carolina Outward Bound School’s Family in Need of Services (FINS) program in central and southern Florida. These courses were geared towards youth who were considered at-risk by the state of Florida and were at a fork in their lives, similar to many of our students here at First Light. During her three years at FINS she was a lead instructor, course director as well as a staff trainer. This environment and family that she was a part of facilitated the joy and excitement she has for working with our children and families. After her time at FINS Jean went on to work at SUWS of the Carolinas as a field guide as she began to dip her toes in the North Carolina Forest. In October of 2020 Jean joined our community here at First Light as our Field Director. When asked what keeps her coming back day after day for over three and a half years now she says it is two parts, first the privilege that it is to be there for a kiddos difficult moments when they are yelling or breaking down and thus be sitting right next to them when they are building themselves back up. Secondly, it is the staff that show up time after time for not only the children but also for themselves and their co-staff. Jean identifies that she has had the privilege of seeing the wilderness foster environments of growth for both children and their families and that is why she keeps coming back. During her free time Jean likes to whitewater kayak and ride her bike with her friends.

Luke Cottom

Position: Field Staff

Henry Thomas

Position: Field Staff

An avid reader and outdoor enthusiast, Henry spends his free time near the river, in the woods, or reading a book. He began his foray into the outdoor industry through white water rafting on the Chattooga River, where he learned that wilderness can be a powerful force for growth of self-awareness and self-confidence. He gravitated towards wilderness therapy after having experienced the joy of teaching about the outdoors. Henry’s passion and dedication as a field guide is based in his desire to improve the mental health of at-risk youth, and to provide experiences of connection and healing to young people who otherwise feel disconnected and alone.

Steven Nutt

Position: Field Staff

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.

Raquel Leal

Position: Field Staff

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!

Maureen Fitzgerald

Position: Field Staff

Maureen Fitzgerald, known as “Moe,” is a Lead Field Staff at First Light Wilderness. Her primary focus is providing safety and structure to our students through our treatment model, CASA. Maureen demonstrates this by implementing a fun, healthy environment for students and staff to explore their strengths and weaknesses.

Fitzgerald graduated from Western Illinois University and earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration. She came to First Light more than a year ago after serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Since then, she has been dedicated to the growth of our organization, the students, and herself, and believes that the benefits of being in nature can provide growth and development in all aspects of our everyday lives. Maureen’s motto is: Let’s make this world a better place through one act of patience, love, kindness and compassion toward one person at a time!

In her spare time, Fitzgerald likes to practice yoga, read, cook, and go on excursions.