• Residential Treatment Center for Teens 14-17

Meet The Team

Executive Director

Rick Pollard, M.Ed.

Rick brings his extensive and varied experience to be our Executive Director and received his Masters in Educational Leadership from Mercer University. He was employed as a retail District Leader for 16 years before he began his life-changing career in schools. In 2004, he began with the inaugural team of New Leaf Academy of NC, an all girls’ therapeutic boarding school that he helped lead over 5 years. He continued his career in therapeutic education as he led admissions teams for wilderness programs, assisting families with placements for a variety of diagnoses. During the 3 years prior to joining the team at Solstice East, he was Assistant Head of School at Brandon Hall School, an independent boarding school in Atlanta, GA. Rick joined Solstice East in 2015 and considers it a privilege to lead the caring Solstice East team that brings so much positive change and healing to the lives of adolescents and their families. Outside of Solstice East, Rick is pursuing his PhD and with occasional free time, he enjoys a variety of activities including kayaking, hiking, singing, printmaking and painting. He loves his daily walks and time with his Yorkshire terrier daughters, Katy and BeBe

Executive Clinical Director

Jenny Selent, LMFT

Jenny is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Since 2008 Jenny has been helping families and individuals suffering from the severe symptoms of trauma. She has also dedicated much time to developing and implementing relationship-based, trauma-informed programming for the young women at Solstice RTC and Solstice East. Jenny has specialized training in EMDR and Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Areas of expertise include trauma, attachment, family systems, and a variety of women’s issues such as self-harm, body image, identity, and relationship issues. At the foundation of Jenny’s approach as a therapist are two beliefs: 1. Healthy relationships can facilitate healing and 2. Healing can facilitate healthy relationships. When not working, she can typically be found hiking, enjoying the mountains, or playing on her hobby farm with her beautiful children and wonderful husband.

Assistant Clinical & Equine Director, Primary Therapist

Georgia DeFrancia, M.S.W., LCSW

Georgia DeFrancia, a Colorado native, has been living in Western North Carolina for 10 years. She received her Masters in Social Work from the University of Denver and has over 15 years of experience in the mental health field with a specific focus on children, adolescents and families in both out patient and residential settings. She has extensive experience working with anxiety, depression, trauma and emotion regulation disorders. Georgia is rostered as a Trauma Focused CBT clinician and is in the midst of becoming certified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). In addition, Georgia incorporates equine assisted psychotherapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy into her work. She truly believes that her clients have the wisdom and skills within them to overcome their struggles. Outside the office Georgia enjoys skiing, hiking and creating memories with her family.

Executive Director of Business Development

Kris Archer

Kris originally went to college on a musical theater scholarship, planning to teach Secondary Theatre and English. While trying to find a teaching job, she found a job as a “Family Teacher”, where she started as a live-in house parent at a mental health facility; living with and helping ten teenage girls with her husband and children. She did this for 4 years and loved working with this population and getting to know this industry. She then moved on to working as an Admissions Counselor and Business Development representative for 2 years.

Because of her connection with referral partners, love of travel, and passion for meeting new people, she moved into the Executive Director of Business Development at the Solstice Programs, being based out of Solstice East.. She has a deep passion and love for all people and enjoys being involved.

Kris was awarded two Gold Presidential Service Awards for her work helping high school students find their passions, through the the Americorps Program. She also produced and developed a Diversity Education curriculum and presented it in elementary schools across Utah for two years. Kris is a founding member of the Southern Program Collaborative that includes all programs in the South Eastern region for NATSAP. Kris serves on the Evolving Women board as well, and enjoys spreading the message of empowering women. Kris is a mother of three girls and is grateful for her chance to learn and grow and take the knowledge she learns back to her own children. She loves being here at Solstice East and is grateful for the opportunity to see the amazing process our families go through. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, crafting, and spending time with her daughters, husband and dog.

Admissions Director

Becca Jefferies

Becca has worked in residential therapeutic girl programs since 2004, beginning as a residential staff at a therapeutic boarding school. Becca was able to apply her professional and nurturing skills to creating a Program Director position in the first year of her time with the program and since has been a founding program staff for two other programs. Becca is dedicated to working with families and young girls to promote healthy living emotionally and physically. “I truly feel that my mission in life includes empowering and educating young women through their healing process.” Becca is a native to Western North Carolina and enjoys all the outdoor activities, and delicious foods, that the Asheville area offers. As a mother of a little girl, her main focus is her daughter. She also values time with her family and friends who provide strong support and inspiration daily, music and recently has began learning to care for and ride horses. Email Becca with your admissions questions at: becca@solsticeeast.com

Program Director

Bri Anicetti, B.A.

Bri graduated in 2009 from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a Bachelors degree in Psychology. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Bri moved to Asheville after a year of backpacking internationally. Bri intended to stay in Asheville only temporarily but quickly fell in love with the mountains and her Solstice family. Bri started with Solstice as a Mentor and then Team Manager before moving into the Residential Director role. She feels both pride and gratitude to be a part of the growth and healing she’s seen in students and their families during her time at Solstice. In her free time, Bri is often getting as much of the outdoors as possible. She enjoys hiking, canoeing, biking, and running

Academic Director

Ryn Blecke MS

Ryn comes to Solstice East with twenty years of experience as a teacher and academic leader in therapeutic, public, and independent schools across the country. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown University and her M.S. in Educational Psychology from the University of Tennessee. Her passion for creating engaging, student-centered learning environments led to her role as the founding Academic Dean and Dean of Faculty at The Bay School of San Francisco, an innovative, college preparatory school in California. The core of her work as an educator has always been about empowering students and supporting them in becoming their best selves. This philosophy drew her to Solstice East and she is thrilled to be a part of this community.

Adventure Therapy Specialist

Dan Horseman, B.S.

Dan is a graduate of Georgia College, where he earned a B.S. in Outdoor Education and Psychology. He has worked with two different organizations in North Carolina leading outdoor adventure trips and teaching primitive living skills for children of all ages. Most recently, he spent almost 2 years in Colorado doing lots of rock climbing and coordinating an adventure leadership program for local youth. Dan grew up playing sports of all sorts, including running cross country at the collegiate level. He has learned a lot of life skills through the use of sports and the outdoors and believes that both can be great mediums for helping youth develop strong values, build self-esteem, foster friendships, grow as young leaders, and engage in healthy lifestyles. In his spare time, Dan enjoys rock climbing, whitewater paddling, mountain biking, running, and hiking. One of Dan’s favorite personal experiences was thru-hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in 2013.

Psychiatrist

Tiffany Sauls, MD

Dr. Tiffany Sauls is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with a focus on integrative approaches to diagnosis and treatment of adolescent mental health issues. Not only does she provide medication management, she also assesses for nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, and food sensitivities that can contribute to mental health problems. She approaches psychiatry from a holistic model, using medications sparingly and only after contributing factors have been addressed and corrected. Dr. Sauls is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and completed her undergraduate degree at Davidson College in North Carolina. She attended medical school at the Medical College of Georgia and completed residency in Pediatrics, Adult Psychiatry and Child/Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky. She is board certified in Child/Adolescent Psychiatry, Adult Psychiatry and Integrative Medicine. Dr. Sauls worked in adolescent psychiatric residential treatment in Corvallis, Oregon for three years prior to moving to North Carolina in 2013. She lives in Asheville with her husband, two young children, and four animals. She enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, biking, kayaking and picnicking. She is very excited to be a part of the outstanding team of mental health professionals at Solstice East.

Psychiatrist

Mona Rice, MD

Dr. Rice is a board certified child & adolescent psychiatrist who completed her medical residency in psychiatry & medical fellowship in child & adolescent psychiatry at the Brody School of  Medicine in East Carolina University.  She has expertise in child & adolescent development & psychiatric disorders.Dr. Rice has been a licensed practitioner since 2006. She initially conducted her outpatient practice for 5 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2012, she has been treating children & adolescents in Western North Carolina. Dr. Rice strives to use a reasonable amount of medications that will enhance functioning while minimizing adverse effects. She collaborates with the therapeutic team & counsels her patients to utilize skills learned from therapy.

Operations Director

Pennie McLean, B.F.A.

Originally from Atlanta, Pennie came to the North Carolina mountains in 1999 because of its creative community and beautiful landscape. Pennie obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from University of Georgia. While living in Asheville, she has worked in various jobs such as office management, accounting and marketing in real estate and manufacturing companies. Living close by to the Solstice East campus, Pennie, her husband and young son enjoy the area. In fact, her husband grew up just down the road and they were married on our campus is 2001. Outside of work, Pennie spends her time working on art projects and home design. Especially interested in sustainably built homes, she has taken courses in drafting, CAD and green building practices.

Director of Learning Services

Jessica Stewart, B.A, M.ED

Jessica graduated with honors from Brevard College with her B.A. in English and an emphasis in secondary education. She is currently pursuing her M.Ed. in special education from Western Carolina University. She has experience teaching in a therapeutic residential setting. This setting is where she fully realized her passion for teaching diverse learners. She has also worked for the Autism Society of Western North Carolina teaching community skills to children on the autism spectrum. When not teaching, she enjoys reading and collecting records.

Executive Clinical Director

Jenny Selent, LMFT

Jenny is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Since 2008 Jenny has been helping families and individuals suffering from the severe symptoms of trauma. She has also dedicated much time to developing and implementing relationship-based, trauma-informed programming for the young women at Solstice RTC and Solstice East. Jenny has specialized training in EMDR and Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Areas of expertise include trauma, attachment, family systems, and a variety of women’s issues such as self-harm, body image, identity, and relationship issues. At the foundation of Jenny’s approach as a therapist are two beliefs: 1. Healthy relationships can facilitate healing and 2. Healing can facilitate healthy relationships. When not working, she can typically be found hiking, enjoying the mountains, or playing on her hobby farm with her beautiful children and wonderful husband.

Assistant Clinical & Equine Director, Primary Therapist

Georgia DeFrancia, M.S.W., LCSW

Georgia DeFrancia, a Colorado native, has been living in Western North Carolina for 10 years. She received her Masters in Social Work from the University of Denver and has over 15 years of experience in the mental health field with a specific focus on children, adolescents and families in both out patient and residential settings. She has extensive experience working with anxiety, depression, trauma and emotion regulation disorders. Georgia is rostered as a Trauma Focused CBT clinician and is in the midst of becoming certified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). In addition, Georgia incorporates equine assisted psychotherapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy into her work. She truly believes that her clients have the wisdom and skills within them to overcome their struggles. Outside the office Georgia enjoys skiing, hiking and creating memories with her family.

Primary Therapist

Becky Miller, LPC

Becky has several years experience working with adolescents, teens, and young adults in a variety of settings. She started her work with youth in Chicago, where she also received her BA in acting and directing from Columbia College. During this time, Becky witnessed the powerful connection between art, self-expression and healing. She received her MA in Clinical mental Health Counseling, with a concentration in Marriage/Family Therapy. Becky became a Licensed Professional Counselor as well as a Certified Expressive Art Therapist. She recently received training in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as well as extensive training in Adolescent/teen Sexualized Behavioral issues. Through her work in treating the individual with depression, anxiety, trauma, defiance, autism spectrum, and substance use, a common thread was found: the healing presence of connection and relationships are the true source of the healing process during those tender and resilient years of development toward adulthood. This evidence lead Becky to Solstice East, where she practices individual, family, and group therapy. Becky enjoys traveling, photography, writing, and spending time with friends and family. She loves the mountains and hiking with her sweet pup, Jetta

Primary Therapist

Sarah Bolick, MSW, LCSW

Sarah is a graduate of The University of Chicago, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work. While an intern, Sarah worked in public schools with elementary and middle school aged children to improve social and emotional well-being through trauma-informed psychotherapy. After graduating, Sarah re-located to North Carolina where she provided Intensive In-Home and Outpatient services to families in rural Appalachia. Sarah believes that healthy relationships are key in the healing process, and is grateful to be part of the Solstice team where the creation of healthy relationships is an integral part of treatment.  When not working, Sarah enjoys backpacking, rafting and hiking in the beautiful mountains of NC.

Primary Therapist

Anna White, MSW, LCAS, LCSW

Anna is an undergraduate and graduate from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. As an undergraduate she was a  Child Welfare Scholar. She worked in inpatient as well as outpatient with a focus on mental health and substance abuse. She has LCAS substance abuse specialty, is EMDR trained, utilizes DBT, CBT and enjoys facilitating group therapy. In her free time Anna enjoys reading, being outside, spending time with family

Primary Therapist

Bethany Shingleton, MSW, LCSWA

Bethany graduated from UNC-Wilmington with a degree in Social Work and spent time interning in public schools with middle school girls working to prevent relational aggression. She also worked with youth in residential YMCA summer camps, wilderness therapy programs and developmental daycare facilities as well as being a nanny across the US. Bethany is passionate about learning creative ways to help young people communicate and understand their feelings more effectively so they can live bright and full, loving lives. She is excited to be in Asheville with Solstice East, and feels very strongly about good attitudes, good food, all colors, spontaneous travel and outdoor ventures.

Primary Therapist

Caitlin Crolley, MSW, LCSW

Caitlin received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Social Work at Kennesaw State University, in Georgia. While completing school, she worked at both non-profit and government agencies serving children and youth affected by violence and trauma. During her graduate program, she provided services at a domestic violence center, co-developing a children’s program and providing therapeutic, academic and experiential services to adolescents living in transitional housing. Post-graduation, she relocated to Western North Carolina where she worked in community mental health, serving youth and families in outpatient and intensive in-home settings. It was then that she realized her passion for working with teens and sexual violence survivors. She later transitioned to work as the lead counselor for a rape crisis center, where she strengthened her knowledge and expertise on the long-term effects of trauma on the brain, body, and mind and how to heal from traumatic sexual experiences. Caitlin’s work is trauma focused and strengths based. She is trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Yoga for Resiliency and Trauma, as well as pulls from many other treatment modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and psychotherapy. During Caitlin’s free-time, she enjoys yoga, writing, hiking, singing, being with friends and family, and snuggling with her dog, Lula Mae.

Primary Therapist

Mark Dunn, M.C., LPC, LCMHC, LSUDC

Mark has worked in behavioral health and therapeutic settings for over Thirty years. He entered the behavioral health field in a direct care capacity, learning the important role of creating structure and ensures client safety. Being in the direct care role for over fifteen years helped him understand that relationship building and positive regard are at the heart of any therapeutic relationship. In 1997, he received the Licensed Substance Use Disorder Counselor Credential and began serving as a substance abuse counselor and program coordinator. During this time, Mark took on his first counseling responsibilities and began learning the intricacies of the addictions field. After several years of counseling he was asked to create new addictions programming and structure, which initiated some of the first programming that focused on core issues and executive functioning skills in a recovery atmosphere. Mark continued his education and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling, and thereafter received the Clinical Mental Health Counselor License. Mark has received training in many modalities to help those with trauma including EMDR and Trauma Focused CBT. Loosing his father at an early age inspired Mark to develop and facilitate workshops on working though grief and loss. During his time at Solstice East Mark has been involved in Family Systems, Experiential and Grief and Loss groups. “Patience, a desire to learn, and a sense of humor are at the heart of my success.” In the latter part of his career, Mark has had the privilege to mentor and supervise other therapists. He feels that providing the benefit of his experience to others is a way for him to give back to all those who have mentored him. Mark has had the privilege of working with hundreds of families and many of these families reach out to him years after treatment to provide updates or ask advice. Mark believe this is one of the highest compliments that can be paid to a helping professional, and he continues to be humbled at being a part of the healing process for families.

Equine Specialist

Terry Kozak, B.A., ES

Terry grew up in Lincoln, NE then moved to Fort Collins, CO where she graduated from Colorado State University (CSU) with a Bachelors in Sociology. Terry worked in community mental health with children and families for a few years and then ran a not-for-profit foster care agency for ten years. Terry has always been drawn to horses and began riding at a young age. She took equine equitation classes at CSU and has been taking private lessons ever since. She has always dreamed of blending her love for horses and her devotion to helping children and families, she now feels she has the perfect job as an Equine Specialist at Solstice East. Terry is certified in EAGALA and Trauma Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy; she is passionate about equine therapy and has seen first hand how horses change lives. With a background in natural horsemanship, Terry has been partnering and dancing with horses for over 20 years. Terry enjoys spending time outside hiking, running and at home on her farm with her husband, 2 children, horses, dogs, cats, chickens, goats, llamas, etc….

Specialty Groups Therapist

Susan Elaine, M.Ed., LMFT

Susan Elaine completed her B.A. degree in Psychology/Sociology at Emory and Henry College, Emory, Va. After several happy years as a stay-at-home parent, she completed her Masters of Education degree, with a specialty in Marriage and Family Therapy, at East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tn. Her training, in the interaction between individuals and systems, led her to identify a therapeutic gap in the unique developmental needs of adolescent girls and young women. After completing licensure as a marriage and family therapist, she focused her training and her passion on issues particular to adolescent girls, including disordered eating, body dysmorphia, trauma, and self-harm. She worked in a service-based counseling center, a private practice, and most recently in the Dept. of Psychiatry at the Quillen College of Medicine in Johnson City. She co-founded an eating disorder coalition in N.E. Tennessee, and created an eating disorder resource and provider network in her region. As a woman, daughter, sister, and mother, Susan believes in the intuitive power of the female spirit. She recognizes the power of healing, within a safe, trusting, and compassionate relationship, and deeply values the role of connectedness and mutual support. She remains committed to the valuable work of empowering girls and women within the sacred context of the healing journey.

Psychiatrist

Tiffany Sauls, MD

Dr. Tiffany Sauls is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with a focus on integrative approaches to diagnosis and treatment of adolescent mental health issues. Not only does she provide medication management, she also assesses for nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, and food sensitivities that can contribute to mental health problems. She approaches psychiatry from a holistic model, using medications sparingly and only after contributing factors have been addressed and corrected. Dr. Sauls is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and completed her undergraduate degree at Davidson College in North Carolina. She attended medical school at the Medical College of Georgia and completed residency in Pediatrics, Adult Psychiatry and Child/Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky. She is board certified in Child/Adolescent Psychiatry, Adult Psychiatry and Integrative Medicine. Dr. Sauls worked in adolescent psychiatric residential treatment in Corvallis, Oregon for three years prior to moving to North Carolina in 2013. She lives in Asheville with her husband, two young children, and four animals. She enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, biking, kayaking and picnicking. She is very excited to be a part of the outstanding team of mental health professionals at Solstice East.

Psychiatrist

Mona Rice, MD

Dr. Rice is a board certified child & adolescent psychiatrist who completed her medical residency in psychiatry & medical fellowship in child & adolescent psychiatry at the Brody School of  Medicine in East Carolina University.  She has expertise in child & adolescent development & psychiatric disorders.Dr. Rice has been a licensed practitioner since 2006. She initially conducted her outpatient practice for 5 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2012, she has been treating children & adolescents in Western North Carolina. Dr. Rice strives to use a reasonable amount of medications that will enhance functioning while minimizing adverse effects. She collaborates with the therapeutic team & counsels her patients to utilize skills learned from therapy.

Transition Coach

Danielle Andrews, MA, LPC, CFTP

Before pursuing her deeper passions in counseling, Danielle worked for 12-years in the business sector, specializing in Labor/Employee Relations, Leadership Development, Mediation, Collective Bargaining, and Employment Law. Since 2008, Danielle has worked enthusiastically with adolescents, young adults, and families in wilderness programs, private practice, schools, and treatment settings. She is thrilled to combine her background in conflict resolution, systemic change management, counseling, and transitions to her role at Solstice East. Specializations include: addiction, anxiety, spectrum disorders, complex PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and attachment. Danielle is EMDR trained and Certified as a Family Trauma Professional (CFTP). “Character cannot be determined in ease and quiet; only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” –Helen Keller

Primary Therapist

Zac Tompkins

Zac is a graduate of Western Carolina University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. He first worked in community mental health with the entire spectrum of client presenting issues. This experience created in him early awareness of the critical impact of traumatic events and painful relational experiences in childhood and adolescence on mental health issues later in life. Since then, he has focused his practice on trauma work and attachment repair, working at a rape crisis center serving survivors of sexual violence and in private practice. Core to his therapeutic work is the formation of a warm, trusting relationship grounded in safety and respect. He uses mindfulness-based interventions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Gestalt therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help clients redefine their relationship with their thoughts, feelings, relationships, and history. He also uses Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing to help clients create distance from painful experiences and foster more adaptive perspectives of their lives. He’s skilled at working with depression, anxiety, trauma, and issues of identity and self-esteem that so many adolescents face. He hopes to help his clients identify and express their closely held values and increase their capacity to form caring, mutually healthy relationships. When he’s not working, you can find him in the woods, spending time with friends and family, playing with his two dogs, or adventuring on his motorcycle.

Primary Therapist, LCSWA, LCASA

Kaity Vandenberg

Kaity has over eight years of experiences working with youth and young adults in a variety of settings including clinical, academic, adventure, and summer camp programming and has absolutely loved it. She received a B.S. in Outdoor Education and most recently a master’s degree in Social Work. Kaity is passionate about pairing experiential learning models with therapeutic modalities. She believes that by fostering authentic relationships with others and the natural world, personal healing and meaningful connections continually grow. Kaity feels she has found an inspiring community in Asheville and at Solstice East and she is so humbled to a part of it all. When Kaity is not working, she loves spending time with her family, doing mindful yoga, and spontaneously traveling and adventuring.

Primary Therapist

Vicki Mattei

Vicki received her Bachelor’s in Neuroscience from Ursinus College and holds a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Certificate in Substance Abuse Studies from Western Carolina University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist in North Carolina. Her experience includes work with a variety of mental health and substance use disorders in academic, residential, and outpatient settings. Her approach to therapy is person-centered and strengths-based, and integrates elements of Mindfulness, Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Existential Therapy, and somatic work. Central to her approach with clients is the belief that each person has within them the potential to heal from difficult life experiences and transform into a more resilient and authentic version of themselves. She views herself as a guide on this journey, in which connection and relationship are essential for growth. She is holistic in her work with clients, bringing mind, body, and spirit into the work, and has specialized training in Subtle Yoga, a trauma-informed, body-centered approach to working with mental health and trauma. When Vicki is not working she enjoys yoga, reading, decorating, cooking, the outdoors, and spending time with her family.

Primary Therapist

Olivia Davis, NCC, LPC-A

Olivia has been in the world of relational work with adolescents for over 10 years. Olivia earned her undergraduate degree in Nonprofit Development from the University of Memphis, and spent several years mentoring teenagers and leading teams of volunteers. Olivia moved to North Carolina to work at a camp for adolescents and families. On a whim, she applied to work at Solstice East as a mentor, and fell in love with the mental health field. Olivia went back to school and earned her graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lenoir-Rhyne University. While in school, Olivia worked in a transitional living home, wilderness therapy, and a drug and alcohol detox clinic. Most recently, Olivia worked in community mental health as a school-based therapist. Olivia is incredibly excited and honored to be back at Solstice to serve kids and families through such a crucial time. When Olivia’s not in the office, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee, tending to her many plants, making music, reading crime fiction novels, or trying to make her baby laugh.

Primary Therapist

Dan Hadley

Bio coming soon!

Academic Director

Ryn Blecke MS

Ryn comes to Solstice East with twenty years of experience as a teacher and academic leader in therapeutic, public, and independent schools across the country. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown University and her M.S. in Educational Psychology from the University of Tennessee. Her passion for creating engaging, student-centered learning environments led to her role as the founding Academic Dean and Dean of Faculty at The Bay School of San Francisco, an innovative, college preparatory school in California. The core of her work as an educator has always been about empowering students and supporting them in becoming their best selves. This philosophy drew her to Solstice East and she is thrilled to be a part of this community.

Director of Learning Services

Jessica Stewart, B.A, M.ED

Jessica graduated with honors from Brevard College with her B.A. in English and an emphasis in secondary education. She is currently pursuing her M.Ed. in special education from Western Carolina University. She has experience teaching in a therapeutic residential setting. This setting is where she fully realized her passion for teaching diverse learners. She has also worked for the Autism Society of Western North Carolina teaching community skills to children on the autism spectrum. When not teaching, she enjoys reading and collecting records.

Assistant Academic Director, Mathematics Teacher

Dan Coleman, B.S.

Dan Coleman, a Western North Carolina native, received his B.A. in Mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2009 with University Honors and Departmental Distinction. As a licensed math instructor and a North Carolina Teaching Fellow, Dan has spent his professional career working with youth in therapeutic education environments. He enjoys music, cooking, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying the great outdoors. As a passionate educator, promoting diversity in the mathematical community, Dan came to Solstice East with many ideas for developing a classroom setting that inspires young women to become thoroughly engaged in science and mathematics.

Fitness Director

Sarah Matulich, B.A., QMHP

Sarah graduated from North Carolina Wesleyan College with a Bachelors in Psychology and a minor in Justice Studies. She is a native of Buffalo, NY who moved to North Carolina to be with her family and attend college. Before Solstice East, Sarah has worked at the autism society and worked with male adolescents at a therapeutic boarding school. In Sarah’s free time, she loves to play lacrosse and soccer. and explore the many delights Asheville has to offer. She is currently going to a bootcamp class and enjoys being outside. She enjoys spending quality time with family, friends and her two cats.

English Teacher

MacKenzie Hand M.S.T

Greetings and salutations. I am MacKenzie Hand, the English teacher for all levels at Timbersong Academy! I am a New York native, having earned my Master’s in the Science of Teaching from SUNY Plattsburgh in upstate New York. After earning my teaching certificate, I moved to Philadelphia, PA where I taught 7th grade Language Arts at a middle school in the Kingsessing neighborhood. I come to Timbersong with an enthusiasm for ELA that is tough to match, and I hope to share that passion and energy with all my students in a safe and nurturing environment, where we can explore humanity and hone our abilities as effective communicators! When I am not busy immersing myself in all the joys of teaching, I am probably busy rambling about J.R.R. Tolkien’s collected works, writing music, or working on bicycles (my second passion, I’ve been a organizing/managing local shops and volunteer cycling workspaces as a mechanic for nearly ten years now). I am thrilled to be living in the city of Asheville, alongside my partner Juliya and our dog, Piper.

Art Teacher

Nikki Shoneman, BA

Nikki has a BA. in Fine Arts from UC Santa Cruz with a focus in painting and drawing and was honored as a California Art Scholar. She exhibits, teaches, performs and offers workshops in California and North Carolina, where she relocated in 2012. She has been oil painting since the age of eight and continues to explore and express through photography, painting, drawing, and ceramics. Her inspiration comes from her deep connection to nature and using art as a deep mindfulness practice.  She conveys those sensitivities through many different media. She is the founder and past director as well as art facilitator for MOVE, a non-profit art organization providing alternatives ways to at-risk youth in the bay area. Now in North Carolina, Nikki continues to offer art classes and loves teaching at Timbersong Academy.

History Teacher

Carol Sowers, M.Ed.

Carol comes to Solstice East after moving to Asheville a little over a year ago from Washington D.C. There she taught IB History and was an Assistant Principal at the Islamic Saudi Academy. Carol has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and a Master’s of Education Degree with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction. Carol has broad experience in education, having taught ESL and IB History, served as a Dorm Parent, and worked as an Autism Paraprofessional. All of these experiences have informed her educational philosophy and strengthened her love of education. When not at school, Carol enjoys exploring the Asheville area, reading, playing with her Star Wars themed kittens, and spending time with her friends and family.

Musical Arts Teacher

Dustin Wallace

Dustin moved to Asheville from Central Pennsylvania in late 2016 and brings a wealth of experience in both mental health and music education. Dustin began touring as a professional musician at age 17 playing with various Blues acts around the east coast and midwest. After six years as an Aerospace Propulsion Engineer in the U.S. Air Force, Dustin began working in direct care in both inpatient and residential treatment settings while teaching individual instrument lessons as well as classes in music history and marketing at both the secondary and collegiate level.. During this time, Dustin also founded the punk band With The Punches and toured nationally and internationally for five years. Dustin currently splits time between Timbersong and building custom guitars

Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design; Science Teacher

Sara Camuso, B.S. Ed. Secondary Education, Biology

Sara Camuso, while not a WNC native, has been in the Asheville area for nearly 10 years.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education, specializing in Biology from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Prior to teaching, she also received a Bachelor’s degree in Turfgrass Science from The Pennsylvania State University and was the previous field manager for the Asheville Tourists baseball team.  Sara has experience as both a classroom instructor as well as leading out of the classroom learning experiences such as education seminars and public science conventions. Aside from her role as Science Teacher, Sara works with the current faculty in her role as the Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design to create multidisciplinary learning experiences.  Sara is currently pursuing her M.Ed. in Instructional Design.  In her free time, Sara enjoys mountain biking, rock climbing, and whitewater kayaking, as well as sharing her passion for the outdoors.

Teacher

Michael Lambeth

Michael grew up in the small town of Pine Island, MN and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studied Biology and Environmental Science.  As he was completing university, he wasn’t sure what to do with his life, so he joined the Peace Corps and became a math and science teacher in Sierra Leone.  The two years spent in West Africa were life-changing, and helped form him into the teacher he is today.  Upon returning to the U.S. he has taught both math and/or science in California, Massachusetts, and in North Carolina.  He loves working at Timbersong Academy and using his diverse experiences to help the students succeed.
Humanities Teacher

Mark ​​Wonnacott

Mark Wonnacott is originally from Belleville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. He earned a BA in philosophy and political science from McKendree University, a Master’s in communication from the University of Central Missouri, and finished PhD coursework in communication at the University of Kansas. His experience translating complex concepts to broad audiences lead him to teaching, and he as been at private high schools since arriving in western North Carolina five years ago. His favorite part of teaching is the relationship building that accompanies it, which is a primary motivation for him to come to Timbersong. When not in the classroom, Mark enjoys cooking, writing dystopian science fiction, and hiking with his dogs Barley and Kili.

English Teacher

Anne-Marie Farmer

Anne-Marie comes to Solstice East with experience in independent, public, and therapeutic schools in Vermont. Anne-Marie earned her teaching certification in English from the state of Vermont after completing a four-year secondary education program at the University of Vermont. Her background in wilderness therapy has been the foundation for her relational approach throughout her experience as an educator. Her passion for creating engaging, student-centered lesson plans that meet the unique needs of diverse learners has been a guiding principle for her career. She has built her practice around empowering students to find their voice and develop the skills to engage with the world around them through literature. It is this educational philosophy that drew her to working at Solstice East. She is proud to be a part of the teaching staff here and join the greater community. While not in the classroom, Anne-Marie enjoys going on hikes with her dog, Aslan, and spending time with her friends and family.

Program Director

Bri Anicetti, B.A.

Bri graduated in 2009 from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a Bachelors degree in Psychology. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Bri moved to Asheville after a year of backpacking internationally. Bri intended to stay in Asheville only temporarily but quickly fell in love with the mountains and her Solstice family. Bri started with Solstice as a Mentor and then Team Manager before moving into the Residential Director role. She feels both pride and gratitude to be a part of the growth and healing she’s seen in students and their families during her time at Solstice. In her free time, Bri is often getting as much of the outdoors as possible. She enjoys hiking, canoeing, biking, and running

Residential Trainer

Danielle Manion, B.A.

Danielle graduated from the University of North Carolina Asheville with a BA in psychology. Following college Danielle has worked in developmental childcare centers, YMCA summer camp and after-school programs and a Psychiatric treatment facility. Danielle has always has been passionate about helping young people who were “at-risk” or in need of extra guidance and support, find a greater peace and meaning in their lives. Since coming to Solstice Danielle has enjoyed using the relationship based model to not only build relationships with these young women, but has continued to learn more about herself. Danielle hopes to foster an understanding of self worth in the youth that she works with so that they may see the great potential their lives have in store for them. Away from work, Danielle loves creek hopping, waterfall jumping and any outdoor adventure she can find with her dog by her side. She has grown up in these beautiful mountains and is constantly finding new outdoor treasures. Danielle value the importance of a healthy active lifestyle and the benefits that working out and running have on everyday happiness.

Overnight Team Manager

Robin Mitzelos, M.S.P.

Robin is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Animal Science. Robin then went on to earn a Masters degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix, she is now currently working on her final year to finish her doctorate in Education. Robin also has experience working with children of various ages, working as lead preschool teacher to being a director for the YMCA. She also volunteered for the Knox County School System in their elementary reading program. Robin has also taught psychology, ethics, and logic at the National College of Business as well Walter State Community College. Robin loves animals particularly horseback riding and is a voracious reader.

Hazel Team Manager

Effy White

Effy graduated from Appalachian State University in 2016 with a degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies.  While living in Boone, NC she worked as a Desk Shift Volunteer with the ASU Women’s Center, as an After School Program Intern with Western Youth Network, and a Climbing Wall Supervisor at ASU Outdoor Programs.  Her passion for feminism and women’s empowerment led her to Solstice East, where she loves working with the residents on finding their self-worth and teaching them to express themselves assertively.  Effy believes that softness is a strength, and shows up as a role model for students by showing them empathy and unconditional positive regard. She spends her free time rock climbing, drawing, and studying for school.
Alarka Team Manager

Afton Weiner, M.S

Afton strives to make every day feel like Summer Camp! After attending summer camp for 9 years as a camper and 7 years as a counselor, department head, and head counselor, Afton decided to turn her passion into a career. She received a Master’s degree in Camp Administration and became the Program Director at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp in central Florida. Knowing it was time to leave the nest, Afton decided to give the mountains a go and found Solstice East. “I didn’t just find another place to work, I found a community.” Here, Afton can apply her passion for play in a new and meaningful way that fosters connection, healing, and growth.

Hominy Team Manager

Lauren Westmoreland

Lauren was born and raised in Mooresville, NC. While in high school she worked with teenage girls who struggled at home and at school. She continued in the mentor role at Western Carolina University where she mentored freshman throughout her undergraduate degree. She graduated from WCU in 2015 with a degree in psychology and a minor in nutrition. Lauren has worked at Solstice East since 2015 and takes pride in the growth and all that she has learned working here. Lauren believes that there is an opportunity to learn in everything that we do and cherishes her time and growth at Solstice East. Lauren’s passion at work is to guide the students into loving and valuing themselves in a way they deserve and empowering them to make healthy changes in their lives. Outside of work Lauren enjoys hiking with her dog, cuddling with her cat and traveling. 

Laurel Team Manager

La’Neice Blessing

La’Neice grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She left home in 2012 to attend Outdoor Educators institute in Oakland,California. After graduating from the program, she worked with multiple non-profit organizations in the Bay area. Her main mission was to support youth in finding healing through the outdoors. In 2014 La’Neice was offered a position at Trails Carolina. It was there that she discovered the importance of teenagers having strong role models in their life who can show up and meet them where they are at. La’Neice transitioned to Solstice in 2017 and has worked as a mentor and rec staff. When La’Neice is not working she spends her time reading, rock climbing and playing board games.

Eno Team Manager

Margo Murphy

Margo moved to Asheville when she was 13 and hasn’t been able to stay away since. The mountains always call her back home. Margo has a BA in Psychology with a minor in Human Service Studies from Elon University and an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lenoir-Rhyne University. Margo has been at Solstice for over 2 years, which started as a job as a mentor/internship, and was fortunate enough that it turned into a career. Margo has said, “The relationships I have at Solstice are so important to me and I continue to learn and grow every day through the work, which is my favorite part.”

Transportation Coordinator/Nurse Assistant

Kim Gregory, CNA

Kim became a Certified Nursing Assistant and Med Tech while working on her bachelor degree in Psychology from Mars Hill University. Since then, she has worked on the Memory Care units of various long term care facilities. In the medical department, she helps with the reorder and distribution of medications, transporting the girls, as well as help address certain medical needs.

Nurse

Alana Howard, RN

In July of 2015, Solstice East welcomed Alana Howard to their team as a their new Registered Nurse. Because Alana has always found joy in helping others, she has always known that she has wanted to become a nurse. Prior to working at Solstice East and AAG, Alana worked in a local hospital on the Nursing Resource team which means that she was a solid role player filling in wherever the hospital needed whether that was in the ER, or in general care. Her favorite part of working at Solstice East is being able to meet so many amazing staff and young girls that she can help. When she isn’t at work, Alana can be found swimming, reading, or playing video games and her favorite book is 1984, by George Orwell. Along with these activities, Alana is an animal lover and has 5 cats, 3 dogs, and a turtle!

Nurse

Taylor Irwin, RN

Taylor Irwin joins the Solstice East team from Eliada Home, a residential treatment facility for adolescents. Taylor attended the University of Central Florida and graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Psychology degrees in 2014. Prior to relocating to Asheville, NC, she worked for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital for two years as a pediatric nurse in St. Petersburg, FL. Taylor is certified in Pediatric Advanced Life Saving (PALS) and is a Certified Pediatric Nurse. In her spare time, Taylor enjoys mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, reading, and playing with her fluffy dog, Jasper.

Makayla Davis

Before working with Solstice East, Makayla was a field instructor for SUWS of the Carolinas. She graduated from North Greenville University in Greenville, SC with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2016. After graduating, she worked at the Mission Hospital psychiatric facility Copestone as a behavioral health technician before continuing her journey at SUWS. While working at SUWS, she was able to obtain her Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification. She has worked at Solstice for a little over a year and loves her job. In her free time, she enjoys lots of hiking and whitewater kayaking.
Nurse

Kelcie Barker, RN

Bio coming soon!

Operations Director

Pennie McLean, B.F.A.

Originally from Atlanta, Pennie came to the North Carolina mountains in 1999 because of its creative community and beautiful landscape. Pennie obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from University of Georgia. While living in Asheville, she has worked in various jobs such as office management, accounting and marketing in real estate and manufacturing companies. Living close by to the Solstice East campus, Pennie, her husband and young son enjoy the area. In fact, her husband grew up just down the road and they were married on our campus is 2001. Outside of work, Pennie spends her time working on art projects and home design. Especially interested in sustainably built homes, she has taken courses in drafting, CAD and green building practices.

IT Tech

Colt Wight, B.A., QMHP

Colt joined the Solstice East team in the spring of 2014. He enjoys preparing and supporting new hires for their direct care role as well as keeping emails and print jobs flowing. Colt has many years of direct care and supervisorial experience with wilderness and residential therapy, and holds a Bachelors of Arts in Recreation Administration. In his free time, Colt enjoys hiking, trail running and rock climbing with his wife and two daughters.

HR Administrative Assistant

Gaynor Mulrooney

With a career in office administration that spans 25 plus years, Gaynor has worked on 3 continents and in a variety of working environments from Defense Force to Private Game Reserves. Going from Africa to Europe to the United States, she arrived in Asheville in 2011 and fell in love with the Asheville culture and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway. She accepted her position as Administrative Assistant at Solstice East in 2013. Gaynor is also a notary public for the program.

Admissions Coordinator

Molly Anderson

Molly graduated from Western Carolina University in 2014 with a degree in History with a concentration in Military History and a minor in Anthropology. During college, Molly was an active member of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band. Being an Asheville local, Molly moved to Colorado for a year and soon realized she wanted to be back in her hometown and ended up finding Solstice. Molly has a work history of being a high school history teacher and working in hospitality/customer service. Before moving into admissions, Molly worked as a mentor with the students and served as a substitute teacher at the Solstice high school as well. In her spare time, she enjoys going to concerts and listening to live music (Umphrey’s McGee being the favorite), snowboarding, disc golf, and hiking. If she’s not outdoors, you can find her at home, snuggling her cats. Molly loves the value of healthy relationships that Solstice promotes and a positive peer culture. She is passionate about maintaining relationships with the students and believes this program has helped her just as much as the residents.

Facilities Manager

Shawn Scullin, M.S.

Facilities Director

Jim Tomes

Jim is excited to be working at Solstice East and brings one of his eight dogs with him to work regularly, Bella. The students love having her on campus and feel connected to her and Jim! He has a soft spot for animals of all kinds, but especially dogs. Jim has four children and eight grandchildren. Jim enjoys woodworking and metal working and comes to Solstice with a background in Manufacturing with a focus on Engineering and Operations. Before coming to Solstice, he most recently worked as a Maintenance Director at a Skilled Nursing facility. Jim said, “I love working here. Just to be a part of this organization is a privilege. The staff is dedicated to helping our residents and each other. I have not had a single time where anyone has hesitated to help.” We are so lucky to have Jim as a part of our wonderful culture.

Transportation Coordinator/Nurse Assistant

Kim Gregory, CNA

Kim became a Certified Nursing Assistant and Med Tech while working on her bachelor degree in Psychology from Mars Hill University. Since then, she has worked on the Memory Care units of various long term care facilities. In the medical department, she helps with the reorder and distribution of medications, transporting the girls, as well as help address certain medical needs.

Adventure Therapy Specialist

Dan Horseman, B.S.

Dan is a graduate of Georgia College, where he earned a B.S. in Outdoor Education and Psychology. He has worked with two different organizations in North Carolina leading outdoor adventure trips and teaching primitive living skills for children of all ages. Most recently, he spent almost 2 years in Colorado doing lots of rock climbing and coordinating an adventure leadership program for local youth. Dan grew up playing sports of all sorts, including running cross country at the collegiate level. He has learned a lot of life skills through the use of sports and the outdoors and believes that both can be great mediums for helping youth develop strong values, build self-esteem, foster friendships, grow as young leaders, and engage in healthy lifestyles. In his spare time, Dan enjoys rock climbing, whitewater paddling, mountain biking, running, and hiking. One of Dan’s favorite personal experiences was thru-hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in 2013.

Adventure Leader

Adam Becker

Adam graduated Warren Wilson College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Outdoor Leadership and a minor in Biology. He has worked as a Lead Sea Kayaking Guide in Hawaii, led Whitewater Kayaking in Colorado and was a Ski Patroller in Cataloochee. Adam is also a certified Emergency Medical Technician, Outdoor Emergency Care Technician, a Swiftwater Rescue Technician, a Wilderness First Responder, and a Wildland Firefighter Type II. Adam says, “I have learned and grown massively through my experiences in wilderness and in Adventure settings. Providing similar challenging and empowering opportunities for our students allows me to share those experiences that have been incredibly important in my own development.”

Fitness Coordinator

Rachel Rothstein

Rachel was born and raised in Raleigh, NC. She has been working in the Wellness/Fitness industry for about 15 years and has a plethora of experience with people of all backgrounds and ages ranging from 5-95 years young. Rachel received her Bachelors of Science from App State U and Masters of Science from The Citadel, with degrees in Exercise Sports Science with minors in Psychology and Health Care Management.

Rachel’s passion has always been helping individuals incorporate movement and positive vibes into their everyday life!
Some of her favorite things to do are hanging out with her partner and two dogs. She also enjoys cooking and going on adventures.