Staff & Board
Vivian Russell, Executive Director and 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, James S. Brady Therapeutic Riding Program, Junior League, and Arts in Action. In 2005, Vivian was hired as the Development Associate for Save Our Youth 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, multi-day summer camping trip, and grew the organization to serve more youth than ever before. In 2009 she was awarded a scholarship from the El Pomar Foundation and Telluride Foundation to participate in the Colorado Community Resource Center's Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program, of which she is a graduate. In 2014, after recognizing a need in the region for a teen-specific mentoring program, Vivian co-founded True North along with Lanier Nelson and Betsy Walker. The three all worked as unpaid staff for 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, having volunteered over 450 hours of community service in high school through National Charity League. 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, 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 as Program Director for True North! Loren's published work can be found in the Wetlands Journal. She is also a Wilderness First Responder and trained Victim Advocate. 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.
Leslie Ament, West End Coordinator
Leslie Ament was born and raised in the West End, and also raised two sons who are graduates of Nucla High School. A lifelong Naturita local, Leslie as also a teacher at Nucla High School. Leslie is pictured with her two sons, Jared and Jordan.
Lynda Holm, Sassyz Salsa Chef, Catering Apprenticeship Program (CAP) Instructor
My name is Lynda Holm and I am a person that appreciates the deep sensory experience inspired by a meal or specific dish which is eaten. That experience is the fuel that feeds my passion to cook and feed others.
My cooking experience had been inspired initially by my maternal grandmother. As a Mexican-American originally from East Los Angeles, our Mexican cuisine is ingrained in my family with every holiday or cultural event. As a teen, TV cooks introduced me to new and interesting dishes from other cultures and gourmet cooking entered my life. Immerse myself in the processes and procedures & I aspired to be like Graham Kerr “The Galloping Gourmet”.
My father was also a foodie of his times, and we spent many weekends preparing exotic menus and the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cooking and The Joy of Cooking became my favorite forms of entertainment. During my travels throughout my life, I have also enjoyed living in various mid-western states and have enjoyed & cooked many favorite Americana dishes.
As a teacher/facilitator, I have taught cooking classes at East Los Angeles Community College and at Western Colorado Community College. I have also cooked both privately and professionally as Head Chef & Catering Consultant as well as institutional environments ie, county juvenile facilities, fast food businesses and I currently am the sole proprietor of Sassyz Salsa catering service in Naturita, CO providing catered event services, wholesale and retail sales.
Board of Directors
Rose Gutfeld, PRESIDENT, (Telluride, CO) Retired journalist
Rose specializes as a True North College & Career Readiness volunteer. She works with True North staff every with in the Telluride High School AVID class and volunteers regularly as a tutor for After School Base Camp.
David Ziegler, TREASURER, (Telluride, CO) Rentals Manager, Telluride Sports
Dave specializes in True North's outdoor programs and has lent his time and talent as a chaperone and yoga instructor for our group activities.
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, Co-Founder, (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.
McKay Belk, Norwood, CO
McKay and his wife Nina raised five children in Colorado and have opened up their home and farm in Norwood for True North activities and programs. True North participants have enjoyed many fond memories at the Valentine Farm and Jubilee Stables including equine activities, the annual Valentine Has Heart Valentines Day celebration, the summer retreat for the Rising Stars, and helping out at the fireman's fundraiser. McKay also lends his longtime business expertise to our organization.
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, Co-Founder, (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 Telluride High School soccer, was a One-to-One Mentor, and 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.
Jody Miller, (Telluride, CO)
Mother of three teens, attorney, advocate for education, former board president.
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.
Ashley Coady Smith, (Telluride, CO) 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.
Alex Jones, (Sawpit, CO) Telluride High School Guidance Counselor.
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.
David Almaraz, (Boulder, CO) True North alumni currently studying Business at CU Boulder.
Brenda Gutierrez, (Durango, CO) True North alumni currently studying Education at Fort Lewis College.