Each year, an amazing collection of personalities converge encouraging others to discover the power within themselves and expand beyond their personal limits. Some are here for a season, while others helped to found Orenda Springs. We are teachers, artists, engineers, students, healers, and adventurers, sharing a common purpose: to help inspire others to live their life to the fullest. Together, we witnessed thousands of people embrace the Spirit of Orenda, to accomplish that which they would never have believed possible.
John Powers: JP has been pioneering experiential learning since 1978. He has a Masters from SUNY ESF in Science Education and Counselors Education . He holds a Level 1 & 2 certification for managing an adventure program from Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT). He presented at the ACCT annual conference in 2013. Currently JP serves as Orenda Springs’s executive director.
JP has always had a passion for the outdoors and adventures from white water kayaking, rock and ice climbing to running, biking and camping. He has made it his life’s quest to motivate others to overcome obstacles and achieve amazing feats. He lives by the belief that the greatest indicator of success is not one’s IQ but self-motivation. He seeks to make Orenda Springs a place where people get motivated to be their best.
Olga Powers: Olga has made sharing animals with others a part of her life. Born in Australia, Olga brings an international perspective to Orenda Springs. She has a Masters in Special Education from Syracuse University. In addition to being the director of the Equine Program at Orenda Springs, Olga also teaches Special Education in the West Genesee School District. Her passion to embrace diversity has resulted in the many ways Orenda Springs’s serves special needs populations.
Olga has grown up around horses and in nature. Her kindness and wisdom has helped many people learn about and care for animals as well as their environment. Olga interest s expand into gardening, cooking and Yoga, all of which are part of the ways she shares her energy with others. She is often making delicious snacks or meals for special events at Orenda Springs. She also encourages others to find the tranquility found in nature inside of them by becoming more aware of their bodies, breath and Spirit.
Larry Craft: A long time resident of Marcellus, Larry has been a group facilitator at Orenda Springs since 2006. He holds a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Education, and retired from the Syracuse City School District after a 32 year career as a Middle School Social Studies teacher. He has several years of experience as a coach, at various times working with athletes in soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and baseball, ranging from Youth Recreation Leagues to the High School Varsity level in both the Syracuse City School District and at Marcellus High School. Larry also has many years of experience working with "at risk" youth in conjunction with various programs associated with the Syracuse City District.
At Orenda Springs, Larry especially enjoys the opportunity to assist people of various ages, and different walks of life, as they experience the unique activities that we have to offer, which are designed to put a sharper focus on what they are truly capable of, both personally, and as a group (team). As groups progress from activity to activity, it is always interesting to observe the participants becoming increasingly aware of the kinds of choices that they have to make in order to more fully realize their potential. To Larry, the opportunity to help people to make progress toward working more inclusively, creatively, and cooperatively to prevail over challenging situations is both a privilege and a pleasure. At Orenda Springs this is what we do all the time!
Mary Beth Murray-Elko: Mary Beth Murray-Elko, born and raised in Syracuse, New York, is a lover of the natural world and an educator. Mary Beth has been a facilitator of adventure learning and challenge-course programming for over sixteen years. Mary Beth is a graduate of LeMoyne College, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/General Science education. She also earned a Masters degree in science teaching from Syracuse University (SU). Mary Beth is currently completing the requirements for a CAS (Certificate of Advanced Study) from SU.
Since 1996, Mary Beth has been a teacher in Syracuse City schools. She taught middle school science for years, then transitioned into a teacher leader role as Instructional Guide in an Expeditionary Learning School in Syracuse. In each of her schools, Mary Beth has initiated an adventure and leadership program to empower her students to each discover the leader within. This included taking her students on outings to Highland Forest, Raquette Lake, the High peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains, and to Orenda Springs. It is Mary Beth’s belief that each one of us is capable of doing great things. Her mantra is “climb high, and reach even higher.” At Orenda Springs, Mary Beth has facilitated a variety of groups and helped with the training of course facilitators. During her free time Mary Beth enjoys music, yoga, camping, hiking, reading, and spending time with her husband Jay and daughter Meseret.
Jay Elko: Jay Elko is an educator and outdoor enthusiast born in Syracuse, New York. Jay has been active in adventure/challenge-course facilitation and programming for over ten years. After high school, Jay attended Onondaga Community College and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resource Management from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Jay's love for nature and desire to share the wonders of the natural world with others motivated him to return to school. In 1990 Jay earned a Masters degree in Secondary Science Education from SUNY Cortland.
For over twenty years has Jay taught a variety of science subjects from middle level Life Science to Regent's Earth Science as well as developed outdoor adventure and leadership programs for students. Jay is currently employed by Onondaga Cortland Madison BOCES as the Environmental Science Educator in the New Visions program. In this position, Jay's classroom is a cabin in the 415 acre Lime Hollow Center for the Environment and Culture in Cortland, New York. Here Jay provides area high school seniors an introduction to Forestry, Fish and Wildlife Management, Land Use and more. At Orenda Springs Jay has worked on the design and construction of various challenge elements, course upkeep and maintenance, as well as overseeing the training of course facilitators. During his free time Jay enjoys fishing, kayaking, hiking and other outdoor pursuits, as well as spending time with his wife Mary Beth and daughter Meseret.
Bobby Broddus: Bobby Broddus is from Liverpool, New York, and graduated high school from Liverpool High School in 2011. He started working at Orenda Springs in the summer of 2012. He is currently studying Athletic Training at Alfred University and is in the class of 2015. He one day hopes to be an Athletic Trainer for a college, or professional football team.
Bobby enjoys doing just about anything to do with sports and physical activity. He is currently playing football at Alfred University. Also, he enjoys working with people, and helping them, as well. At Orenda Springs, he enjoys getting to know the participants, and seeing them grow individually and as a group.
Erica Gilrein: Erica Gilrein grew up 10 miles outside of Syracuse and started working for Orenda Springs in 2009. Following graduation from Onondaga Central High in 2011, she attended Kent State University. She spent her sophomore year in Wyoming and Colorado through the National Student Exchange program. Then she transferred to the University of Wyoming, and if she graduates on time, will have a Civil Engineering degree in 2015.
Erica is, literally, a treehugger. She loves the outdoors and nature, and especially enjoys biking, skiing, boating, and camping. She also loves 'getting high'- her favorite element on the ropes course is the Peregrine. She believes life should be a constant adventure and learning experience. As a staff member at Orenda, she'd like to inspire love of nature and outdoor adventure in others. Her favorite life skills are Sense of Humor, Common Sense, and Get Over It.
Lori Tucker: A long-time outdoor enthusiast, "Luminous Lori" grew up outside of Syracuse and has made Marcellus her home with her husband and children since 1998. After graduating from Westhill High School, she earned Bachelors degrees in Biology and Psychology followed by a Masters of Education in Counseling at SUNY Brockport. She has worked in elementary school counseling, developmental disabilities, brain and spinal cord injury, and substance abuse counseling. She has always enjoyed facilitating individual and group counseling.
In order to spend more time with her two children, Lori departed from her full time career and focused on her family and volunteering in a variety of areas, including the Marcellus Schools, teaching Religious Education at St. Francis Xavier Church and being a Eucharistic Minister to people who are home-bound. She regularly participates in Charity 5Ks with her family and engages in fundraisers for the Marcellus Ecumenical Food Pantry, March for Babies, and Save My Starving Children, among others. She enjoys art, yoga, science, hiking, swimming, biking, and traveling with her family. Lori has enjoyed the opportunity to be a Group Facilitator at Orenda Springs since 2015. She is inspired to make meaningful contributions in the lives of others and assisting people in discovering their hidden potential.
Juile Powers: Julie is a freshman enrolled in the Honors Program at SUNY Buffalo where she has a full scholarship in the field of Environmental Engineering. She continues to inspire others at Orenda Springs as a horse lesson instructor and a ropes course facilitator.
Mary Powers: Mary is a Cornell University graduate who is currently working with Teach for America on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Her plan is to enter medical school next year to pursue rural medicine. She continues to inspire others at Orenda Springs during the summer as a horse lesson instructor and a ropes course facilitator.
Allison Ray is a nationally certified counselor and NYS certified school counselor who grew up on the east side of Syracuse. After graduating from Fayetteville-Manlius High School, Allison attended Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where she received her B.A. in American Studies. Following graduation, she moved to New Jersey where she spent time working as an Editor for Pearson Education in their Humanities and Social Sciences Division. Uninspired by the corporate experience and drawn to working more closely with people in need, Allison pursued her M.S. in Counseling from Syracuse University and worked as a school counselor at Cazenovia Junior/Senior High School.
Since starting her family and staying at home with her two young daughters, Allison has earned additional graduate credits and clinical experience from Syracuse University in mental health counseling, counselor education and supervision. She has also been an adjunct instructor for Syracuse University's Higher Education Opportunities Program, teaching a Developmental Issues course for non-tradional undergraduate students. She currently works as the Director of Education for Marcellus First Presbyterian Church and as a Group Facilitator at Orenda Springs. Allison strives every day to have a positive impact on the world and people around her and is thrilled to share her enthusiasm and skills in such a unique and powerful place as Orenda Springs.
Capt. Rusty Rice is no stranger to Challenge Courses after facilitating and instructing around the world for Outward Bound in places such as Maine, Baltimore, Puget Sound, Florida, Philadelphia, Hong Kong and Taiwan he recently returned home to Baldwinsville, NY to put down some roots. Rusty got his start locally with the Boy Scouts working many summers at Sabattis Scout Camp and then went on to do undergraduate work in Wilderness Recreation Leadership and graduate work in Adventure Based Education. Having lead everything from backpacking and mountaineering trips to sea kayaking and white water rafting trips Rusty found a home on the challenge course where he developed his expertise. After years of volunteering on tall sailing ships Rusty got his Captains license and shifted from facilitating full time to sailing full time with Outward Bound and on tall ships. During the 11 years Rusty spent as a professional sailor and Outward Bound instructor he still kept his hand in the ropes course pie and has now returned home and works on several courses in the region.
Having recently completed paramedic training and having been a wilderness EMT for many years Rusty can be found riding with the Greater Baldwinsville Ambulance Corps and the Baldwinsville Volunteer Fire Department. If that isn't enough to keep him busy Rusty is an avid SCUBA diver and is on the Onondaga County Dive Rescue team. Rusty's claim to fame is his appearance in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest as he was crew on two of the ships used in the movie and thus got to be an extra as well. With what little time Rusty has left over he is a key player in the local Steampunk scene (don't know what that is? Just ask him, he'd love to tell you). Having moved back home Rusty's primary goal is to be the world's coolest uncle by taking his 9 year old niece and 5 year old nephew on many adventures.
Kelly Schalk: Kelly Schalk is a native to Syracuse but has lived throughout the US as a professional Nordic Skier and completing her educational degrees. While receiving her Bachelor of Science degree, from the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay, Kelly competed as an NCAA Nordic skier. She went on for a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology at the University of Wyoming, with a cellular physiology and athletic performance focus. In 2009, Kelly completed her PhD in science education from the University of Maryland. During her years in Wyoming, Kelly was also professional skier representing Rossignol and the US nationally and internationally.
Kelly teaches Yoga (Movement, Breath-work and Meditation) at Orenda Springs along with supporting groups who come to experience the rope courses. In addition to her work at Orenda Springs, Kelly teaches ecology at Bryant and Stratton College and Yoga in the city of Syracuse. As a professor of ecology she also develops experiential educational opportunities for people of lower socioeconomic status. As a Yoga instructor she provides workshops for many non-for-profit organizations, meditation to inmates, in addition to teaching studio classes and private sessions for children, adults, athletes, rehabilitating patients, people with special physical and physiological needs.
Kelly seeks to inspire others to realize their true self, seek happiness and know Peace.
Tim Schneider is a 2011 graduate of Marcellus High School and is currently studying Environmental Science with a focus in Earth and Atmospheric Science at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry Class of 2015 (SUNY ESF). He has always had an interest in the Earth and the natural processes that are associated with environment that he has set out for his career in protecting the natural resources. Tim has worked at Marcellus Park and for the Town’s Recreational program until finally ending up at Orenda Springs. While working at Orenda Springs, Tim has tried to educate the youth on how we must protect our land, water, and air along with teaching life skills that may better their lives in the upcoming future and get them excited about a career.
He enjoys fishing, playing baseball, hiking, going to Syracuse basketball games, and being with family. While in High School Tim ran indoor track and played baseball for four years. Tim’s senior year he was named the baseball team’s captain where he played short stop and pitched his way to a 6-0 record leading the Marcellus baseball team to their first sectional title in 13 years. Tim has always been great with kids and they seem to listen and connect with him, which has allowed him to enjoy every minute of working at Orenda Springs. Tim hopes to one day either be a High School Earth Science teacher, or work for the United States Geological Survey in conjunction with the NRCS where he can implement Best Management Practices for farmers and landowners alike.