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.
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 Nature Connection's 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.
Growing up with the outdoors accessible was an important part of her life and she became motivated to share that experience with others after completing her NOLS course in the spring of 2019. As the new Director of Programs for the Nature Connection, Anna is excited to continue our mission of getting the youth of Delta County and Olathe outside!
Cy Hassell (he/him) is an AmeriCorps member serving with the Nature Connection as the Generation Wild Outdoor Educator. He is a Colorado native who considers Montrose and Glenwood Springs his two hometowns. He grew up spending most of his winters snowboarding at Sunlight Mountain and Aspen/Snowmass; as well as spending summers tubing in the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers, boogie boarding in the Glenwood Whitewater Park, fishing and golfing. After high school, he moved to the Greeley/Fort Collins area, where he graduated with his Associate's Degree in Audio Production from Aims Community College. He spends his time skateboarding, snowboarding, disc golfing, hiking, biking and camping these days. He is thrilled to share his appreciation for nature and the outdoors this year.