2016-17 Staff Bios | High Desert Center
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2016-17 Staff Bios


The Gap Year staff changes as the program progresses. Following are staff who are with the group for at least a month of the 2016-17 Gap year.

Program Leader

Dev Carey

Dev Carey

Dev Carey

I like adventure.  I like the kind of learning that changes who we are and how we see the world.  I like trying to outcrazy the many young adults who often share my house. I like exploring the uncomfortable and finding beauty there. I like rooms full of people who don’t think they agree. I like standing on the shoulder of a highway with my thumb in the air and  waking up with raindrops bouncing off my face. I like knowing how to feel full on an empty stomach.

Early on, I discovered that I was happy outside and that led me to photographing birds and studying bugs.  I earned a Ph.D. in ecology and had fun doing it.  Later,  I discovered that while chasing butterflies made me happy, education made me passionate, and I’ve been sharing adventures with young people ever since.   Some of those adventures have been in traditional classrooms, but mostly we’ve been outside in the world figuring out how to lead a life full of meaningful, wonderful moments

Currently I live in a home-made, off-the grid house on co-owned land.  Life is full of community potlucks, dances, relationships, gap year adventures and projects.  It feels good.  My time is my own; an adventure is always in the offing; and I often am surprised.


Outdoor Adventure and Communications

Julie McPherson

photoA longtime outdoors and teaching enthusiast, Julie’s interest in global culture and travel bloomed after she organized a solo trip to Bulgaria to volunteer at a children’s orphanage. During college, Julie worked as a backpacking, winter, and climbing guide, where guiding students, professors, and foreign exchange students across Northern California’s wildernesses constituted a normal weekend. She often travels from the mountains to the sea, collaborating with as many passionate people from all walks of life along the way.

Most recently, Julie has served as a guide, instructor, program manager, and educator in various outdoors positions. Last year she worked on a sailboat in the eden they call Puget Sound and now she’s writing about effective communication. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder, a former CPR Instructor, and a UC Davis graduate.

Master of Everything

Abraham Hershel

Abraham McClurg

Abraham McClurg

Abraham was raised on a homestead farm and moved to Seattle to grow up in a growing city. He has spent his life following his heart and passions, never knowing where they will lead him but trusting that the journey will be challenging and rewarding, and looking to make real connections along his path. He has recently taught at North Star Academy in Massachusetts, and advised at Not Back To School Camp, East Tennessee Unschool Summer Camp, The High Desert Center’s Gap Year Program, and Unschool Adventures’ Writing Retreat.

Abraham has been a photographer and installation artist, a cook, a real estate broker, and an Apple technician. Abraham is a listener and a tireless advocate wherever he sees a need for one. He’s a grammarian, a nitpicker, and a man of letters who likes to keep the USPS laughing. It should also be said that Abraham likes to dance. Quite a bit, and quite often.

He is currently homesteading in Southern Vermont with his sweetie and a menagerie of goats, pigs, chickens, sheep, honeybees, and Rebop (the cow).

Food, Farming, and Support

Marian Piercemarian

Marian is the mama of baby Huckleberry, the life partner of Dev, and the lover of all things freshly harvested, especially fruit.  She works in alternative education and has lived off-the-grid in Paonia for eight years.

Some of Marian’s adventures include running a produce company, living in a tipi for several years, WWOOFing in France, installing a photovoltaic system in India, and apprenticing as a home birth midwife. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Colorado College and enjoys growing greens, canning peaches, skiing with her dad, and mountain biking with Dev. You can often find her organizing the kitchen, embodying invented characters with a range of accents, and ready to move—usually uphill and always fast.


Life Coach

Blake Boles

Blake Boles

Blake Boles

In 2003 Blake was studying astrophysics at UC Berkeley when he stumbled upon the works of John Taylor Gatto, Grace Llewellyn, and other alternative education pioneers. Deeply inspired by the philosophies of unschooling, Blake custom-designed his final two years of college to study education full-time. After graduating he joined the Not Back to School Camp community and began writing and speaking widely on the subject of self-directed learning.

In his previous lives, he has worked as a high-volume cook, Aurora Borealis physics researcher, delivery truck driver, math tutor, outdoor science teacher, EMT medic, summer camp director, market researcher, web designer, and windsurfing and tree climbing instructor. He keeps a running goal (and failure) list. His biggest passion is sharing his enthusiasm and experience with young adults who are blazing their own trails through life. He is 32 years old.

Dance Coach (Fall)

Aimee Eddins

unnamed-1Aimee has grown up in a variety of communities brought together by dance. Beginning with contra dance when she and her sister were 8 and 6, she continued that journey into many other styles including swing, blues, bellydance, capoeira, fusion dance, and more. She trained as an engineer in college and worked on robotics for space, and throughout, she has found opportunities
to be a mentor and coach while facilitating happier, more inclusive and connected communities and people. She has tutored, mentored robotics teams and created the Dancing Root (a community based dance in Denver).   She currently teaches dance, creates inclusive communities and lives in Denver, CO with her partner and a really fluffy cat named Pharaoh

Dance Coach (Spring)

Jenna Bradford

12295232_10101416848875491_1185743561242776388_nI’m a dancer, clown, gardener, and maker. For the last year I’ve been living out at the Lookout Arts Quarry in the Pacific Northwest, cultivating gardens, exploring the forest, organizing festivals, making hats, and diving into clown and partner dance. This fall I’ll be working with David McMurry Smith in his course called “Creative Character Development and Personal Transformation through Clown”  (fondly shortened to Baby Clown) in Vancouver B.C. I’m interested in exploring communication, consent and relationship through partner dance and clown.

The Glue

Eric Viele

13263760_1082373305188941_7315654027505845234_nEric Viele (Schmitty) keeps showing up and inspiring us with funny stories, kombucha, and big hugs.  He’s a blacksmith, an active unschooler, and a jack of everything.  He’s participated in multiple programs and staffed the last one.  He’s showing up again for this one, and will add zest to every dish.