Kapi`olani A. Laronal, MA, Ed., Consultant
– Kapi`olani is a descendant of the Haida (Eagle Clan, Sgwaa Gitanee, People of the Tall Grass), Tsimshian, Native Hawaiian, and Filipino. Kapi’olani’s experiences working with Native communities on ocean and land restoration projects, cultural preservation, and protocols have played a significant role in shaping her educational and professional life. She is an educator, athlete, life coach, and consultant who teaches Indigenous approaches to positive change by using traditional teachings and knowledge to support transformation and growth. Kapi`olani brings 18 years of experience working in secondary and higher education institutions supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and policies centered on college student outreach, recruitment, and services for traditionally underserved and low-income communities of color. Her work specializes in Indigenous and First Nations community-centered partnerships.
She held student support and administrative positions at Yale and Dartmouth Native American programs, the Northwest Indian College, and the Enumclaw School District’s Title VII Program in partnership with the Muckleshoot Tribe. Kapiolani lives in the Bronx, New York. She is a solopreneur, consultant, and life coach. Kapiolani founded Indigenous Life Coach & Consultant Corporation and does what she loves helping others succeed. She creates virtual spaces for individuals and organizations that aim to support their health and well-being, as well as, centering Indigenous approaches to positive change and transformation.
She offers diversity, wellness, and self-development courses on Mighty Networks
and her free mindfulness exercises can be found on Insight Timer.
Learn more: IndigenousLifeCoach.com
Wild Earth Board of Directors
Micah Blumenthal, Board Member
– In all aspects of his life, Micah is grounded in community – as co-owner of CIXdesigns, a yoga teacher, a board member of the Center for Creative Education, a helping hand at the Uptown Farmers Market (come say “Hi!” on Saturdays), Community Animator at The Lace Mill, and rocket scientist for the O+ Festival – he is dedicated to creating positive change in his community. Most of all, he is a happy father of two. It is through both CCE and his daughter’s involvement with Wild Earth that he came to love and appreciate the work Wild Earth does. He has seen through his daughter the growth that a child can experience through these kinds of programs.
Mischa Cohn, Board Member
– Mischa hails from Colorado where he acquired an appreciation of natural environments during summer hiking trips in the Rocky Mountains. After studying Marketing in college, Mischa lived in San Francisco and then spent a year traveling the planet – including living and teaching English in a small town in S. Korea. That adventure culminated in NYC where Mischa launched a career in digital media strategic partnerships, met his wife and started a family in Brooklyn before moving to New Paltz in 2011. Wild Earth has been an enriching influence for his family and friends, and he looks forward to helping the organization impact diverse communities.
Laura deNey, Board Member
– Laura deNey is a devoted Wild Earth parent and an Emmy award winning filmmaker who is passionate about telling hidden stories from around the world, often focusing on gender, race and the environment. She has produced and edited dozens of hours of documentary programming and is currently executive producing a documentary television series called Hidden Heroes
, which profiles the incredible Wild Earth along with dozens of other deserving heroes. She looks forward to continue helping Wild Earth with their video storytelling and now serving on the board.
Tina Dierna, Board Member
– Tina Dierna was born and raised in the Hudson Valley. She relocated to the Kingston area after obtaining her bachelor’s degree from Mount Saint Mary’s College in Newburgh, New York. She worked as a caseworker for eight years with the Ulster County Social Services Department. While working for the County she started a family and went back to obtain her Master of Social Work degree from Adelphi University. In 2015, Tina became a high school social worker for Kingston City School District. After a summer of volunteering to build a tiny home with five of her students, Tina became an Internship & Career Coordinator, a position that allows her to combine her passions for volunteer work and empowering and helping students succeed. Shortly after, she gained the added position of Transitional Counselor for Kingston High School, assisting students with planning their lives after high school, working with community organizations and creating partnerships throughout the Kingston Community. Tina has always been an active member of the community, whether it’s creating the first Pajama Program Chapter in Ulster, launching a healthy eating program for Cornell Cooperative or a parenting group for Family Services. Most recently she completed the Chamber of Commerce Ulster Leadership Development Institute where she co-chaired the group to launch a youth leadership program. This ultimately led her to run for the Wild Earth board of Directors and launch her own health and wellness lifestyle coaching business called Mom Overboard, a name that embodies her commitment to her community endeavors.
Matt Elkin, Board Member
– Known by many families in the New Paltz community as “Mr. Elkin,” Matt is a teacher at Duzine Elementary School. In more than ten years in the district he has worked with first/second grade students, including Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners. Also known at Duzine as “The Garden Guy”, Matt co-founded and currently chairs the committee for the first school garden in the New Paltz district called, The Green Classroom. So passionate about helping to shape the world of education, Matt collaborated with two other local teachers to create Inspired Learning Connections (ILC), an education consulting firm. Since childhood, the forest is where Matt feels most at home. Hiking, biking, camping and backpacking have always been favorite pastimes bringing him closer to the natural world. Matt Elkin has lived in Gardiner, NY for 12 years. In that time, he and his wife have had two children each of whom have adored Wild Earth programs since they were old enough to participate.
Stevenson Estimé, Board Member
– Stevenson is a first generation Haitian American and was born and raised in New York City. He is a visual artist whose work deals with the representation of race, class and gender in media and popular culture. He received his MFA from Hunter College and teaches art and digital photography at a private school in Manhattan. Stevenson is passionate about spending time outdoors and enjoys landscaping and gardening. His daughters have attended Wild Earth programs for many years.
Aja Hudson, Board Member
– ‘Shifting the way humans relate to the earth is only possible if we can start to shift the way we relate to ourselves and our communities. Mother Nature models this paradigm, and in essence provides us with a universal tool that can facilitate this shift. If we as humans can tap into this ancient wisdom, a deeper awareness will begin to open up. Then real change will have an opportunity to manifest.’ Aja is a mentor, a teacher, community organizer, developer of ecosystems and a conduit to the earth. She is a landscape designer by trade with a focus on ecological restoration and resilience. Co-creating interactive and regenerative environments for people and the earth is what inspires her. Since 2001, Aja was the founder and sole proprietor of what is now known as Earth Designs Cooperative, an environmentally friendly landscaping design and build firm. In 2014 she offered her employees an opportunity for shared ownership in the company. A year later that company was transitioned into a worker owned cooperative. Until her resignation in January of 2020, Aja served as the Executive Director and Board president. As a mentor and teacher to the team, she played an important role in both conceptualizing the trajectory of the Cooperative and supporting its growth. That company continues to thrive, supporting the wellbeing of over 30 employees while continuing to use earth friendly practices. Currently Aja is doing freelance design, continues to be a mentor and serves on multiple boards. Most importantly she is sitting in the possibilities of what the future might hold.
Ana Linneman, Board Member
– Ana grew up in southern Germany, where adventuring in the foothills of the Bavarian and Austrian Alps was a big part of her life. After coming to the US, starting a family and settling in the Hudson Valley, Ana was excited to find out about Red Fox Friends, the precursor to Wild Earth. Her three children became enthusiastic participants in, and later, counselors for many Wild Earth programs. As a devoted supporter, Ana learned much from their adventures and participated in some herself. Connecting with and preserving the natural world is one of her primary interests.
Joel Oppenheimer, Board Member
– Joel Oppenheimer is a Licensed Clinical currently working at the Psychological Counseling Center at SUNY, New Paltz. Before coming to SUNY, Joel was Assistant Director at Daytop Village in Rhinebeck, New York, a long term, all male, residential drug treatment program. At Daytop, Joel applied his social justice lens working for racial and gender equity in drug treatment and criminal justice institutions. As a mental health professional Joel has been a new voice in helping individuals and groups find connections and recover from addiction, traumas, and loss. He has extensive experience working with men and is currently working on programs focused on male culture and its impacts on male behavior and mental health. Joel is a lifelong artist and performer who uses his creative abilities to implement innovative programs. Joel believes that connecting to community is one of the most powerful ways of healing and he is always seeking new ways to help people improve their mental health by telling their stories and engaging their community and natural environment.
Aja Schmeltz, Board Member
– Aja is an Afro-Latina, cisgendered, middle class woman raising 3 daughters with her partner of 20+ years, growing food and medicine, creating art, loving hard and strengthening connections in her beloved communities throughout the Mahicantuck (Hudson) River Valley. The Just Transition
is central to her work, both personally and professionally, because she strongly believes that a successful community is made up of individuals working collaboratively on all fronts to create avenues to build a healthier, thriving, more sustainable environment. In addition to her roles at Good Work Institute, Aja sits on the board of The Hudson Valley Current, is a member of the Kingston Trust Hub Advisory Board, is a member of HUDSY’s Content Committee, is a member of the Hudson Valley Food Systems Coalition, a member of the New Paltz School District Racial Equity Committee and is a thought-partner for many initiatives and organizations throughout the region.
Jason Stern, Board Member
– Jason Stern is Founder and Publisher at Luminary Media. He launched the flagship magazine Chronogram in 1993, with the aim of nourishing and stimulating the creative and economic well-being of the Hudson Valley. Since then Jason has led the launch of several magazines, web-sites, and participated in the development of a full-service marketing agency, Luminary Media. Jason attended SUNY New Paltz prior to founding Luminary Publishing. In addition, Jason serves on several not-for-profit boards of directors including Wild Earth, Re>Think Local, Institute for Creative Studies, and the Gurdjieff Heritage Society. He is a firm believer in local living economy principles and the power of a small group of dedicated people to make a meaningful difference in the world. Jason is the author of Learning to Be Human (Codhill Press, 2010) and writes regularly for Chronogram magazine and other publications. He teaches meditation and inner work internationally. Jason lives in New Paltz where he was raised, with his wife and business partner/cofounder Amara Projansky, and their two boys (who have been Wild Earth campers for ten years).