Jennifer DeBarros

Jennifer DeBarros is a New Bedford, MA native who is a passion-driven, creative, critical thinker and community educator with over twenty-six years of experience in diverse leadership roles. After dropping out of high school and obtaining her GED, she enrolled at Bristol Community College and through a co-op opportunity was able to discover her passion at a local non-profit organization. It was at this time when her spark for positive youth development and social justice was ignited as she quickly learned that her own personal struggles were tied to a larger, historical, and collective movement for humanity through civil rights advocacy and activism. While fulfilling various roles as a professional and volunteer through non-profit, school-based, and community-based social service organizations, she continued her educational pursuits and completed a bachelor’s degree in Sociology at Bethune Cookman University finishing Magna Cum Laude. Recognizing the importance of education and having a particular interest in working with young people, she has crafted her life work around creating several engaging and empowering programs, as well as, educational workshops and culturally relevant curricula. She has spoken at several engagements focusing on her own journey through adversity, in addition to, issues surrounding social justice and public health. As a Distinguished Doctoral Fellow at UMass Dartmouth, she completed her dissertation research for a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies which consisted of a historical contextual analysis of a local police shooting that examined the intersections of schooling and cultures of control through the oral histories of community residents. As the Director of Prevention & Intervention Programs at NorthStar Learning Centers, she designed and developed the HEAL (Health, Education, Action, & Leadership) Center for gun violence prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery program. She also worked as a Lecturer for the Crime and Justice Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. As a parent and formerly disengaged learner, she understands the barriers in accessing high-quality education opportunities and hopes to be a bridge that connects Eagle Rock to the wider community through her role as Dean of Admissions. She is happiest when investing time with her children and grandchildren, dancing at a Hip Hop concert, and supporting youth to actualize their dreams.

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I am really moved by the power and promise of young people.

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.


Annie Kelston

Annie works as the Student Services Program Specialist and Explore Week Coordinator at Eagle Rock. This means that on any given day, you can catch her facilitating team building initiatives, leading restorative circles, whipping up deliciousness with Culinary Enrichment students, helping student leaders implement campus-wide events, overseeing Explore Week classes, and having dozens of conversations. Prior to Eagle Rock, Annie studied nursing, spent 4 years facilitating outdoor education and team building experiences for folks of all ages and backgrounds, and most recently worked as a DONA certified birth doula and opened a center for birth education and family wellness in the Baltimore area. Annie’s background in direct individual, family and group support prepared her incredibly well for the variety of support and care she offers to Eagle Rock students on a daily basis. Annie loves adventuring with her wife and dog, making things, and having intense conversations.

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Students inspire me when they choose to leave what they know to move somewhere new and reclaim their lives.

Eliza Kate Wicks-Arshack

Eliza Kate Wicks-Arshack is our Human Performance and Outdoor Education Program Manager. Eliza is responsible for course directing and facilitating the wilderness orientation course each trimester, overseeing risk management of outdoor experiences, managing and supporting outdoor education staff, maintaining our Association for Experiential Education (AEE) accreditation, developing and implementing curriculum to improve outdoor education at Eagle Rock and beyond, and supporting students throughout their journey at Eagle Rock School. Eliza, originally from New York City, developed a passion for wilderness travel as a little girl exploring with her family and canoe tripping. Her passion for inclusive and alternative education was fostered from her experience in the public school system in New York. After leaving NY, Eliza earned her bachelor’s degree at Colorado College where she studied Sociology and ran their outdoor leader training program. Eliza first joined the Eagle Rock team in January of 2012 as a wilderness instructor and subsequently served as the Public Allies Fellow in Outdoor Education at ER in 2012-2013. She has worked for several wilderness therapy and outdoor education programs leading up to 48-day wilderness courses. Eliza is a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT), Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) for rock climbing, holds an AIARE I avalanche safety certification, as well as a Swift Water Rescue certification. She is an avid outdoors-woman, cook, and crafter.

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My favorite thing about Eagle Rock is that I learn and grow as much as our students are challenged to.

Mike Dunn

Mike Dunn is a progressive education activist and leader. He has been working with youth in outdoor, independent, and charter schools for more than 15 years as a teacher, counselor, and program director. Mike started his work in Detroit as a Big Picture advisor and joined the Eagle Rock community in 2008-09 as a Service-Learning teaching fellow with Public Allies. After the fellowship, he moved to Philadelphia to help open a re-engagement Big Picture high school called el Centro de Estudiantes. He then transitioned to AIM Academy in Conshohocken, PA to work with students who have language-based learning differences. At AIM, Mike was a History teacher, varsity soccer coach, leadership cohort facilitator, and Director of College Counseling. He served on the Pennsylvania Association of College Admissions Counseling’s Executive Committee as the chair of its Inclusion, Access, and Success committee and as a college advisor for the Franklin Institute’s STEM Scholars program, both in service of helping historically underrepresented groups of students access postsecondary learning opportunities. In 2021, Mike completed his Doctorate of Education from Northeastern University and continues to collaborate with his doctoral colleagues on a podcast called RethinkingEDU. Mike loves spending time with his partner and their amazing dog Kelly, often with coffee.

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My favorite thing about Eagle Rock is its commitment to empowering students to uncover their personal agency and make active decisions in their lives.

I really love every opportunity I get to learn something new from inspiring people I encounter in my everyday life.


Nia Dawson

Nia Dawson is our Student Services Program Manager. She is a member of the student support team and works closely with students and staff to develop sustainable opportunities for partnership. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nia began her career in youth services working with the YMCA. She left the sunshine of the west to attend Syracuse University in New York where she completed her bachelors degree in social work (BSW). Her interest in out of school time programming led her to focus on after school services where she spent the next 20 years developing and managing programs for organizations on both coasts like the Urban League, the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, ACORN NY and most recently Harlem Children’s Zone. She is dedicated to developing youth as leaders and supporting adults in true collaboration with young people.

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My rock is my family.  They hold me up with I’m down, and hold me down when things come up.

Students inspire me when they believe in themselves and overcome obstacles.

Courthney Russell, Jr.

Courthney Russell, Jr. is our residential life program coordinator. Courthney is responsible for fostering a safe and secure environment within the Eagle Rock community. He is a key member of the student services team and coordinates activities for students with staff and houseparents. Courthney was born in Fort Knox, lived in the US Virgin Islands for a time, and eventually moved to East Atlanta, an underserved community devoid of options. His neighborhood taught him survival skills, but his family wanted more for him and made education a priority. Unfortunately, Courthney didn’t always share this priority. By the time he graduated from high school, his tendency toward stereotypical behavior had him on a collision course with incarceration or death. In a last-ditch effort, he applied to medical school and was surprised to be accepted. There he found a passion that was unquenchable and made the choice to dedicate his life to humanity. The road wasn’t easy. He experienced homelessness which meant juggling the responsibilities of being a student and the realities of living on the street. As a result, he shifted his perspective and set his life in a new direction. He graduated in 2011 with a medical degree and a new mission: to leverage his knowledge in a non-traditional way to become an authentic, determined, humble leader by example. Because of his past, Courthney is uniquely qualified to serve the Eagle Rock community.

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My rock is my belief that everyone can be great.

I really love “community”.

I’m really moved by people that live a life of service through authenticity and courage.

My favorite thing about Eagle Rock is how open and welcoming this community is to new and innovative ways to love.

Students inspire me when they begin to visualize how important their future is regardless of their pasts.