Richard Ball, Chair (Colorado) Rich has been active in the Loveland business community for the past forty years, working as an attorney, specializing in business law, elder law, real estate law, and wills and trusts, Rich has been active in the Loveland Rotary Club since 1973, and has served on numerous boards including Larimer County Pathways Hospice, Loveland Habitat for Humanity and United Way. Rich was elected to the Loveland City Council in November 2015. He comes from a family dedicated to education, art, music, and community and enjoys a deep historic connection to Loveland. Richard's grandchildren are now sixth generation Lovelanders. Rich earned both his BA in Political Science and his JD at the University of Colorado. RIch joined the HJC Board in 2014.

Emilie Ryan, Treasurer (Colorado) Emilie has 30 years experience in nonprofit financial management. She is the Chief Financial Officer for LightHawk, an international conservation organization that accelerates conservation by providing an aerial view. Prior to joining LightHawk in 2001, Emilie spent 17 years at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an international outdoor educational organization based in Lander, WY. Emilie holds degrees in accounting from the University of Wyoming (BS) and Central Wyoming College (AAS). She is passionate about art, music, yoga and the outdoors, and spends the majority of her free time exploring the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado. Emilie joined the HJC Board in 2014.

Fredda Plesser, Secretary (New York) Fredda spent 15 years as a practicing attorney before shifting to the nonprofit arena to focus on bringing services and relief to underserved communities. She is the Executive Vice President of the David Lynch Foundation, an organization that spreads the benefits of transcendental meditation to a variety of audiences, including people recovering from trauma. From 2003 until 2011, Fredda was Senior Vice President, Chair and Executive Director of the Michael Tyler Fisher Center for Education of the Intrepid Museum in Manhattan. Fredda holds a BS from Cornell University and a JD from Fordham University School of Law. Fredda lives in New York City with her husband and three children. Fredda is inspired by the Heart J Center as an opportunity to combine her passions for education, community service and the restorative qualities of Sylvan Dale. Fredda joined the HJC Board in 2014.

Dr. Dave Armstrong (Colorado) Dave is Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he taught Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Environmental Studies for 39 years. Dave served on the board of directors of The Nature Conservancy of Colorado for nearly two decades and was also a board member for the Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science and the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education. He has led hundreds of field courses, workshops, and hikes for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, the Rocky Mountain Nature Association, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the Keystone Science Center, and others. Dave’s publications include Mammals of Colorado and Rocky Mountain Mammals. Dave holds a BS in zoology from Colorado State University, an MS in science education from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Kansas. Dave is Resident Naturalist at Sylvan Dale, engaging visitors of all ages with stories that intertwine the natural history, geology, and human history of this remarkable place. In addition to his commitment to scientific discovery and education. Dave joined the HJC Board in 2013.

Luke Jessup (Maryland) Luke Jessup is an experienced wilderness survival instructor who developed a deep connection to the earth by learning and living in the ways of our native ancestors. The declining health of our planet motivated him to create his business, Father Nature Restorative Landscaping, in 2007. Luke has quickly become a leader in conservation landscaping in the Chesapeake Bay Area. His work focuses on restoring suburban ecosystems and connecting people to the natural world through their yards. Luke’s knowledge of native plants comes directly from utilizing them for their edible, medicinal, and utilitarian purposes. Luke grows a significant portion of his food in his vegetable garden and is dedicated to living sustainably on this earth. Luke joined the HJC Board in 2013.  

Tamara O’Dell (Colorado)  Tamara has lived in Colorado for over 17 years.  She is a storyteller and has a passion for sharing other people’s personal and family stories as well as those of historical figures of the region. She has a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Houston. She grew up in a military family but spent the majority of her young adult years in Texas.  Tamara loves to travel and learn about how the people of the region – both domestic and foreign -  live wherever she visits. She is a life-long learner and grew to appreciate the Experiential Learning model when she went on an Outward Bound course and then subsequently worked for Outward Bound in Corporate Development.  Her love of horses and of Sylvan Dale and all it offers began with her first dude ranch experience in Bandera, TX at the age of 10.  When she is not writing, Tamara is doing anything outside and especially loves riding the bike trails in Fort Collins and Loveland, hiking the nearby mountains and exploring new places around Colorado and Wyoming. Tamara joined the HJC Board in 2018.


Laura Armstrong, Executive Director Laura was immersed in hands-on learning from toddlerhood, tagging along on her biologist parents’ field expeditions in the mountains, forests, rivers, and deserts of Colorado and Utah. Laura spent summers during college leading teams of teenage Junior Rangers building trails in the City of Boulder Mountain Parks, with an emphasis on teaching the personal rewards of hard work, teamwork, safety, commitment to quality, and having fun outdoors. Later, as a park ranger, she led hikes and gave presentations about the natural history of the Boulder area, in addition to search and rescue and wildland firefighting. Laura served as administrative director for the Center for Resourceful Building Technology in Montana and as the first 

executive director of the Legacy Land Trust in Fort Collins, working with landowners to protect thousands of acres of ranchland and open space. She was a land conservation and nonprofit management consultant for eight years with clients including The Nature Conservancy, Larimer County, High Plains Environmental Center, and Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. Most recently, Laura spent six years designing conservation programs and leading fundraising efforts for LightHawk, an organization that provides flight for conservation projects across North and Central America. Since 2014, Laura’s work at the Heart J Center has brought together her experience with nonprofit management, collaborative conservation, outdoor education, and meeting facilitation, her personal interests in natural history, creative arts, sustainable agriculture, and outdoor adventure, and her desire to help others find the activities and topics that ignite their passions. Laura holds a BA in Biology and Environmental Science from Colby College in Maine and an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana.

Silas Binkley, Education Program Manager Silas joined Heart J Center in 2018, bringing more than 12 years of professional higher education experience designing and coordinating programming for students as well as leading them in national and international fieldwork, service-learning opportunities, internships, capstone courses, and outdoor education courses. Silas holds a BA in Arts and Humanities with a minor in English from Colorado State University and an MA degree in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development from the University of Queensland, Australia. He’s a Ph.D. candidate (expected 2019) at Prescott College in Experiential Learning, with an emphasis on sustainability education. Most recently, Silas was Manager of Operations and Experiential Learning at the University of

Colorado's Presidents Leadership Class. Prior to his work at CU, Silas was an instructor and capstone project mentor in the MA of Environmental Leadership program at Naropa University, where he also served as a visiting professor in the environmental studies program. Additionally, he served as program coordinator and instructor for Colorado Mountain College’s U.S.-Mexico based expeditionary program: Outdoor Semester in the Rockies. Silas is certified as a Wilderness First Responder (with past certification as a Wilderness EMT), and he has considerable outdoor experience including climbing, backpacking, and fly fishing. Silas has deep roots in Northern Colorado, with his family going back five generations in the Front Range region. He fondly remembers childhood days spent at his grandparents' farm near Boedecker Lake. 

Heart-J Center for Experiential Learning
PO Box 150, Masonville, CO 80541
Tax ID#: 46-4993961
HJC is a 501(c)3 charitable organization