Emily Payne Co-Founding Director
Emily hails from the mouth of the Fraser River on Coast Salish land, and now calls the Yukon home. She is a certified teacher with 15 years experience working with young people of all ages. Aside from growing up by the salt and sea of coastal BC, her ancestral roots are in the Celtic-Anglo isles and Scandanavia. Emily has a background working as an international youth leadership trip facilitator in rural Kenya and Ecuador, canoe and backpacking outtrip director, motivational tour speaker, native plant researcher, outdoor curriculum designer and classroom teacher (French, Science & Humanities).
She holds a BEd in Indigenous Perspectives from SFU, a BA Biogeography (Environment & Sustainability) from UBC, and is a Level 3 Childcare worker. She has certificates in 80-hour Wilderness First Responder, Flatwater Canoe Instruction, Swift Water Rescue Level 1 & 2, Yoga Teacher Training and Permaculture Design. She has recently trained at The Tracker School in New Jersey in survival skills and tracking. Her big passion is working with plants, which she pursues through traditional willow basket-weaving, harvesting and blending wild herbal teas and making medicinal salves.
After traveling to nearly every continent, she continues to be inspired by the immense beauty of her Yukon home. She co-founded Rivers to Ridges out of her belief that building curiosity for the natural world at a young age is an integral part of a healthy life. When she’s not outside teaching, you can find her singing along with her piano, blues dancing, growing backyard vegetables or trying to bake the perfect sourdough loaf.
Erin Nicolardi Co-Founding Director
For Erin, Rivers to Ridges was born out of a desire to create space for young people to feel curious about and connected to the Earth. Erin was raised on Mississauga of the Credit Territory between the Niagara Escarpment and the shores of Lake Ontario. Erin has always felt called to work outdoors with young people, and she is a certified teacher, with her BEd in Outdoor, Experiential Education (Queen's University). She seeks out community- and skills-focused professional development, and uses her experiences to mentor young people and support those in the fields of education and child and youth work.
What makes Erin feel alive?
Rosalind Crump Forest School Educator & Coordinator
Rosalind was born in Whitehorse, on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council. She is thrilled to call the Yukon home again and to be joining the Rivers to Ridges team. Growing up in Ontario and in Denmark, Rosalind has many memories of playing outside with her sisters, creating worlds in a cluster of flowering bushes or up in the branches of trees – and she cannot wait to explore the worlds that await the Forest School, the Nest.
She is a certified teacher with a BEd from St. Thomas University, and a BA in Geography and Aboriginal Perspectives, and Drama from Mount Allison University. She has spent the last several years living and working in Inuvik, NWT, most recently as a Kindergarten and Junior Kindergarten teacher. Prior to that, she worked as the Coordinator for the Inuvik Community Greenhouse and on organic farms in Ontario and BC. Rosalind has also spent a year teaching English in four elementary schools in Montluçon, France.
Rosalind is passionate about play-based learning and the role it can play in helping children gain autonomy and responsibility. In addition to playing and learning outside, Rosalind enjoys singing and playing music, and growing veggies to support local food security. She loves all aspects of theatre – from backstage production in Inuvik’s high school, to touring with a bilingual theatre troupe (once as a talking broccoli!), and performing in Shakespeare in the park. Rosalind is excited by how theatre can empower children and youth, and build self-confidence.
She believes that a healthy connection with the land leads to healthier relationships between people. She believes the learning journey resembles a seed as it grows – what is crucial is cultivating an environment where every child can put down roots for their learning to flourish.
Colin O'Neil Camp Manager
Colin grew up in New Westminster, British Columbia on Coast Salish territory. He spent his youth reluctantly hiking the Coast and Cascade Mountains with his parents, learning gradually to love them. One winter day, looking south to Hozomeen Mountain in the Washington Cascades, his love was realized and he has sought mountains and wild places ever since. Since 2014, Colin has been exploring the Yukon and meeting wonderful people in the process. In 2018 he finally decided to stay.
Colin has spent many summers working at Camp Goodtimes, a Canadian Cancer Society summer camp
for children with a history of cancer. He has taught English to foreign exchange students, social science to university students, and currently works as an Educational Assistant at Elijah Smith Elementary School.
Since moving to Whitehorse, he has had fantastic opportunities to run outdoor programming with Champagne and Aishihik First Nation in Haines Junction and with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation at Dechinta Centre for Learning and Research. Colin holds a Masters degree in human geography and never tires of helping people connect to the land around them. He also holds a certificate in Wilderness Advanced First Aid. When not working with kids, Colin can be found exploring the mountains and valleys of the Yukon.
2020 will be Colin’s second summer at Rivers to Ridges and he is thrilled to be on the leadership team this year as Camp Manager.
Zach Zimmerman Outdoor Facilitator
Zach was born in the Arctic on Inuvialuit land and was raised in the Yukon on Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta'an Kwäch'än Council land. Throughout his childhood, Zach always held the outdoors very close to his heart and spent much of his time camping, fishing, and playing in the Yukon Wilderness. Some of Zach's favourite things during the Yukon summers are walking around the Hidden Lakes Trail and swimming in Schwatka Lake with his friends. Zach loves to share his outdoor knowledge with others and loves telling stories about his adventures.
Zach recently graduated from Pearson College UWC, which is situated on the southern tip on Vancouver Island. Pearson College focuses on making education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. Zach is going to bring the lessons he learned at this transformative school to Rivers to Ridges in the hope of fostering understanding and education in the context of Yukon's wilderness. Zach is going to attend IE university in Spain next year to start his undergraduate degree in International Relations.
Zach is very excited to return to Rivers to Ridges for his fourth consecutive summer while wearing his nature name, Kinnickinnick, with pride. Zach loves to spend his summer having fun in Squirrel forest and cannot wait for another inspiring and fulfilling time playing with, educating, and learning from the participants and leaders of Rivers to Ridges.
Véronique Lachance Outdoor Facilitator
Véronique is a French Canadian with French, Basque, Scottish, and long ago Mi'kmaq ancestors. Her family has multigenerational bush stories, and she also has a knowledge of traditional herbal medicine passed down to her by her grandmothers. She grew up on the traditional territory of Abekani First Nation (Sherbrooke, Southern Québec). She also spent summers and part of winters with her family on the traditional territory of Mi'kmaq First Nation (Gaspésie) and Atikamewk First Nation (Mauricie).
She is currently studying in the YNTEP (Yukon Native Teaching Education Program). She has a background in Theatre (Acting Degree from UQÀM, Montréal) and has a practice of doing immersive installation and writing. She moved to the Yukon in 2017 and lives in a dry cabin at Upper Laberge.
Véronique runs afterschool programs at Ghùch Tlâ Community School (Carcross Tagish First Nation) and Nàkwät'à Kų̀ Potlatch House with Kwanlin Dün First Nation. She also gives Drama workshops in many schools through the program Artist in the Schools.
She believes that spending time on the land is the most inclusive way to connect with nature, yourself, and others. She is looking forward to taking part in the second year to the marvelous team of Rivers to Ridges and feeling ready to begin a new season!
An early fall multi-day backpacking trip in with a local experiential high school program is where Emily found Erin in 2014. At the time, Erin was fresh to the territory and woefully unprepared for her first backcountry hiking trip. With the help of a shared tent, warm tea and lots of duct tape, Emily supported Erin on the adventure.
A couple months later, Erin had the chance to repay the love by heading out with a friend to support Emily who was stuck in Watson Lake with a broken down vehicle. A surprise snowstorm closed the roads, and they were forced to stay the night at the Cozy Nest. Conversation eventually turned to life passions, and it turned out that Erin and Emily both had the same (not-so) secret dream of building a program that guides young people towards a meaningful connection with the land.
Rooted in mutual support for one another and a deep love of mentoring children in wild spaces, Rivers to Ridges was born! Now, in 2020, Rivers to Ridges is celebrating over four years in operation.