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.

Jean Coyle Field Director

Katie Nicholson Field Staff

Sarah Switzer Field Staff

Luke Cottom Field Staff

Jacob Stibbe Field Staff

Henry Thomas Field Staff

Steven Nutt Field Staff

Raquel Leal Field Staff

Maureen Fitzgerald Field Staff

Hanna Brooks Field Staff

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.

Katie Nicholson

Position: Field Staff

Sarah Switzer

Position: Field Staff

Luke Cottom

Position: Field Staff

Jacob Stibbe

Position: Field Staff

Henry Thomas

Position: Field Staff

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 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!

Hanna Brooks

Position: Field Staff

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.