Emily Payne - Co-Founder & Director
Emily hails from the mouth of the Fraser River on Coast Salish land, and now calls the Yukon home. She is fifth-generation Canadian with ancestral roots in the Anglo-Celtic isles and Scandanavia. She is a certified teacher with 15 years experience working with young people of all ages. 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.
She holds a BEd in Indigenous Perspectives from SFU, a BA Geography (Environment and 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 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 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 about 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-Founder & 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?
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 2019, Rivers to Ridges is celebrating four years in operation.
Matt Friesen - Senior Outdoor Facilitator
Matteo is returning for his third season with Rivers to Ridges. He was raised in Sto:lo territory in southern BC, and has since drifted far and wide in both education and travel. He currently lives in Sechelt BC, working as an Indigenous Education Support Teacher with the Sunshine Coast School District. He has recently taught in the nature-based education program - NEST, Nature Education for Sustainable Todays and Tomorrows, which provides opportunity for students to learn outside and from the natural environment.
He has taught for a number of years both in BC and the Yukon and holds a BA in History and Fine Arts and a BEd in Environmental Education from SFU. Before finding his groove as an educator, he was involved in urban farming projects in Mexico, helping develop a Young Weavers cooperative in Oaxaca, and pursuing his passion for the natural world through travel and work. He holds a Wilderness Advanced First Aid certificate, and a Conservation Outdoor Recreation Education certificate through BC wildlife Federation.
His enjoyment of the natural world and passion to share it others, has connected him with opportunities to lead student teams on adventure and educational based trips, ranging from kayaking in south - eastern Alaska to multi-day alpine trips.
Véronique Lachance - Outdoor Facilitator
Born and raised in Southern Québec, Véronique has a familial heritage of bush life and traditional herbal medicine passed down by her grandmothers.
Véronique spent much time exploring the wilderness and since childhood, visual arts and theatre have been a significant part in her life. She spent a couple of years in Montréal where she built her artistic approach through an Acting Degree (from the University of Montréal in Québec), several artistic residencies, and experiences as a performer, director and writer. She enjoys developing installations and performances in an immersive space, to feel the same organic sense of being in the bush. In 2017, she found in the Yukon a perfect balance of living in a cabin, spending time on the land and living aligned with her passions.
Since she began her life in the Yukon, she has worked with Gwaandak Theatre, Ramshackle Theatre and Nakai Theatre. She is also teaching an afterschool program at Ghùch Tlâ Community School (Carcross) and works at the KDFN government in the Youth Recreational Program as support and art facilitator. She also teaches weekly drama and art in many schools with the program Artist in the Schools. In the last few years, she has developed a passion for teaching and mentoring youth through art and outdoor activities. Her work in predominately indigenous and diverse backgrounds inspired her to go back to school this fall in the YNTEP program (Yukon Native Teacher Education Program) at the Yukon College. Véronique also has a Wilderness First Aid certification.
Colin O'Neil - Outdoor Facilitator
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. In 2014, Colin has been exploring 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 in the Yukon education system as a supply teacher.
Colin holds a MA in human geography and is thrilled by any opportunity to connect people to places,
history, and the natural world around them. When not working with kids, Colin can be found exploring
the mountains and valleys of Yukon. 2019 is Colin’s first summer with Rivers to Ridges and he is thrilled to
be a part of the team!
Kelly Scott - Outdoor Facilitator
Kelly Scott has lived in Whitehorse for 5 years now. Born in Rockwood Ontario, Kelly spent many childhood days exploring nature and discovering the wonders of the local Conservation Area. As an adult, Kelly is keen to spread the joy of outdoor exploration with other children.
Kelly graduated with a BA in Modern Languages (Spanish and French) and a Minor in Sociology in 2009 from Bishop’s University in Quebec. Kelly then taught as a French Assistant in Toronto Ontario for 4 years with children ranging from 3 to 9 years old. During this time Kelly realized that Montessori was where she wanted to focus her time and energy and she is now a trained Elementary Montessori Guide with AMI, qualifying her to teach in Montessori Schools internationally.
Kelly has chosen Whitehorse as her home base and has been teaching at the Yukon Montessori School for 5 years with grades 1-3. Her other passions include singing, performing at open mic nights, theatre (you may have seen her in the Zeitgeist Cabaret recently), connecting children with theatre opportunities (5 plays to date), crocheting, making jewelry, reading, writing, cracking jokes (teachers love wordplay). Kelly is thrilled to put on her sunhat and join the team at Rivers to Ridges to guide children in finding their place within society by connecting them with the outdoors!