Our Leaders

Leaders for Upcoming Trips


Blake Boles

Blake is the founder and director of Unschool Adventures. His first big adventures were living abroad in Chile at age 14, backpacking Western Europe at 19, and traversing South America at 24.

Blake got involved in the world of alternative education in 2003, when half-way through an astrophysics major he read a John Taylor Gatto book and soon became an advisor at Not Back to School Camp. He is the author of College Without High SchoolBetter Than College, and The Art of Self-Directed Learning and the former acting director of a wilderness summer camp where he co-led an intensive teen leadership program. Blake is a current Wilderness First Responder, a former EMT, and a UC Berkeley graduate. Learn more at blakeboles.com.

Trips: Argentina 2008, NaNoWriMo 2009, Australia 2010, Spring & Fall Retreat 2010, South America 2011, ZTC Camp 2011, Asheville Intensive 2012, Argentina 2012, Writing Retreat 2012, New Zealand 2013, Trailblazer 2013, Buenos Aires Tango 2014, Nepal 2014, Adventure Semester 2015, Simply New Zealand 2016, Argentina Semester 2017, Southeast Asia 2017, Dance Recess 2017, Adventure Semester 2018


ari

Ari Kosel

Ari developed wanderlust at a young age and has been fortunate enough to travel consistently for the past decade, visiting parts of South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Northern Africa. She strives to live life doing the things she loves, which lately has meant living semi-nomadically, working as a field instructor for the Northwest Outward Bound School in Central Oregon, exploring the west coast’s rivers and mountains, eating herself into a coma, and attempting to play more than four chords on the guitar. She is a Wilderness First Responder and certified sriracha lover.

Trips: Adventure Semester 2015, Southeast Asia 2017


Zoë Newmarco

Zoë is a lifelong unschooler and aspiring jill-of-all-trades whose goals include learning how to grow plants in a variety of climates, teaching herself to make jewelry from things she finds on her travels, and learning how to drive a bus. On most days she can be found exercising her enthusiasm for chocolate, practicing martial arts, writing poetry, hanging upside down from trees, or making her own clothes.

Zoë recently completed a two month solo trip to Italy, nannying and exploring the northern half of the country, and served as staff at both Not Back to School Camp and Camp Stomping Ground.

Trips: Southeast Asia 2017


Dev Carey

Dev went to public high school, college and graduate school and enjoyed most of it, but then moved to a small town and found himself being an advocate for students and families learning outside of the classroom. That advocacy turned into The Vision Program, which utilizes public funds to support over 600 students in learning however and wherever they want while still earning a diploma.

Dev thrives on adventure. He has worked for Sterling College, with inner city youth as a VISTA Volunteer, as a counselor at Not Back to School Camp, and as a river guide. He has a Ph.D. in ecology and has written plant and animal guides with local youth. He lives in funky old houses, shares land with various folks and his family (Seraya, Huckleberry, Marian and “adopted” teenagers), frequently chainsaws juniper, and currently runs gap year programs for 17- to 23-year-olds at his homestead in Western Colorado, the The High Desert Center. Learn more about Dev at devcarey.com.

Trips: Writing Retreat 2011, Writing Retreat 2012, Trailblazer 2013, Writing Retreat 2013, Writing Retreat 2014, Adventure Semester 2015, Dance Recess 2017, Adventure Semester 2018


Marian PierceMarian Pierce

Marian is the mama of baby Huckleberry, the life partner of Dev, and the lover of all things freshly harvested, especially fruit. She works in alternative education and has lived off-the-grid in Paonia for nine years.

Some of Marian’s adventures include living in a tipi for several years, climbing mountains with her baby on her back, WWOOFing in France, installing a photovoltaic system in India, running a produce company, and apprenticing as a home birth midwife. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Colorado College and enjoys growing greens, canning peaches, telemark skiing with her dad, and mountain biking with Dev. You can often find her organizing the kitchen, embodying invented characters with a range of accents, and ready to move—usually uphill and always fast.

Trips: Adventure Semester 2015, Adventure Semester 2018


Milla von Tauber

Milla spent her childhood in Germany, attending public school and growing up bilingual. After moving to the U.S., Milla discovered an Unschool Adventures trip to Nepal and used it as an opportunity to leave school and become a full-time self-directed learner.

Milla is a blues and fusion dancer who loves writing songs, taking photos, swimming in freezing rivers, creating genuine connections, and eating lots of chocolate. Her current adventures include interning at an Agile Learning Center in Asheville and being part of a gap year program where she is learning about sustainable farming, group living, dancing, and backpacking the southwest and Mexico.

Trips: Dance Recess 2017


Lainey Bein

Lainey started unschooling at the age of 10, diving into music and quickly becoming a multi-instrumentalist. Later, in community college, she took a class on voice acting and now does it part time. She attended two years of Not Back to School Camp where she found her love of community.

Most recently Lainey has been part of a gap year program that focuses on group living, sustainable farming, travel, and partner dance. She has been learning blues fusion dance through private and group instruction, has attended two blues exchanges, and participated in dance events in multiple cities. She’s happiest when crafting delicious meals in the kitchen, working with kids, backpacking, eating cheese, and discussing LGBTQA topics.

Trips: Dance Recess 2017


Leaders for Past Trips


Matt Sanderson

Matt Sanderson has been loving alternative education since he ditched prep school for free school as a sophomore in high school. After graduating, he put off college to gut houses in post-Katrina New Orleans, then founded and co-directed a week-long camp called the Young People’s Empowerment convergence.

A year out of school, he decided to skip college altogether. Since then, he’s worked as the logistics coordinator for Not Back to School Camp, taught art in Ecuador, and led courses in psychology and juggling at his local alternative school. He’s currently the assistant coordinator of the Middle School Friends program—hosting retreats for middle-school-aged Quakers in the Philadelphia area—and the president of the board of Upattinas School and Resource Center.

Trips: Writing Retreat 2012, Trailblazer 2013, Real World Retreat 2016


autumnAutumn Star

Autumn started unschooling at the age of nine, began college at 14, and finished 7 years later with a self-designed B.A. from Goddard College where she examined societal influences on adolescent gender, racial, and sexual identity development. For many years Autumn has been sculpting a way of living that focuses on community building, healing, travel, personal growth, and documenting it all through the written forms of poetry, blogging, and journaling. She has staffed at both Not Back To School Camp and East Tennessee Unschool Summer Camp.

Autumn’s passion for life has taken her in many directions. She has trained teachers on the issue of bullying and harassment towards LGBTQ students, traveled twice to Indonesia as a volunteer with Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific, spent two months sleeping in Zuccotti Park during Occupy Wall Street, built an off the grid cabin for herself in central NY, and solo road tripped around North America for 5 months. She is currently focused on training under her blues dance instructor and getting certified as a Postpartum Doula.

Trips: Trailblazer 2013, Writing Retreat 2014, Real World Retreat 2016


Zoe Vlastos

Zoe grew up homeschooled on her family farm in rural Illinois, attended Not Back To School Camp five times (once as staff), and recently graduated from Regis University with majors in Neuroscience and Psychology and a minor in Music. In her adventures she has founded a biannual benefit concert, traveled and studied abroad in South America, worked as a teaching assistant and writing mentor, authored a digital storytelling thesis on how technology affects romantic relationships, worked in research science labs, and mentored teens with eating disorders.

Zoe is an avid skier, pianist, cook, writer, trail runner, partner dancer, listener, reader, traveler, questioner, chocoholic, hugger, and learner. She believes in the power of storytelling and movement to connect and to heal, and she has aspirations of becoming a mental health counselor and working with teens and with individuals who have eating disorders and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Trips: Real World Retreat 2016

ingmarIngmar Nilsen

Ingmar loves to study the seemingly superficial. As an unschooler who’s lived in half a dozen places, his interests include language (especially dialect and sociolect), clothing, and food—because each tells so much about local culture. His first time flying alone, Ingmar brought his teddy bear. He still enjoys the life of an independent traveler, but his needs and skills have changed since he was five. Ingmar is certified in CPR, Wilderness First Aid, and before too long, Wilderness First Responder; he’s ready to help others with whatever craziness the world has to throw at us.

Trips: South America 2011, Argentina 2012, Trailblazer 2013, Simply New Zealand 2016


kinaKina Wolfenstein

Kina is a grown unschooler from Portland, Oregon, now in her junior year at the Evergreen State College. She went to Not Back To School Camp from 2009-13 and served as junior staff in 2014.

Kina’s major interests include political science, creative writing, queer studies, and performance arts, her pet rats, and making delicious coffee drinks as a barista.  After college, she plans to escape the Pacific Northwest, move somewhere tropical, and get paid to swim with dolphins.

Trips: Simply New Zealand 2016


joel-malkoffJoel Malkoff

Joel is a life-long self-directed learner from Noblesville, Indiana, a 6-time attendee to the Not Back To School Camp (2 years as staff member), a certified Parkour instructor, a past junior Olympian gymnast, a musician, an Approvecho graduate with a Permaculture Design certificate, a community college attendee, an enthusiastic cook, a recipe developer, and someone who is always ready for the next learning adventure.

Joel’s major passion is observing the relationships between people, the spaces they inhabit (both mentally and physically), and how those connections relate to the greater nature of the universe.

Trips: Adventure Semester 2015


Addison Bio PictureAddison Pond

Addison discovered early in life that filmmaking is a perfect outlet for storytelling, and he has been creating all manner of films ever since. This passion has taken him from one end of the country to the other as he’s filmed weddings, corporate training videos, small business commercials, and live music performances.

As a lifelong unchooler, Addison’s thirst for learning and new experiences have also led him to become: an intern at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, a golf caddy, a grocery store “associate,” an editor/graphic artist/webmaster for a print magazine, a licensed pilot of small airplanes, a wine maker, an audio/visual tech for a five star hotel, a lighting designer, a book cover designer, and a world traveler.

Trips: Adventure Semester 2015


tabiTabi Musselwhite

Tabi grew up in rural North Carolina and went to college for children’s book illustration before getting bitten by the travel bug. After four life-shattering months in Southern India, she developed a thirst to explore the world, leading her to explore 16 countries (thus far). Some of her favorite adventures include living out of a campervan in New Zealand, spending three months backpacking solo through South America, helping preform an emergency c-section in Tanzania, and organizing an art exhibition in Oaxaca, Mexico.

At home in Oakland, California, Tabi’s current passions are hiking, biking, swimming, and concocting super healthy, clean, and nutritious meals.

Trips: Adventure Semester 2015


eric-vieleEric Viele

A computer geek, carpenter, and backpacker, Eric hails from the wilds of Michigan, where he heats and bends metal in a homemade coal forge to create fascinating shapes.

Eric recently completed the 8-month High Desert Center Gap Year program with Dev Carey. He is a purveyor of small fried tasty things and high-quality hugs.

Trips: Adventure Semester 2015


Hannah HallHannah Hall

Hannah spent the past eight years bouncing around the globe while completing her formal education. Most recently she worked for a non-profit in India doing HIV/AIDS education while building her own health program in the slums of Chennai. She traveled solo to Nepal and then spent a semester in Melbourne, Australia, finishing her degree in International Health.

A passionate outdoors person, Hannah holds Wilderness First Responder certification and can most easily be found climbing high on a cliff face or kayaking down a raging river. She grew up at a wilderness camp in the California High Sierra where she’s returning in 2014 to serve as Assistant Director.

Hannah believes that most of her education occurred outside of the classroom. Although she plans to return to school to pursue a nursing degree, she wants to show the world that school is an option, not an obligation.

Trips: Nepal 2014


ShonaShona Warwick-Smith

Since the age of thirteen Shona has combined rigorous independent learning with traditional schooling to chase her passions. Currently a candidate for a BA from Hampshire College, she studies Studio Art and Meditative Movement. When not in the classroom or studio she is found adventuring in her backyard and across the globe.

Most recently Shona studied Yoga in India, guided backpackers through the Sierra Nevada and led art classes for elementary- through college-level students. Shona is certified in CPR, Wilderness First Aid, Lifeguarding, and Yoga Instruction.

Trips: Nepal 2014


abrahamAbraham McClurg

Abraham was raised on a homestead farm, moved to Seattle to grow up in a growing city, and now resides in Southern Vermont. He teaches at North Star Academy in Massachusetts and has advised at Not Back To School Camp. He has spent his life following his heart and passions, never knowing where they will lead him but trusting that the journey will challenging and rewarding. He likes to dance: quite a bit, and quite often.

Abraham previously worked as a photographer and installation artist, a cook, a real estate broker, and an Apple technician. He’s a listener, a grammarian, a nitpicker, and a man of letters who likes to keep the USPS laughing. A prolific practitioner of the art of the handwritten letter, Abraham believes that when we write down our thoughts, we uncover ideas and emotions inaccessible by speaking or thinking about them.

Trips: Writing Retreat 2014

Melissa TownsendMelissa Townsend

A life-long unschooler, Melissa skipped college in favor of traveling the world and interning at the High Desert Center for Sustainable Studies. When not battling her way through writing projects—a screenplay, a novel and a bit of poetry—she works as an independent film producer, manages the produce section of her local health food store, and runs a web design company with her partner, Jim.

A two-time veteran of National Novel Writing Month, Melissa loves writing challenges and deadlines, and helping other people meet theirs. She also loves reading, cooking, rock climbing, and trips to the beach.

Trips: Writing Retreat 2013, Writing Retreat 2014


jmac-cruzJulie McPherson

Julie’s interest in global culture and travel bloomed after she organized a solo trip to Bulgaria to volunteer at a children’s orphanage. During college, Julie frequently guided students and professors across Northern California’s wildernesses. She’s a certified Wilderness First Responder, a former CPR Instructor, and a U.C. Davis graduate.

Julie has served as an educator and program manager in various outdoors positions. She spent two years teaching sail handling on a historic tall ship in Puget Sound, and most recently mentored young adults in the High Desert Center Gap Year program. She’s also a freelance facilitator of communication workshops. Learn more about Julie and her global adventures at juliemcpherson.com.

Trips: South America 2011, New Zealand 2013, Trailblazer 2013


Abbi Miller

Abbi helped co-found Unschool Adventures and is excited to be back in action! She works and creates through her self-titled holistic nutrition + yoga brand: abbimiller.com. An unschooler since age 8, she is in love with adventure. As a teenager, Abbi worked as a professional actress/singer/dancer in NYC and traveled the world performing. More recently she completed a Karma Kids Yoga teacher certification, graduated from Laughing Lotus College of Yoga in SF, and  studied in India at the Tattva Yoga Center.

Abbi is also a graduate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (NYC) as a Certified Holistic Health Coach. She works with clients (especially teens) to bring themselves into balance by integrating everlasting food and lifestyle choices based on each person’s bio-individuality and life story.

As a long-time world traveler, Abbi has: fended off mango-thirsty monkeys in India, run from pigeons in the United Kingdom, tap danced on the Eiffel tower, performed Broadway shows in South Korea, explored the Petronas towers by wheelchair, sipped bubble tea in Singapore, been mistaken for a man in Indonesia, and laughed loudly in 46 of the United States.

Trips: Argentina 2008, NaNoWriMo 2009, Australia 2010


cooperCooper Westerkamp

By day, Cooper is a health professional; by night, he is a passionate cook. After recently finishing college with a Health Science degree, Cooper paused his education to become a professional pastry chef for a French bistro in his home state of Connecticut. He plans to return for his Master’s Degree as an Anesthesiologist Assistant—but not before he smashes some more butter and flour together into wonderful, heart-stopping concoctions.

Taking time off from high school to join the U.A. Argentina trip in 2008 and being entirely self-taught in the culinary arts, Cooper considers himself an honorary unschooler. He’s also a former EMT, Type-1 diabetic, celiac, novice tango dancer, and diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan.

Trips: Buenos Aires Tango 2014


Cameron Lovejoy

Cameron is a creative on-the-road traveler who enjoys writing, organic farming, live music, cooking, swing dancing, and backpacking. He’s a former Not Back to School Camp staffer and camper, National Outdoor Leadership School graduate, and Wilderness First Responder.

In March 2010 Cameron organized his own conference for teenage unschoolers and their families, The Autodidact Symposium. He currently writes a road blog: One Wandering Poet.

Trips: Spring Retreat 2010, Fall Retreat 2010, Writing Retreat 2011, Writing Retreat 2012, New Zealand 2013, Trailblazer 2013, Writing Retreat 2013


Brenna McBroom

Brenna is a long-time unschooler from Asheville, North Carolina. Her current passion is wheel-thrown pottery, and she left college in 2009 in order to pursue that passion full time. When not at the pottery wheel, glazing table, or kiln, Brenna loves traveling, doing scene analysis, running and swimming, and attending craft shows.

Brenna is also passionate about the value of artistic self-education at the college level, and she would love to talk with you about pursuing an education as an artist without obtaining a degree. She has taken part in two self-designed pottery apprenticeships: one in Cambridge, Massachusetts and one in Corvallis, Oregon. In addition, she’s written a manuscript about self education in the visual arts.

Trips: ZTC Camp 2011, Writing Retreat 2011, Writing Retreat 2012, Trailblazer 2013


LoganLogan Woods-Darby

Logan grew up in charge of his own learning, pursuing his own interests while participating in co-op style homeschooling groups, alternative schools, and unschooling networks. He has worked as an outdoor instructor, computer repairman, snowboard instructor, web designer, visual artist, classical musician, physical laborer, filmmaker, dancer, web writer.

Logan is fascinated by the ideas behind gift culture versus our current trade culture. The idea of gifting bleeds over into all areas of our lives and has many connections with spirituality, community building, relationships and sustainability.

Trips: Writing Retreat 2013


Year-Round Leadership


Blueberry Keller

Digital Office Manager

Blueberry loves a lot of things, including travel, theatre, rainbows, and people. As a conventionally schooled teenager, she discovered unschooling—and Not Back to School Camp—and fell in love. After three years at NBTSC she graduated both from camp and from high school, and then from Michigan State University with a degree from the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and an additional major in Theatre. She currently works at a theatre in Baltimore, Maryland and owns a cat.

As a self-described nerd, Blueberry’s other interests include books, all kinds of games, many kinds of art, gender and queer studies and activism, music, the Internet, comics, and cuddling.