Sarah Ottley, Executive Director
Sarah has served as ARC’s Executive Director since 2013. She joined ARC in 2009 to open a new program site in Yosemite and soon took on other responsibilities including Course Director, Outreach Coordinator, and Program Director. Sarah began her career in environmental education working at national parks in Arizona, Alaska and California. She enjoys many outdoor activities, especially backpacking, rock climbing, and gardening. Sarah also is a fan of the environmentally conscious writing of David James Duncan and Terry Tempest Williams. Sarah and partner Graham Ottley have a son, Owen, born in 2016.
Will Fassett, Associate Director
Will supervises ARC’s program managers, coordinates marketing and communications, performs data analysis, and is ARC’s “numbers guy.” Will joined ARC in 2012, bringing experience teaching English to young adult Spanish speakers, leading conservation crews, and coordinating service learning and volunteer opportunities. He has two years of English teaching experience in Spanish-speaking countries, including as a Fulbright scholar in Mexico.
Will appreciates the outdoors for the connections that can be formed when people are removed from outside distractions and can focus on thoughtful, meaningful matters. Will enjoys reading the works of authors Junot Diaz, Francisco Goldman, and Tracy Kidder.
Kelsey Porter, Program Manager
Kelsey joined ARC in 2016 as Tahoe Truckee Outreach Coordinator and became Program Manager in 2017. Born and raised in Truckee, Calif., Kelsey is a veteran backpacker and rock climber who sees the outdoors as a home away from home. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with Social Welfare and Spanish Language degrees. During college, a year studying Education in Santiago, Chile only deepened her love of nature. Before ARC, Kelsey was a rafting guide for O.A.R.S. in California and Oregon, guiding multi-day river trips on the American, Klamath and Rogue Rivers. She also worked as a wilderness instructor for GirlVentures, a Bay Area-based organization that brings girls and young women on self-empowerment focused backpacking and rock climbing trips in the Sierras. Kelsey is impressed at how nature can simultaneously humble people and show them what they are truly capable of accomplishing. A favorite writer is the poet Nayyirah Waheed.
Cristel Jensen, Central Valley Outreach Coordinator
Cristel brings her expertise in education to ARC’s efforts in California’s Central Valley, helping young people have access to resources that will put them on a path to educational and emotional success. She believes that promoting family literacy can build inclusive, thriving communities and inspire people of all ages to pursue higher education. Cristel began her career as an educator in her native Mexico. After moving to the U.S., she discovered that being in nature offered a sense of peace and perspective that helped her adapt to her new culture and focus on teaching. Says Cristel: “When I am experiencing the outdoors, I feel like I belong to a place where there are no borders or barriers. My mind is free to wander wherever my wildest dreams can reach.”
Mel Hoffman, Summer Program Manager
Mel joined ARC in the summer of 2010 after nearly a decade at outdoor education programs around the U.S. At ARC, Mel has held the roles of Science Instructor, English instructor, Course Director, and Program Manager, and she has also revised and updated many aspects of the ARC curricula over the years. Mel loves sharing her passion for nature and helping people feel comfortable in new environments. She enjoys reading the poetry of Mary Oliver when she’s by herself and reading short stories by Sherman Alexi with her students.
Jesus Alejandre, Merced County Outreach Coordinator
Jesus is a graduate of ARC’s 40-day summer course in Yosemite in 2012. Since then, he has served as an ARC intern, summer instructor, Bilingual Outreach Coordinator, and more. Jesus is passionate about empowering youth in his community. Now with five years on ARC’s staff, he finds motivation and fulfillment within the success stories that emerge from the many students that participate in the program. He believes that all individuals can learn and grow together with support and compassion. Jesus is currently a student at Merced College and will soon be receiving his Associate’s Degree.
Austin Sandoval, Tahoe Truckee Outreach Coordinator
Austin joined ARC in 2017 as Tahoe Truckee Outreach Coordinator. A Los Angeles native and a first-generation Mexican-American, Austin is devoted to being a catalyst for youth to receive a higher education while building a connection with the natural world. Since graduating from San Francisco State University, Austin has refined his skills in leadership and instructing wilderness courses by guiding for NOLS and United World College. He attended the Outdoor Educator Institute, an intensive 10-week training program for youth of color to become competent outdoor educators. As a mentor, Austin has helped young people to envision their potential and to live with integrity, dedication, and honor. He enjoys reading the work of motivational speaker Les Brown. Austin’s favorite part of being in the outdoors is that he learns something new about himself every time he’s in nature. Says Austin: “In the outdoors, I am able to reflect, process, and move forward with a sharper sense of who I am.”