Akeem Cheek

Akeem Cheek is the Information Technology And Facilities Maintenance Associate. The position is a hybrid between maintaining the physical campus and its digital infrastructure. He has been working in schools and community organizations for many years. He has worked as a school bus driver and in after-school programming. He honed his IT skills by being a natural tinkerer and working in a small family business. He worked for two community-based organizations supporting black farmers in North Carolina before coming to Eagle Rock. He has a BA in History from North Carolina Central University and has completed coursework in clinical psychology.

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My rock is my family and extended family.

I’m really moved by students who have strong character, are driven, and are purposeful.

Hayden Webster

Growing up Hayden struggled in the traditional school setting, which is why if you went back in time and told he worked at a High school and that he was HAPPY to be doing it… He would be flabbergasted. Being a curious and outspoken young kid generally gave him the label of “defiant” to the authority figures in his life at the time. Thankfully for the rest of us He has refined those traits that once got him into trouble and has used them to propel him into his own path. While all the other friends in his life were out going to college getting degrees they never truly cared about. He went exploring… climbing, biking, and skiing around the country and internationally. These experiences paired with therapy, deep introspection, and a variety of hardships along the way set him up to become a passionate, patient and caring community member. Starting his work with youth at the age of 17 he learned through direct experience how to engage, connect, push, and inspire the students he works for. Creating his own unique style along the way.  In his personal time when he’s not outside, he enjoys playing chess, reading graphic novels/comics, watching survivor, or leaving his half-full coffee mug somewhere random to find days later.

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My favorite thing about Eagle Rock is the dining lodge … I mean working with the students

Brad Brandewie

Brad is part of our Operations or “Rockin Ops” Team. He has a degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication from the University of Cincinnati. Brad moved out west after college and began his first career as a corporate trainer and software tester.

After meeting the love of his life, he left the Front Range of Colorado to support his wife’s career as an ecologist in places like Silverton Colorado, Stanley Idaho, and Sequoia National Park. During this time he started a software training company and worked as a large format printer reproducing artwork.

When he and his wife welcomed their second child, Brad left the computer world to become a stay-at-home parent. Five years later, when his kids started school, he became a tour guide in Sequoia National Park. This led him to the realization that he preferred a career that involved more human interaction, so when he moved back to Colorado he became a substitute teacher, which eventually led him to Eagle Rock. Now he spends his days supporting the staff and students on campus and absorbing their positive energy.

When he’s not at work, you’re likely to find him in the mountains, enjoying a bike ride or rock climbing with his family.

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My favorite thing about Eagle Rock is the supportive and friendly mindset of the staff and students.

Caitlin Welsh

Caitlin joins Eagle Rock School as Special Projects Coordinator where she works to create opportunities for students to learn and practice horticulture, maintain and manage access to the library collections, and collaborate with staff to guide students’ off-campus learning experiences through the Real World Learning program. Having grown up in the deciduous forests and freshwater lakes of Michigan, Caitlin has found joy exploring the unique natural environment she has called home while also working to protect and share those places with others as an educator and environmental steward through organizations like AmeriCorps (Massachusetts), San Joaquin Outdoor School (California), Summer in the City (Detroit), AIM Academy (Pennsylvania), and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. Most recently she spent 5 years supporting avian conservation as an assistant bird bander, educator, and curriculum consultant for Willistown Conservation Trust in Newtown Square, PA. This is also where she put her years of experience weeding and tending her mother’s extensive gardens to use as a farm worker for the community-supported agriculture program at Rushton Farm. Caitlin earned her bachelor’s from Indiana University and a Master’s in Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in advocacy and education. When she’s not coddling seedlings and slinging library cards, Caitlin enjoys riding her bike, romping with her dog, Kelly, getting to know the local wildlife, baking banana muffins for the Juniper House family, and reading the next epic fantasy series.

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I really love helping others find joy, wonder, and fulfillment in the outdoors.

Cami J Thomas

Cami is the Program Director for Eagle Rock’s Fellowship Program. They manage the fellow program administratively but also serve as a mentor and coach to fellows through their Eagle Rock experience. Cami comes to us with over 5 years of experience with Public Allies programming. They are an alum of Public Allies Milwaukee where they also served as the Training and Learning Director. Cami has a variety of experiences that makes them uniquely qualified to cultivate a robust and effective Fellowship Program here at Eagle Rock. They earned their BA in Africology and their MA in African and African Diaspora Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Cami is dedicated to the liberation of Black people. Cami has served the academic and non-profit sectors in Milwaukee in program management, youth development, racial equity, and reproductive justice for over 10 years. Initially focused on economic development and financial independence, Cami served on many boards of cooperative businesses/organizations along with facilitating grassroots workshops and programs around supporting Black businesses. After serving in Public Allies and having a child, they shifted their focus to understanding and implementing healing justice for Black and queer communities. In 2016, Cami co-founded the reproductive justice organization Maroon Calabash where they served as the Policy and Advocacy Director. Through their experiences as a parent, healing justice and beloved community have become the frameworks for how Cami executes their work focusing on relationship building and community care. Cami believes in the words of Fannie Lou Hamer “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

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I am really moved by young people discovering their own power.

My rock is my spiritual practice which keeps me grounded and grateful.

Shawna Perales

Shawna is originally from Nebraska and also spent time in Colorado while growing up. After receiving her Associate of Arts Degree, her path of secondary education took her to New Mexico, where she graduated from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM with a Bachelors’ Degree in Business Administration. After Graduation, she spent time in Albuquerque and Taos where she grew her career in Hotel and Hospitality Management and over the years and realized how this industry really fed her servant’s heart. Her Hospitality Career continued as a Director of Sales for Kessler Collection, a boutique luxury brand of hotels, but wrapped up in 2020 when she began homeschooling her son, Oliver. With Oli back in school, Shawna joined the Eagle Rock Team supporting Finance and Operations. She, her husband Josán, and son Oliver reside as House Parents of Ponderosa.

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Shawna is inspired by her family and by making people happy so being able to serve the Eagle Rock community from an operations standpoint brings her much joy.

Chris Bennett

Chris Bennett is a Colorado native and culinary veteran with 20+ years of experience in the industry. At 18, Chris attended New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, where he earned his AOS degree in Culinary Arts. For most of his early career, Chris specialized in upscale French cuisine,  Mediterranean, and “New Style American Cuisine”, honing his skills and building his repertoire in some of the best restaurants in Las Vegas, as well as Denver. From Joachim Splichal’s Pinot Brasserie in the Venetian, and Daniel Boulud’s DB Brasserie in the Wynn, to Denver’s Rioja, Bistro Vendome, and Elway’s to name a few, Chris gained a solid foundation. In 2014, Chris became the only chef to be selected for Sister Cities International’s international Chef exchange program which took him to Brest, Bretagne France to stage within a couple restaurants/resorts as well as shadow instructors and present to Students at the Fenelon School of Culinary Arts. Upon his return, Chris set his sights on learning Asian cuisines and earned his way from part time line cook to Executive chef of Uncle Joe’s Hong Kong Bistro within a year. Not only earning new skills but also earning the restaurant a feature on the Travel Channel’s hit show “Food Paradise”. After 3 years as Executive chef there, he expanded to Japanese, becoming executive Sous chef at Ototo Den (of the Sushi Den family of restaurants) training in the intricacies of Japanese cuisine before turning his sights on global street food, helping open Street Feud in 2019. In 2021, Chris saw an opportunity arise to join the kitchen team at Eagle Rock, and made it his mission to become part of the team, where he has been able to use his years of experience in multiple cuisines to help not only provide ERS students and staff with balanced meals but also give expose them to flavors and cuisines they may not have tried before.

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My favorite thing about Eagle Rock is getting to work with such a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, as well as cooking for such a diverse group of students.


Sara Nicholson

Sara is our outdoor education course manager; responsible for inspiring exploration in the wilderness, managing risk, and leading our multiple wilderness courses. Growing up with Wisconsin’s forests and waterways has fostered an early love for the outdoors. Her love continued to grow and expand as she was introduced to the mountains and the ocean, attending college at Colorado State University and Florida International University. Earning a degree in environmental sustainability and gaining experience with environmental justice. Prior to arriving at Eagle Rock, Sara honed her outdoor skills leading canoe and backpacking trips for youth. Ranging from 4 to 45 days, these experiences took place in the Brooks Range, Saskatchewan, Isle Royale National Park, Bahamas, Rockies Mountains, Zirkel Wilderness, and Northern Wisconsin chain of lakes. Most recently she was a math teacher in the Bahamas, teaching place based statistics. She is excited to join Eagle Rock’s community, and embrace all its beauty.

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My favorite thing about Eagle Rock is feeling the souls of others.


Mackensi Crenshaw

Mackensi is an Instructional Fellow hailing from Columbus, Ohio. Though young, Mackensi has gained a wealth of experience working with youth and adults in traditional and non-traditional educational spaces. She earned her BS in K-12 Special Education and 6-12 English Language Arts at Eastern Michigan University in 2019. She holds a teaching secondary teaching license in the state of Michigan. While in her program she developed an interest in progressive education and critical pedagogy. Continuing her studies, she then attended The University of Illinois at Urabana-Champaign to earn her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, focusing on the literacy practices of youth of color. While at Illinois, Mackensi was an instructor for two undergraduate courses, Language, Culture and Learning, and Social Justice, Schools, and Society. She also served as a Writing Consultant in the Illinois Writers’s Workshop, supporting students in their research, writing, and English language development. In addition to schooling, Mackensi has worked at youth camps throughout the Midwest and East Coast. Most recently she was the Assistant Camp Director at Camp Wyandot Inc. in southeastern Ohio and an Activities Manager at Brown University’s summer programs in 2021. Mackensi is excited to bring her skills, experience, and training to Eagle Rock. She is even more excited to learn, play, and grow with students!

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Students inspire me when they embrace the unknown and uncomfortable.

I really love my vinyl collection and vintage paperbacks.

Lilli Manso

Lilli Manso was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. She is proud to serve Eagle Rock as the Art Instructional Fellow. Lilli received her Bachelors of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University with a focus on the integration of technology, nature and spirituality with art. She was inspired to study art after volunteering with the elementary schoolers at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. While in University, Lilli enjoyed working with the 1708 and Anderson Galleries to bring art to the Richmond community. She aspires to embolden students to expand their consciousness and to blur the lines between art and life.

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Students inspire me when they are of service to themselves and others through creativity.