Staff & Board
Vivian Russell, Executive Director, Co-Founder
A fourth generation Coloradan and Denver native, Vivian graduated with honors from Colorado College in 2001 with a BA in English. She then lived in San Francisco for four years and worked and volunteered with several nonprofits including: Project Open Hand, San Francisco School Volunteers, Brady Therapeutic Riding Program, and Arts in Action. In 2005, Vivian was hired as the Development Associate for SOY Mentoring Project in Denver, an agency serving over 500 urban youth per year. After moving to Telluride in 2007, Vivian served for five years as the Executive Director of One to One San Miguel Mentoring Program, where she created the annual Top Chef fundraiser, developed the summer camping trip, and grew the organization to serve more youth than ever before. During this time, she was awarded a scholarship from the Anschutz Foundation to participate in the Community Resource Center's Nonprofit Leadership & Management Program, of which she is a graduate. In 2014 Vivian co-founded True North along with Lanier Nelson and Betsy Walker. The three all worked as unpaid staff for the first four years to build the organization on a grass-roots model. Vivian is passionate about education and loves helping students find a pathway to college. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking for family and friends as well as exploring and photographing river canyons and other wilderness places.
Loren Knobbe, Program and Development Director
Loren ‘obi wan’ Knobbe hails from the East Coast, a Georgia peach to be specific! She has always had a passion for the outdoors and community service. She spent her freshman year of college studying in Panama and Spain and has been on her own unique path ever since. Loren graduated Cum Laude from Florida State University (GO NOLES!) with a BS in Environmental Science. Her work experience is as diverse as her major. Loren has worked around the country and internationally in guiding, sustainable farming in the jungle, DNA testing in a Microbiology lab, working with troubled youth in wilderness therapy as a Lead Instructor, recreating and instructing with the Telluride Academy and most importantly... working for TRUE NORTH! Loren is incredibly passionate about spreading the benefits and thrills of the outdoors, separating youth from the addiction to technology, giving back to the community and living life to the fullest. When she's not working, you can probably find her biking or running the trails of the magnificent San Juans. Loren is thrilled to be a part of TRUE NORTH and its promising future!
Melissa Martinez, College & Career Support
Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative
Melissa, a native of Denver, has more than ten years of experience working with high school and college students in the U.S., in the Middle East, and in Latin America. A first-generation college student, Melissa is passionate about assisting youth with overcoming financial, educational, and personal barriers that may prevent them from enrolling in and graduating from college. She has spent the majority of her career creating summer programs, advising programs, and leadership institutes for Daniels Scholars, Denver Scholarship Foundation scholars, communities of color, and international students. She is thrilled to be working with Telluride students and their families/guardians! In her spare time, Melissa enjoys camping, hiking, attending music festivals, reading, meditating, and watching the Game of Thrones.
Jody Miller, PRESIDENT, (Telluride, CO)
Mother of three teens, attorney, advocate for education.
Ashley Coady Smith, TREASURER, (Telluride, CO)
Ashley, founder of Sage Advice Telluride (a capacity building and project management business for nonprofits in Telluride, CO), has worked in outdoor education, nonprofit management and sales/marketing for over 11 years. Before that, Smith worked as a veterinary technologist after studying animal science/veterinary technology at St. Petersburg College where she received her bachelor's degree in 2006.
Smith has lived in Telluride with her husband and their two Labradors for the last decade. When she isn’t spending time helping her local community thrive through volunteerism and dedication to her career serving nonprofits, Smith can be found mountain biking and occasionally climbing rocks in and around the Colorado Plateau, travelling around the world embracing other micro-communities and surf destinations.
Suse Connolly, Esq., SECRETARY, (Mountain Village, CO)
Suse is a real-estate lawyer and specializes in editing internal documents, sourcing new scholarship opportunities for students, as well as editing student essays and applications for jobs, scholarships, and college.
Betsy Walker, (Sawpit, CO)
Betsy, a co-founder of True North, hails from Tennessee originally. She met her husband, David, on a ski trip to Telluride in 1983. Together they mentored a brother and sister through the San Miguel Mentoring Program from 1997 until present. One is now married with children, and the other, a Daniels Fund Scholar, graduated from CU Boulder in 2015. In addition to being a volunteer mentor for the program for over twenty years, she was employed for five years where she managed their Quest Scholarship Program. After True North was founded, as a volunteer, she wanted to bring scholarship and financial coaching to the students in Norwood and Nucla, and bring more opportunity and assistance in a service that was much needed. The success that followed those students she supported inspired True North to focus more on this area and created the foundation to pursue and receive a grant from the Colorado Department of Higher Education to advance this outreach as a primary focus of our programming. With a degree in Psychology and Sociology from Carson Newman University, Betsy enjoys gardening, cooking, and politics. She is also a lifetime member of Girls Scouts.
Matt Lewis, (Mountain Village, CO) Matt Lewis Design
Matt is an avid skier, mentor and volunteer! If he's not maintaining properties or out skiing, he can be found at any one of our programs. He especially enjoys getting outdoors and working with our youth to build new skills!
Lanier Nelson, (Kerville, TX)
While growing up in the south, Lanier was exposed to volunteer work early on with his mother who would bring him and his brother along to deliver meals to the elderly. In high school Lanier was involved in sports to keep him occupied and out of trouble, which proved to be effective. His volunteer spirit was again fed in college by becoming a volunteer tutor with Western Youth Network. In the summers he was a camp counselor at a camp for adopted children. To this day Lanier still speaks to one of his campers twice a month.In his time as an adult Lanier wasted little time at pouring himself into mentoring. He started mentoring shortly after his arrival in Telluride, CO. He is still in contact with his original mentee. Lanier taught him how to drive a manual transmission, be respectful of others, give a firm handshake and to give more than he takes. Lanier coached high school soccer and was a young life leader in Telluride, before co-founding True North Youth Program in 2014. He now lives in Texas with his wife Denee and their son, Benjamin True Nelson. He graduated with his Master's in Social Work In October of 2019 to broaden his impact on the world. Lanier is currently working at a mental health authority on the crisis outreach team. He and his family often make the trip to Telluride for graduation and to present the Lanier Nelson Academic Award.
David Zeigler, (Telluride, CO) Telluride Sports
Dave specializes in True North's outdoor programs.
Alex Jones, (Sawpit, CO) Telluride High School Guidance Counselor
Rose Gutfeld, (Telluride, CO) Retired journalist
Rose specializes as a True North College & Career Readiness volunteer.
Board of Directors
Our Advisory Board is invaluable as they have each been involved in True North programming and provide incredible direction through their expertise and know-how. Thank you to all who have given of their talents to True North.
John Mansfield, (Norwood, CO) Founder of One to One San Miguel Mentoring Program, former director of San Miguel County Juvenile Diversion and professor of fine art. John is also a former True North Board member and founder of the Tom Hale Memorial Scholarship.
Ashley Williamson, (Ophir, CO) Telluride Intermediate School Teacher, English Language Learner specialist, Director of 2018 Rising Stars Summer Bridge Program, True North Founding Board Member.
Susan Oupadia, MD, (Telluride, CO) Board of Telluride Museum, Telluride Women's Network, former leader of adolescent girls program for Peace Corps in Albania.
Cheryl Carstens Miller, (Telluride, CO) Former School Board Director, AVID sponsor, Just for Kids Board Member.
Erik Fallenius, (Telluride, CO) Just for Kids Foundation founder, Director of Mountains to Desert ride, owner of Nevasca Realty.
Ross Williams, (Ridgeway, CO) Former Co-Executive Director, Founder of Ouray Ice Festival and Ice Climbing adventure, Norwood High School Civics teacher.
Jenna Hagen, (Telluride, CO) ESL Teacher, TIS.
Don Mitchell, (San Bernardo) Founding True North Board Member, Educator, former One Telluride Executive Director.
Nancy Hild, (Telluride, CO) Founding True North Board of Directors, business owner, raised three sons in Telluride.