Our passion is connecting youth and their families with the outdoors.
We are a team of diverse outdoor enthusiasts thrilled to nurture the love of nature on the Western Slope of Colorado.
If you are interested in joining our staff, visit our Job Openings page to learn about seasonal positions. We offer dozens of internships to local high school students. To apply to our internships visit our Pathways page.
Nature Connection Crew
Jess is thrilled to combine her passion for the outdoors and education with her love for the people, places, and beauty of Delta County, where she has called home for the last 15 years. She comes to the role of Executive Director with a background in outdoor education. She has coordinated outdoor educational programs for youth and adults at the Museum of Northern Arizona; led a group of high school students down the Grand Canyon on a river trip; taught gardening programs to all audiences from preschool aged children to county inmates in a work-release program. It was in these moments that she witnessed in others and felt in her own self the power that outdoor experiences have to calm, empower, connect, and transform lives. She explored this in her thesis work at Northern Arizona University where she wrote a year-long high school gardening curriculum for her MA in Sustainable Communities. She comes to the Nature Connection with a deep passion for the mission. A mother to two young sons, she enjoys spending her free time floating on the river, trail running, and gardening.
Tori graduated from The Evergreen State College 2011 with a BS in Wildlife Biology and Management and since then has been active in the biological sciences and environmental education. She has worked for both private and non-profit organizations, completing projects funded by The BLM, Conservancies, National Parks Service and the US Forest Service. In this work, she has developed a solid understanding of how different organizations can work together to achieve common goals and use education to enrich community and the quality of life for individuals. Tori has lived and worked in Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Colorado, Mexico and Malaysia. She has called The North Fork Valley her home for the last 8 years. An avid adventurer, she can be found spending her spare time with her husband, daughter and pup, looking for birds in the mountains or rafting one of the West’s stunning rivers. As the Director of Kids and Community Programs for The Nature Connection team, Tori is overjoyed to be creating recreational opportunities for Delta County’s youth and connecting her community to the outdoors.
Ben Graves comes to The Nature Connection after teaching high school in Western Colorado for close to a decade. Before that, he was active in environmental education in the SF Bay Area. His undergraduate (BS) and graduate (MS) studies were in the Earth Systems Science Program at Stanford University where he felt drawn to teaching after volunteering as a docent and ranger at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. As a science teacher, he strives to “make visible the invisible parts of the world” through student-driven inquiry and experimentation. His students collect data on air quality, monitor the local bark beetle epidemic and develop authentic skills in the renewable energy field. Students in his Solar Energy Training Program have installed close to 50 kW of solar in Delta County Schools. He is a Senior Fellow with the Knowles Teachers Initiative (knowlesteachers.org), a national teacher leadership program for science and math teachers and recently traveled to the Arctic as part of a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. He lives with his wife and two rambunctious daughters in Paonia, CO. where they can often be found hiking in desert canyons, rafting wilderness rivers or cross country skiing on the largest flat-topped mountain in the world.
Anna first joined the Nature Connection as our AmeriCorps xc ski lead in the fall of 2020. Growing up in Wyoming, Anna fostered a love for the mountains and a variety of different outdoor activities including hiking, biking, skiing, and snowboarding. Anna graduated in the summer of 2020 with a BS in Environmental System Science and a minor in soil science from the University of Wyoming. While attending school, Anna spent summers participating in different research projects such as archaeological field school and ICCE (Interdisciplinary Climate Change Expedition) where she learned more about soil science, glaciology, and the study of past human history. As the new Program Coordinator for the Nature Connection, Anna is excited to continue our mission of getting the youth of Delta County and Olathe outside!
Nature Connection’s mission of eliminating the barriers to getting outside by providing fun, active, and educational outdoor experiences for youth and families in our community, is something I connect with greatly. Growing up, I never had opportunities like the ones Nature Connection is providing. I am very excited to become a larger part of everything we do for the community and the environments we inhabit. I look forward to being a part of and seeing how our programs affect and benefit our community.