The Staff


Desere  Desere is the Co-Director of Girls Camp and Young Boys Camp. Sinc 2006, Desere has lived and taught at Turtle Island Preserve. She brings over 15 years of experience as an outdoor educator and has worked at various camps and educational institutions throughout the nation. She has a wide and adventurous background, in travel, art, woodworking, and science education. She received a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts from The Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY and an Associates in Visual Communications at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. 

Thoughts from Desere:
“Summer Camp  is my favorite time of year at Turtle Island. Everything is alive and blooming, the baby animals add humor and excitement into base camp life. It’s the season we get to share the most special aspects of the preserve with unique and amazing young people. I feel so fortunate to be making a living out of hiking to waterfalls, discovering the wilderness and fostering a sense of wonder in our visitors.

I think fondly of the songs around the camp fire, and dancing under the stars, much like we can imagine our ancestors did so long ago. Celebrating the essentials in life -  like firecraft and the sacredness of water - we reach a place in camp that goes beyond a geographic location. Many people carry Turtle Island in their hearts for years and years.

I look forward to each camper having the opportunity to discover the natural wonders here, as well as the discoveries that happen within. It has been a distinct honor to see campers come again, year after year, growing and developing into fine stewards of the land and planet. We welcome all the newcomers and hold all the return-campers in the highest regard."


Janice Durand - Girls Camp Director Janice Marie Durand was the founder and Director of Turtle Island Girls Camp from 1992-95.  She is a lover of nature and all its’ beings and has a passion for ‘wildness’ and earth-skills, crafts & basketry.  She has dedicated much of her life to empowering the feminine.  Janice has been in the role of mentoring girls, & girls camp staff.  She continues to bring her wisdom and playful spirit and Earth Skills and Crafts to Girls Camp sessions. Janice brings her 25 years of experience as a naturalist, body worker, and mindfulness movement teacher of yoga and T’ai Chi to share self-care and nourishing embodiment practices and tools for stress with the campers and staff.  She creates a sacred container for discovery, healing, adventure and transformation to unfold in.  She directs her holistic healing center called Tree of Life Center in Efland, NC. 




Counselor Jais Jais Brohinsky has spent the past five years roaming rural landscapes, plugging into a variety of different community-based projects and education centers, and wearing a variety of hats (hard hats, wide-brimmed straw hats, even a funny little floppy hat that Catalan shepherds wear).  Despite wandering from the Spanish Pyrenees to New Mexico's Manzanos, when summer days grow long, he always tries to return to Turtle Island's valley home in the southern Appalachians to share stories and challenges and lessons beneath one of his favorite (and physically non-existent) hats: that of the summer camp counselor.  


Counselor Noah Noah Harrell - Hailing, as it sometimes will, from the big city of Burgaw, NC, Noah is happiest with swamp mud between his toes. A theater teacher, performer and workshop facilitator, he specializes in mask and puppet work and has led classes in Canada, the UK, Taiwan, and Italy.  He worked for 10 years as performer, bus driver, musician, maple sugarer, gardener, and schlepper with Bread and Puppet Theater of Vermont and is co-founder of The Rural Academy Theater, a horse-drawn touring company based in North Carolina.  He loves spending time with the river and ocean-- canoeing, sailing, swimming, or just sitting and watching.  For their honeymoon, Noah and his wife Ali recently had a grand time biking across Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.  This will be his second summer as counselor at TI. Noah studied performing and visual arts at Trinity College in Connecticut, Savannah College of Art and Design, and University of the West Indies in Trinidad.  He plays classical flute and loves the heck out of a good tomato sandwich.  You can check out his website at: 



Counselor Samuel Samuel Giovanetti grew up in southern New Jersey in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and fondly remembers smashing fireflies on his forehead to make it glow.  When he was a teenager he slowly but surely fell in love with the natural world and soon found himself spending as much time as possible out of doors.  At 20 years old, he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, and shortly after moved to Boone, NC to attend Appalachian State University.  He had heard of Turtle Island during his thru hike, and began volunteering shortly after moving to NC.  Sam fell in love with TIP and decided to construct his own tipi and live in the mountains for a year, as well as work several summer camps as kitchen help and counselor. Since then, he has graduated college, spent a summer working in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, spent one year hitchhiking and traveling the West, and currently is a resident Field Instructor at The Mountain Institute high in the mountains of West Virginia.  He is trained in Wilderness First Aid, loves anything and everything wild, and likes to spend his free time playing old time Appalachian banjo and fiddle tunes.  Sam is excited to return to TIP for his fourth summer!


Counselor Marino Growing up, Marino Lenoe took his parents’ advice to “Go outside and live your life instead of sitting there and watching it on a screen.” After fourteen years of playing sports and building forts in what little woods were available in Wilmington, North Carolina, Marino was fortunate enough to find Turtle Island’s website. Despite zero of his three siblings ever attending summer camp, he was hooked after that first summer as a Rainbow Warrior and returned for three more with the Sentinels. He happily graduated into the role of counselor and returns time and time again to witness and facilitate the growth and learning taking place at camp each summer. With a confidence, passion and resourcefulness gained from Turtle Island, he’s gone on to collect a multitude of experiences that shaped his outlook on life. He earned a BA in Psychology from Cornell University, explored the medical field and became a Wilderness First Responder, led a full season of adventure trips in Maine for Apogee Adventures, enjoyed personal backpacking excursions throughout New York, Hawaii, New Mexico and Ecuador, and now lives and works in Connecticut as an outdoor educator for Nature’s Classroom. Marino strives to perfect his balance between work and play, combining the two whenever possible. He passes his free time playing ukulele, spinning poi, rock climbing, trail running, and training his Pokémon for the 20th anniversary release of Sun & Moon. His favorite camp activities are the Polar Dip, Giveaway, and Night Hike. His favorite games include Ninja, Zoogle Stick, Ultimate Frisbee, and of course Boogers in the Woods. If a witch were to transform him into his animal likeness, he would not complain about becoming a raccoon.


Counselor Fred Fred Pree, a high school teacher out of Saint Petersburg, FL has a passion for movement. Thoughts from Fred:  “Movement is essential to our continued survival, yet in our modern world - driven by convenience, movement has taken a back seat, if it’s even invited onto the bus at all. It is my goal to encourage and aid folks in educating themselves on the essentials of health and fitness to age gracefully while maintaining a youthful and energetic lifestyle. I share movement in the traditional sense, the way our ancestors did, outside, with real things (logs, rocks, trees, water, and wildlife). By combining hypothetical situational and environmental demands (using a balance beam to simulate crossing a river on a log, or carrying a rock and carefully negotiating a low crawl space to simulate carrying a baby through a cavern), I am able to create practical training scenarios that have a strong focus on safety, efficiency and increased performance. My students have fun with authentic human movement and all the internal and external sensations that accompany it, deepening their understanding - instead of mindlessly moving weights. It is the greatest honor to share this craft with folks, making movement fun and connecting in the outside world. I am excited to spend time teaching and learning from the students and staff of Turtle Island over the summer. Many thanks for this opportunity.”


Counselor Charlie Charlie Reed lived at Turtle Island Preserve from 2002-2004.  He has continued teaching at Turtle Island for the past 12 years.  Charlie believes that children grow well in the outdoors when they are exposed to novel experiences that challenge their self-limiting belief systems and encourage them to go beyond their current definitions of themselves. Charlie is also a father and husband.  He has a 5 year old son, Sol, who often accompanies him to help guide at Turtle Island and a beautiful wife, Carrie, who lived and worked at Turtle Island in 2003.  They live in Asheville on a half-acre urban microfarm.  They have raised goats, chickens, worms, bees, rabbits, vegetables, berry bushes, medicinal/edible flowers and herbs, and fruit trees.  The farm is currently on hiatus while they have created Happy Heart Pre-school, a small school for children ages 3-5, based out of their home. 


Charlie is an impassioned learner in life and curious about a wide variety of topics.  He has been a leader for teens in a multi-denominational exploration of life through the perspective of many different religions, philosophies, and scientific disciplines for the past four years at Jubilee! Church in Asheville.  He describes this teen group’s practice as, “Shaministic multi-denominational praise worship targeted at the oppressed, unfulfilled, or just generally miserable in life.......Hallelujah Boo-Hoo Boogie-Woogie, Blissed-Out Gospel Choir of Love, Praise, Optimism, Gratitude, Appreciation and Unrepenting Forgiveness.” 


Charlie has also worked as a Head Instructor for SUWS of the Carolinas and Phoenix Outdoor.  These companies are therapeutic wilderness camps that utilize nature as a backdrop for self-reflection, as a classroom for deepening our understanding of the natural world, and as a metaphor for life skills that apply both on and off the trail.  Charlie has been certified in Wilderness First Aid and First Aid/CPR.  These experiences have taught Charlie many lessons in humility and flexibility while remaining focused on the goals of the group and of each student. Charlie has been a teacher, in public (currently Buncombe County Schools) and private settings, for the past four years.  He has worked with students with a variety of mental health issues that create challenges for these students in a mainstream setting.  This work has helped Charlie to be creative, to meet students where they are at, to always encourage and support children to give their very best, and to acknowledge but not limit students to their personal challenges.



Chloe Tipton: Teacher, Girls Camp Co-Director, Boys Camp Kitchen Manager, Graduated Intern. Chloe was born and raised in the Asheville area. She moved to Boone and began volunteering at Turtle Island Preserve in ‘09. She has since completed the work internship and become a teacher here. Outside of TIP, she leads water-based adventure trips with Appalachian State University and assists in running a local skills gathering. She has a degree in Empowerment Pedagogy and is a medically certified Wilderness First Responder.

She enjoys whitewater sports and expeditions, geometry, and thick-slice bacon. She can have a hard time skipping stones, losing at games, and getting out of bed on a cold winter morning. She aspires to one day be able to walk on her hands and tell a good joke, not even at the same time. Her favorite things to do at TIP are working with the goats and their milk, cooking on the wood stoves, and sharing the lifestyle with curious visitors. 


Hannah Mawyer:Volunteer & Camp Counselor Hannah Mawyer is a student at the College of William & Mary. After being inspired by and falling in love with the woods at Turtle Island and in the Blue Ridge Mountains at home in Gordonsville, VA -  she chose a major in Biology and Environmental Science. She aspires to become a high school teacher and loves hands-on science in the field. Hannah first attended a camp at Turtle Island as a Discovery-Program middle school student on a 10-Day wilderness outing.

She returned for two summer sessions of Girls Camp, and continues to return to volunteer for Open Houses, The Families-Learning-Together Scholarship fundraiser, and camps. Some of her proudest moments include completing the Honor Challenges of the South and East during summer camp. Thoughts from Hannah: ‘If you don't know what the honor challenges are, come to camp to find out! My new favorite piece of advice is "silence is necessary to hear the voice of your inner wisdom.’ Luckily, my time at Turtle Island has given me plenty of time to be silent, reflect, and spend time in appreciation.”


Counselor Rebecca Rebecca Brickner is a former camper who has since returned to TI as a volunteer and counselor. She loves adventure and authenticity -- and keeps returning to the Preserve because she's always been able to find both there.  She is also a big fan of goats and dogs, and would someday like to have (almost) as many of both as Eustace does. When she isn't hiking or cracking lame jokes, Rebecca studies Public Policy and Environmental Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. Thoughts from Rebecca: "The two summers I was lucky enough to attend girls' camp are among the most formative experiences of my life -- largely because of how empowering it was for a girl from the suburbs to grow in confidence and self-sufficiency by learning skills like splitting wood that most modern American women never get to experience. Girls' camp helped me blossom into a strong, capable young adult because I was encouraged to grow by challenging myself every day... and I made lifelong friends (like Hannah!) along the way."


Beth Casteel cooking on wood cook-stove

Beth Casteel loves many things such as twinkling fireflies, wildflowers, watching her chickens play, sharing stories around a campfire, and smiling! By profession, she is a second grade teacher, but at heart she is an educator that is not limited to a classroom with four walls. She loves children of all ages and challenges them to embrace learning in all situations and circumstances.

Beth first came to Turtle Island in 2005 for a one-week camp: "Extraordinary Vision for Teaching with Nature", which changed her life. She was born and raised a country girl, but had gone to college to get away from the rustic life; however, her experience at Turtle Island left her feeling deeply connected to her natural roots and compelled to pass along those timeless skills and values to future generations. She has worked in many capacities around Turtle Island, but her absolute favorite role is that of camp counselor. “I love waking up each day to lead the campers on a new adventure of learning, challenging them to try new things and delve into their interests! Although I have worked at other summer camps, I love Turtle Island’s camps because they are never the same and are always tailored to the individual needs and interests of its unique group of campers. That is a rare experience for children at most camps today!”



 Kathleen Roberts has a rich and colorful background in back-to-basics living, earth skills, music, song, crafting and teaching art. Alongside her well admired husband Preston, and 3 sons, and a few grandchildren – Kathleen has been teaching, sharing and inspiring others as an outdoor educator at Turtle Island Preserve since its earliest days.

She directed Girls Camp for many years, and has led countless hikers down endless trails, up creeks and into the best waterholes all over Turtle Island, and beyond to her own adjoining acreage. She’s a beloved presence at Girls Camp, during School Group visits and always has a beautiful lesson or skill to share.


Jason Lonon - Blacksmith, Educator, Purveyor of early American crafts Jason Lonon, a visiting teacher for years - is a professional cabinetmaker and blacksmith. Since 1997 he has studied, practiced and taught traditional woodworking and blacksmithing in a variety of settings from youth summer camps to community colleges. In his blacksmith shop, Jason specializes in making historical woodworking tools and traditional hardware. Jason has been a masterful teacher at Turtle Island expertly guiding students from small children to elderly adults. His trademark introductory class “100 useful things that can be made from a worn-out horseshoe” – has excited and inspired countless iron working enthusiasts for years. He has also led many groups in beautiful and useful making of wooden benches and stools, and his attention to detail with tools, blades and craftsmanship makes him one of our most saught after instructors. Visit Jason's own website HERE


Educator Spencer Bolejack Spencer ‘two-dogs’ grew up on a North Carolina farm and developed a love for the outdoors at an early age. Active from the earliest levels of scouting, he’s carried the way of the scout into adulthood. Spencer apprenticed under Eustace Conway in the late 90’s, and is an NCNPI licensed educator and Teaching Fellow in History and Social Studies of grades 6-12. He holds instructor ranking in numerous martial arts, has taught outdoor, survival and primitive earth skills in a variety of landscapes from open water sailing to backcountry woodland and rainforest. Spencer is also the co-host of the first survival/reality style tv show filmed in 3D, ‘Hillbilly Blood’ which set records for the Destination America Network.  The series creates an opportunity to showcase and highlight Spencer’s resourceful mountain innovation and survival tricks and techniques, but nothing  quite compares to getting to study with him in the field. Hundreds of campers and aspiring scouts have been captivated and motivated by the teachings he offers here at the Preserve. Visit Spencer's own website HERE


In honor of our founders and mentors, please feel free to read more:


Preston and EustacePreston J. Roberts

“Jack of all trades…Master of some”

After marrying the love of his life: Kathleen, and spending 4 years in the U.S.A.F., Preston first met Eustace Conway in 1983 at Appalachian State University while acquiring a BS in Art Education.

As a Member of the American Indian Cultural Association, Preston spent 12 years as a member of their “drum” and a “contemporary traditional dancer” traveling  the Powwow circuit over much of the eastern seaboard. He has been a guest instructor at River Cane Rendezvous, Rabbit Stick Rendezvous, O.A. Indian Seminar, and numerous Cultural Festivals throughout the South East.

Preston and Kathleen have been living a simple lifestyle, close to the land, for over 35 years. (Even spending 18 months in a tipi with 2 children.) He fathered 3 sons, and worked for the Wilkes county schools system - elected East Wilkes High School “Teacher of the year” twice during his tenure. Preston and Kathleen have backpacked extensively throughout the mountains of western North Carolina, and they paddled the entire Yadkin/Pee Dee river from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina to Georgetown South Carolina (approximately 440 miles). They paddled across much of Florida on the Suwannee river, and have volunteered at a Sea Turtle restoration project in Costa Rica.

Preston has ridden horses across North and South Carolina with Eustace on the ”short riders” trip. He also drove a horse and cart across Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska with Eustace on the ”Buggy trip.” The Roberts’ own 90 acres adjoining T.I. Preston has built about a third of the buildings at Turtle Island and another third in collaboration with Eustace. He is a self- trained carpenter and architectural designer - having built over 30 buildings by himself - all while additionally teaching outdoor education for 40some years. 

Thoughts from Preston:

“I am a maker of things; Art, knives, buckskin, furniture, tree houses, barns, Adirondacks, cabins, etc… but what I am the most proud of though is my ability shape the minds of young people. Teaching is my profession, the study of the natural world my passion. I learn best through observation and teach through practical application of newly gained knowledge. Being the eldest of 5 children, and the only boy, I fell naturally into teaching.”  visit Preston's own website HERE