THE FIRE MOUNTAIN STAFF
“I just want my kid back!” – Parents everywhere (You are not alone)
Fire Mountain Leadership Team
Shari Simmons, LCSW, Executive Director
Tug Levy, Education Director
Aidan Longtain, Direct Care Manager
Aaron Bekkela, MA, LPC, LAC
LCSW, Executive Director
Shari received her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Denver in 1993 and became a licensed clinical Social Worker in 1995. She has had a 28-year career as an adolescent therapist and Clinical Director at several residential facilities in Colorado. As the Clinical Director at Mountain Crest Psychiatric Hospital in Fort Collins, Shari ran the adolescent facility for 10 years and started a teen homeless shelter.
Most recently, she has been a consultant for various treatment programs in the state where she trains staff on trauma-informed care, develops strategic goals and provides tools to enhance programming. She is currently an Adjunct Professor at CCU and UNR. Her area of expertise is in mental health and trauma and she considers it a personal mission to train anyone who will listen to these topics so that people who suffer are met with compassion and understanding. She is currently writing a book on trauma for clinicians. When not working, she is hiking, biking, canoeing or traveling.
Medical Department Manager
Hi! I’m Lyda, the medical department manager at Fire Mountain. I love working here – Fire Mountain is a dream come true when it comes to creating positive outcomes in our residents and their families’ lives – and I truly love spending time with our youth in this stupendous part of Colorado!
As the medical department manager, I am Fire Mountain’s main resource for health care. I work closely with our psychiatrist to make sure our youth are getting the right medications that help them take control and pursue their recoveries. I support our excellent staff to make sure we always provide high quality care. I am accountable for medication and health and safety, medical policies, and medication administration oversight. I’m at my best when I’m asked to help with counseling (especially with regards to healthy lifestyle and wellness) or whenever instruction in medical principles and best practices is needed by our team. It always makes my day when our youth come to me with questions about healthier living or even just to lend them an ear. Teens have so much energy and authenticity, so I try to match them and give them the straightforward answers they need to grow and become their best selves throughout life.
When I was 10 my parents moved our family to Africa, where my dad worked for the UN. At that time, many serious diseases were still rampant in that part of the world, including smallpox and leprosy. Living and growing up in Ethiopia gave me a passion for medical science and healthcare that I have turned into an incredibly fruitful career. My mother, a teacher, was a prolific volunteer who won many awards for her philanthropic work. My goal is to follow in her footsteps and create a foundation that helps to foster thriving communities that address mental, as well as physical health. I always aspire to be at the forefront of improved healthcare quality and patient safety, and this is a continuous process, so there are always new ways to grow and optimize performance within myself as a caregiver, and within organizations who deliver healthcare to the community!
My career has been varied, but always focused on the dual themes of healthcare and educational counseling. This really helps me in my role at Fire Mountain. I have been an individual & family substance abuse counselor/case manager in Ontario, and I worked in direct care at a residential treatment center focusing on Indigenous youth from the Canadian arctic. I spent several years as an acute care nurse in a Cardiac ICU/Stepdown Unit & as an ER nurse at SCL Health Denver and Wheat Ridge, where I was able to hone my skill and fluency with acute care nursing practice. I look back fondly on my experiences as a high school science teacher, where my love for education really took root. Most recently, I have been the manager of 6 behavioral health medication clinics in Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, and worked in hospital Quality Management at hospitals in Texas, California, Illinois, Michigan, and right here in Estes Park. I am proud to have been a Colorado Nurse’s Foundation Nightingale Award nominee, and to have been recognized by Centura Health for my work in implementing Electronic Health Records throughout their organization.
I have a Master’s degree in education (counseling) from Acadia University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Regis University. I am also certified by NAHQ as a professional in healthcare quality.
Reading or researching science and ancient cultures is where you’ll usually find me when I’m not at work. I love to walk my two dalmatians, Katie Carmack and Calamity Jane (who is deaf) on the gorgeous trails around Estes Park. On a perfect day, I’d visit my husband’s gold prospecting camp in British Columbia with those two in tow. I like to listen to punk and rock, especially Rage Against the Machine – and hopefully once the pandemic is over my friend (who is their producer) can get me some tickets to see their world tour!My favorite TV show is Star Trek: The Next Generation – I love Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future and hope we can achieve it someday – not to mention Deanna Troi, whose counseling ability is second to none.
Thanks for reading my bio!
Aaron Bekkela, MA, LPC, LAC – Program DirectorAaron came to Colorado from Chicago Illinois as an infant and has lived here since. After gaining a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Northern Colorado, Aaron spent time in diverse fields including construction, bars and casinos, and law enforcement before going back to school and obtaining his master’s in Counseling from Colorado Christian University.
Aaron started his career in counseling working at a crisis center, transitioned to an emergency room setting, on to the position of intensive care coordinator of a community mental health center, as well as spending a few years as a traditional outpatient therapist. Aaron has obtained both his license as a professional counselor (LPC) and as a Licensed Addictions Counselor (LAC) and has gone on to add multiple tools to his tool box as a therapist such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) to help clients who struggle spectically with trauma. Aaron built on the diversity in his life and career as a therapist by returning back to the roots of his internship where he first worked at a residential facility with at risk youth. As clinical director and program coordinator at Fire Mountain, Aaron is able to put all his experience to work and help both clients and families find higher functioning.
Aaron functions as a therapist at Fire Mountain working with individuals, families, and running groups. Aaron employs a variety of approaches however, he prefers a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach. Aaron also functions as Fire Mountains clinical director where he works with our therapist team to ensure all state regulations and company policies are adhered to. In his off time, Aaron enjoys spending time with his wife and family outdoors, camping, fishing, and hitting the 4 wheel drive trials.
Kelsie Foster MA, Art Therapist
Kelsie came to Colorado from the Finger Lakes region of New York. It was back in upstate New York where she earned her bachelor’s degree in New Media Design. Kelsie then received her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Transpersonal Art Therapy from Naropa University in Boulder, CO.
Kelsie utilizes empathy, mindfulness, and expressive arts while working with clients. At Fire Mountain, Kelsie guides the teenagers in creating art focused on the process rather than the product. With art therapy and outdoors skills, the purpose is not always to make beautiful creations, but more so to heighten self-understanding, bring out personal meaning, and give an opportunity to release catharsis in a healthy manner.
She has experience running art-based Dialectical-Behavior Therapy groups with teenagers and adults, applying art therapeutic approaches with all ages of the grief and loss population, and working as an art therapist with teenagers in residential treatment. To have a work-life balance, Kelsie makes time to get outdoors on the trails, create art, attend live bluegrass music, and spend time with her loved ones, including her dog, Barley.
Noelle Matthews, MSW – Therapist
Hailing from Park City, Utah originally, Noelle received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Fort Lewis College in beautiful Durango, Colorado. Following this time, Noelle spent the following years working as a Wilderness field guide for Aspiro Adventure therapy in Utah, where she specialized as the Master Ski Facilitator. Following some cold winters spent outside, Noelle moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to work as a field guide at Pacific Quest, a Horticultural Wilderness program. Noelle’s extensive and direct therapeutic fieldwork came to a close and led her back to Colorado when she began her Masters in Social Work at Colorado State University. Noelle’s passion for holistic care and family systems work led her to Fire Mountain RTC. Noelle works as a primary therapist at Fire Mountain and is in the process of gaining her clinical social work license.Noelle loves living in the vast mountains of Estes Park with her fiance and yellow labrador Teddy (who is known to frequent Fire Mountain). You can find Noelle skiing on the weekends, cooking, camping, and paddleboarding. A perfect day off for Noelle includes a morning hike with Teddy, followed by some fun in the sun and friends over for a cheese plate and home-cooked dinner in the evening.
One of Noelle’s favorite quotes is by Henry David Thoreau in which he states:
“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”
Marta Jasinska – Therapist
Bio Coming Soon
Dr. Scott Shannon, MD, ABIHM – Psychiatrist
Dr. Scott Shannon, MD, ABIHM is a Child/Adolescent Psychiatry Specialist with over 39 years of experience in the medical field. He graduated from the University of Arizona medical school in 1982.
Dr. Shannon, MD has been involved in holistic medicine since he joined the American Holistic Medical Association in 1978. Scott has elaborated a holistic and integrative perspective in psychiatry for the last two decades. He published the first textbook for this field in 2001. Scott is a past President of the American Holistic Medical Association and a past President of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. He was a founding Board member for the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine and the American Board of Integrative Medicine, which is now the sole certifying body for the profession of Integrative Medicine.
Teaching has been a core component of Scott’s life. He teaches as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado-Children’s Hospital in Denver. In 2004 the University of Colorado became the first American training program to offer a formal elective in Integrative Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He lectures all over the world to professional groups interested in a deeper look at mental health issues, safer tools, and a paradigm-shifting perspective about how to offer transformative care.College: University of Arizona
Medical School: University of Arizona
Internship: Columbia Program, Cooperstown, NY
Psychiatric Residency: Columbia Program, Cooperstown, NY
Child/Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship: University of New Mexico
Tug Levy, Education Director
Tug holds two degrees. His undergraduate Bachelor of Arts is in Environmental, Population and Organismic Biology (1999) and his Master of Arts is in Education, including a certification in Secondary Science (2003). Tug is also highly qualified under NCLB to teach Social Studies.
Tug has taught in a wide variety subjects in a wide variety of settings in the Denver metro area. While mainly a science teacher, teaching mostly biology but also chemistry, physics, botany, geology and astronomy, Tug has also taught math, social studies and health. He has taught in both middle and high schools from large public to small charter and in private programs.
Tug left teaching in 2010 to become a professional mentor in a residential treatment program for young men in Boulder County, CO. For five years, Tug excelled at forming therapeutic relationships, while teaching outdoor education, especially mountain biking and fly fishing, to many of the young participants of the program.
Tug comes from a family of educators! His father and mother both taught at the secondary level-math and science mostly. His father created an alternative high school in the 1990’s at which he was the administrator and one of the primary teachers. Tug’s sister continues to teach high school speech and communication. If asked, Tug will tell you he was called to education and that it was his unavoidable destiny…
Currently Tug is the Education Director at Fire Mountain Programs in Estes Park, CO. He teaches neuropsychology, Hero’s Journey and PE. He is thrilled to combine his experience and passion for residential treatment and education in this role. Tug’s passion for teaching and relating results in his impacting students’ experience at Fire Mountain, and throughout his career, in a way they are not likely to forget. He aspires to continually innovate and improve the delivery of education at Fire Mountain as an intentional and integral part of the therapeutic journey of the youth they serve.The Conclusion – Who You Are as a Person (Not Necessarily as a Professional):
Tug lives in the mountains west of Boulder, CO and enjoys mountain biking, hiking, skiing, snowboarding and his life-long passion/obsession, flyfishing. Tug is father of three. His eldest son lives in Denver with his wife and new baby girl, which means Tug is a proud grandpa!! His other two kids, a daughter, 13 and son 10, he shares with their mom, who also lives in the same mountain community he does.
A perfect day off is a tossup between a very relaxing day of movies at home with the kids, and a day alone on one of many favorite rivers in Colorado, hunting large trout.
Star Wars is the first movie Tug ever saw in a theater when it came out in the seventies. To be able to incorporate Star Wars and its many offshoots with students in his Hero’s Journey class and with his own kids at home is a blessing. Master Yoda’s many words of wisdom inspire Tug’s life and career, and if pressured to choose his favorite of Yoda’s quotes, he will tell you with a smile, “…when 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not!”.
OPERATIONS TEAM (Administration, Kitchen, & Property)
Tracey Neff, CookHello. My name is Tracey Neff, and I have been a cook at Fire Mountain for almost three and a half years. While I do not have any formal education as a chef, I have had the opportunity to learn from some amazing and talented people here. My Mom was also a fabulous cook who loved sharing ideas and recipes with anyone who would listen.
My degree is an AAS in Forestry from Itasca Community College in Minnesota, and I love all plants, especially the edible ones! I was a vendor and manager of my hometown farmers market until I moved here to Colorado. I grew specialty herbs, heirloom fruits and vegetables, and homemade vinegars. I have worked for state parks giving tours and working with youth to educate them on the wonders of our natural world. I have enjoyed this immensely! We are excited for this spring, as Fire Mountain has transformed one of our outdoor spaces into a place where flowers and veggies can hang out with the kids. We will have a beautiful space to experience horticulture, not just read about it.
We are a whole foods kitchen that follows guidelines for optimal health. No gluten, dairy, or any refined sugars. We buy organic whenever possible. It can be challenging as many clients are used to poor, or unhealthy diets. Making healthy food enjoyable is what I strive for. I get so much positive feedback that it inspires me to keep trying new things.
I really love Colorado. I moved here to be closer to my lovely daughter and her family. I adopted a little rescue pup who is my best friend and cuddle buddy. I LOVE hanging out with my two (so far) little grandsons. I can’t wait till they are big enough to make cookies with them! As Winnie the Poo put it so well, “Sometimes it’s the smallest things that take up the most room in your heart,”
I also enjoy fishing…especially when I don’t catch anything, That’ when it’s most relaxing, and you don’t smell like fish.
Douglas Earl Rhoades
Chef/InstructorI went to Broomfield High School and afterward went to Trapper Creek Job Corps for culinary arts. I then started my front-of-the-house training at a Country Club, after I worked as a Trainer and Corporate Trainer for different chain restaurants here in Colorado. Then something happened and I decided to try something different and challenging so I went to Antarctica to work at McMurdo Station. After securing a position in the kitchen I went back to school at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder Colorado. I was able to spend the last 7 years working different seasons at McMurdo Station. Now I’m taking on a new challenge as Fire Mountains Chef/Instructor, which has some of the best duties. Make healthy and good food and kids happy.
When I’m not cooking I like to shoot pool and am an amateur photographer. As for quotes. I always said to myself “Never Give Up” but I was also told one I like when I was on the ice. From Anthony Bourdain’ ” Never Say Never”.
DIRECT CARE TEAM
Aidan Longtain, Direct Care Manager
Born and raised in Boulder County, Aidan currently splits his time between Louisville and Estes Park. He earned a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Colorado and is fascinated by interfaith mediation in conflict zones. Aidan is also an experienced group facilitator and has trained with organizations such as Partners for Youth Empowerment and Authentic World. Aidan, the product of a turbulent adolescence, strives to support each Fire Mountain resident in discovering how facing the suffering and trauma of childhood opens the door to a truly fulfilling adulthood.
A former competitive skateboarder, Aidan thrives in intensity and loves to be challenged. Some of his favorite things include campfires, bears, and quality craftsmanship.
Shelby Robbins is working towards her Masters in clinical psychology at Denver University and has her undergrad in contemplative psychology from Naropa in Boulder, CO. She has trained in various styles of communication skills, developmental models and coaching techniques, systems thinking, and more. She is an experienced group facilitator having trained with Integral Circling, STAGES International, and Pacific Integral.In short, Shelby is fascinated by the complexity and range of the human experience. Her passion for working with adolescents is rooted in over a decade of her own personal growth and several major life upheavals as a teen and young adult. These experiences support her in helping teens discover how facing suffering honestly and directly can open the door to fulfillment and wholeness in adulthood.
Some of her favorite things include good books, her friends, antelopes, and campfires.
Nick Goode has a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education from Colorado State University in Fort Collins Colorado. He worked as a High School Teacher and has done extensive volunteer work with Northern Colorado Medical Center. He is currently working as a Direct Care Lead managing the DC team. Nick strives to create a safe and accepting environment for youth. Nick has several interests including Dungeons and Dragons which he plays regularly with clients and staff, and spending quality time with friends and family, usually competing in friendly Scrabble tournaments.“It’s impossible to go through life unscathed. Nor should you want to. By the hurts we accumulate, we measure both our follies and our accomplishments.”
― Christopher Paolini, Inheritance.
I find that this quote sums up my experience in life. My experiences may define me but I decide if my experiences were follies or accomplishments.
Grace Keller-PotterRead Bio Grace Keller-Potter
I am a native of Fort Collins, Colorado. I have never lived anywhere else. I started by working for my General Education Diploma. and obtained it through College America. I am currently a student at Aims Community College, working on my pre-requisites. So far I have really enjoyed my studies, although the pandemic has been a strange time to be a college student. Before I started my journey at Fire Mountain, I had a bit of a diverse background. I primarily worked as a caregiver for senior/special needs. I quickly fell in love with the job and realized I had a passion for people. I was then given the opportunity to test my waters in security. Specifically patrol, and personal privacy protection. I really enjoyed the self-discipline of the job and learned a lot about myself. I have a huge soft spot for teens in recovery, as I was one myself. Fire Mountain was a sacred place for me and gave me the tools needed to change my entire life around. I am so grateful to work here because I truly believe and admire what we do here. I feel incredibly honored to be a part of this team!
I currently work overnights here at Fire Mountain and participate in my studies at Aims Community College. I have hopes to get accepted into one of the programs in Northern Colorado and pursue a medical career in Radiology. Outside of Fire Mountain, I really love exploring the outdoors. I enjoy hiking with my dog Willow, fishing, or camping with friends and family. I am also really athletic and enjoy any kind of movement. Although my favorite is high-intensity cardio, I also really enjoy muscle strengthening and aerobic exercising. My favorite physical activities are long runs and kickboxing. When I think about a perfect day, I think about a picnic in the mountains. Just getting to share lunch and conversation with a good friend, a beautiful view, and enjoying some fresh air.
One of my very favorite quotes is, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”- Lao Tzu
My favorite book is The Alchemist. I highly suggest it. It makes you evaluate your own values in your life, and appreciate all that you have. I also really enjoy the many writings on Vietnamese Thiền Buddist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Got your back, Grace Keller
Kaetlyn HeriderRead Bio Kaetlyn Herider
Kaetlyn Herider is a third-year college student studying psychology with a concentration in general psychology on the beautiful campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Kaetlyn graduated from Front Range Community College in 2019 with an Associate of Arts degree and continues to pursue her doctorate degree in psychology. Kaetlyn prides herself in being an active member of the psychology community; she has attended the Rocky Mountain Psychology Association (RMPA) conference on a full-ride scholarship, joined several honor societies and received national recognition for her leadership skills, and completed a multitude of trainings with skilled professionals in the field of mental healthcare.
Kaetlyn was hired onto the Direct Care team with Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center in September of 2019 and has since dedicated herself to supporting her clients as well as supporting her colleagues. Kaetlyn understands that being a Direct Care Personnel plays an important role in the success of her clients’ treatment and takes her level of responsibility very seriously. Kaetlyn has been recognized by her colleagues for her exceptional communication skills, attention to detail, and innate ability to empathize with her clients while providing them with the guidance that they need. When Kaetlyn isn’t cramming for finals or mentoring at-risk youth, she typically spends her free time hiking with friends, meditating, and playing with her fluffy, black kitty named Zara.
My favorite quote is: “Find what you love and let it heal you”.
Gabrielle Popovich (She/ Her)Read Bio Gabrielle Popovich (She/Her)
Gabrielle Popovich earned her undergraduate degree in Holistic Psychology from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Here she studied topics in ecopsychology, mindfulness & mental health, and complementary medicine. Gabrielle is passionate about helping young people become the best versions of themselves through therapeutic processes including holistic and alternative interventions.
Gabrielle joined the Fire Mountain team in January 2021 after moving from Massachusetts in late 2020. She works with Fire Mountain Academy and the Direct Care team. Gabrielle enjoys her position as educational, emotional, and therapeutic support for clients.
With the right set of tools in your toolbox, Gabrielle believes treatment can be successful and rewarding! Gabrielle will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy and Clinical Mental Health Counseling in the Fall. She aims to strengthen her therapeutic persona and deepen her understanding of transpersonal counseling and the use of outdoor recreational therapy as a tool for her career development.
Self-proclaimed “Lifetime Learner”, Gabrielle is always spending time taking in new information and knowledge. Gabrielle is passionate about the natural world; hiking through nature and learning about local flora and fauna.
A perfect day off for her looks like taking a walk outside and visiting one of her favorite outdoor spaces near home, taking a trip to “The Flower Bin” to walk through the greenhouse, and the local used book store to peruse the new, used selections.
“If you can’t discover what’s keeping you in, the will to get out soon becomes confused and ineffectual” – Daniel Quinn, Ishmael
Noah HorningRead Bio Noah Horning
Noah Horning has a Bachelor’s degree in Holistic Pyschology from Lesley University in Cambridge MA. In addition he has an undergraduate certification in Holistic Health and Wellness. He is currently working the night shift which requires him to be attentive and thorough, as he the only staff member in the building during the night. It is his goal to continue to build on his foundation of knowledge in the fields of Ecopsychology and Holistic Health and Wellness. The fretted relationship between humans and the earth has consequences for all. Noah wants to provide natural experiences that turn us towards stewardship and begin the healing process. Noah enjoys playing music and doing sporty activities. He loves a long hike when he is being pushed physically and mentally. However, he more often finds himself enjoying short strolls down to the park with his dog!
“What about second breakfast?” – Tolkien
Noah loves this quote because he works at night and starts his day at 11pm with breakfast at home and when the kids wake up at the end of his shift…. SECOND BREAKFAST! (303) 443-3343
Join us for our upcoming Parents Weekend!
All times are 9 am-5 pm, and all events will be hosted on Zoom.