A year-round core Leadership Team of five provides support between camp programs to all youth and their foster or adoptive families. A camp program staff of compassionate professionals from the community make a long-term commitment to delivering our programs throughout the year.
This commitment helps to build a supportive mentoring community and meaningful relationships with youth. Some staff have themselves been in foster care and were former campers in our program. All staff has been trained in trauma-focused practices, which utilize strategies and training from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
Bess Newton Executive Director After graduating from UNC-Asheville with a degree in psychology, I knew that I wanted to work for an organization that made a positive impact in the world. For almost fifteen years, I found that in the Girl Scout organization. Gaining experience in membership, marketing, and fund development, I was then fortunate enough to take those skills to Pisgah Legal Services. During those years of non-profit experience, I was also in the process of becoming a foster parent and adopting three wonderful children. This journey took me to a place of wanting to do more for youth in the foster care system. Then, the opportunity to work with Under One Sky Village Foundation became a reality, and I truly believe that this is how we, "the village," can be a part of the lives of these young, resilient and brave individuals. Join me in being a part of the Under One Sky Village Foundation! It is my belief that once a child enters the foster care system, the community as a whole should support and encourage them. We have that opportunity with Under One Sky.
Aubrie Leonard Program Coordinator After high school she traveled and worked several different internships over the course of two years. She then earned her Horticulture Diploma with Haywood Community College and took continuing educational classes with AB-Tech. She was self employed as a landscaper and farm sitter for approximately two years until she decided she needed to tap into her extrovert powers and become more involved with human beings! She heard wonderful things about U1S from a coworker so she applied and became a counselor, the following year continued as Logistics Coordinator and now presently the Program Manager. Additionally, she has prior summer camp experience, experience working with young adults in trauma, adolescents with eating disorders and advocating for youth in the DSS system by becoming a GAL volunteer (Court appointed voice for children). She loves creating fun, safe learning and growing environments for children of all ages.
Karen Noel, MSW Youth Services Director After 12 years of owning her own market research business, she realized that helping corporations put their products in a good light was not what she wanted her life to be about. In 2003, she went back to school to get her Masters in Social Work. Following her graduation in 2006, she has worked with many different populations but mostly with young adults, teens, and children needing support to live a prosperous and fulfilling life. Deciding that she wanted a social work job that was fun and made a powerful and heartfelt difference, she met the staff at Under One Sky and knew this was the kind of wholehearted and caring non-profit she wanted to work for. Working for the Under One Sky Village Foundation is exactly what she asked for and more! The joy and growth she has seen as a result of attending the Under One Sky programs has reinforced her beliefs that teaching skills, and completely accepting, truly understanding and caring for young people always makes a big difference! She is so grateful and thankful for this incredible opportunity to help others alongside a staff that she trusts, admires and appreciates.
Pana Columbus Community Engagement Manager Her lifelong passion researching how individuals and communities transform has found a rich place serving these incredibly tenacious and resilient young people. Before her time at Under One Sky, she was the founding producing artistic director of a professional non-profit theater company in PA for eight years, whose mission was to catalyze and inspire positive community transformations using the performing arts. Upon moving to Asheville six years ago, she ran a three-month transformation program for individuals called Really Alive, applying the same principles of transformation to individuals. Now she strives to do both: mentor the Under One Sky youth as individuals as well as transform systems that support youth in foster care, through community collaboration and partnerships.
Michael "Mam" McManus Logistics Manager Mam has always had a deep interest in cooking and health food. He started out working as a kitchen assistant for Under One Sky in 2015, and became the kitchen manager the following year. In 2017 he graduated from Center of Massage and Natural Health where he gained a focus on learning more about trauma care through somatic psychology and other modalities. After graduating from massage therapy school he became a camp counselor in order to work more directly with the campers. His own experiences within the foster care system as a child has given him a passion to help guide youth through their own journey, and he's grateful to be a part of an organization that allows him to do that. In 2020, he became a part of the leadership team, helping with program planning, and information technology, while continuing to be a present, positive force within the Under One Sky community.
Christopher Keiser Rites of Passage Director Christopher Keiser has been an integral part of Under One Sky’s programming for over a decade. As Director of the Rites of Passage Program, Christopher brings his extensive experience in facilitating reflective conversations and connecting through nature to Under One Sky participants. With a Masters Degree in Social Work and a concentration in Community Organizing, Christopher moved to Ghana, West Africa to organize around an Organic Farmers Market and create multiple regional School Gardens. Upon returning to Western North Carolina in 2017, Christopher resumed working with Under One Sky and now facilitates Rites of Passage programming on a beautiful, 50 acre tract of land in the Swannanoa Valley--known as “Peace Rock.” He invites participants to “step out” from the city and “step in” to nature and healing through dynamic sharing and listening sessions in order to “Renew the Human Spirit.”
Diane Delafield Founder of Under One Sky Village Foundation While meeting and interviewing hundreds of children in foster care in North Carolina as Founding Director of Campaigns for Kids, she listened to them tell their stories of hope, despair, and resignation. She saw how their behavioral, emotional, and psychological issues often impeded their ability to ready themselves for adoption and make a successful transition into an adoptive family or into the next phase of their lives including reunification with birth family, new foster placement or leaving the foster care system. She is honored to be the Founder of Under One Sky Village Foundation and will continue being committed to helping youth awaken to a renewed sense of purpose, connect with their inner resources and ultimately to a family and community of loving support. As part of her life path, she adopted her son Jesse at age fifteen and feels blessed to have built her family through adoption.
UNDER ONE SKY PROGRAM STAFF We are fortunate to have a dedicated team of camp staff who come back year after year. Below are our talented camp program staff. Staff is made up of teachers, artists, and Under One Sky alumni. We also have professional chefs, farmers, carpenters, actors and more! Camp staff are trained every year to provide consistent and expert programming and mentorship for youth in foster care.
Jessie - Lead Cabin Counselor
Terrence - Lead Cabin Counselor
Michelle - Cabin Counselor
Joy - Cabin Counselor
Brandon - Support Staff
Duke - Carpentry Instructor Mentor
Rebecca - Dance Instructor Mentor
Ishka - Camp Chef
Beatrice - Instructor Mentor
Melissa - Camp Nurse
In Loving Memory, Justin Bencivengo - Camp Counselor "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." -Thomas Campbell