Staff Bios

Ben Wahl, Aspiring Youth counselor portrait.

Benjamin Wahl, MSW

Program Coordinator / Lead Facilitator

Ben has worked with children, adolescents and young adults for over fifteen years as the director of an outdoor education program and in a variety of other roles. In 2005, Ben founded the Aspiring Youth Program. Ben holds a BA from Wesleyan University and an MSW from the University of Washington. In his free time Ben enjoys telemark skiing, gardening, trail running and other outdoor pursuits.

Sarah Levoy, Aspiring Youth counselor portrait.

Sarah Levoy, PsyD

Parent Coach

For more than 15 years, Dr. Sarah Levoy has worked in the field of healthy child development and parenting, helping children and families of all backgrounds and life experiences. She has worked both in large organizations and private practice with children, couples, and adults. Dr. Levoy worked for five years in a school dedicated to children with Asperger's Syndrome and learning challenges in Los Angeles. She now works at The Little School in Bellevue as their counselor and learning specialist and has a part time private practice in Kirkland. Outside of work Dr. Levoy enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, and yoga.

Vicki Shoettle, MSW

Parent Coach

Having served in a variety of educational and mental health organizations, Vicki has a wealth of knowledge of the resources in the greater Seattle area. Among her experiences, she has served as a parent-teen mediator for the Peace Council and as a committee chair on the Seattle PTA. Vicki has maintained a private practice as a parent coach for several years and has been working with our program since 2004. Vicki holds an MSW from UCLA and is the parent of three wonderful, grown children. She is also certified as a Master Gardener.

Kire Dassel, MA

Lead Facilitator

Kire has more than 6 years of classroom and educational consulting experience. For the past 4 and a half years, she was an educational consultant on the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit at Seattle Children's Hospital. Kire also spent two years teaching elementary school at Birralee International School in Norway. She holds a Masters in Education, with a focus on emotional and behavioral disabilities, from the University of Washington. Kire received a BA in Special Education and her teaching certification from Western Washington University in 2002. In her free time she enjoys running with her dog, cycling, hiking, skiing, and kite boarding.

Michael Gutierrez, BCBA

Lead Facilitator

Michael is a board certified behavior analyst. He earned a Master’s degree in Special Education- Applied Behavior Analysis at the University of Washington and is pursing his PhD. He is originally from Massachusetts and enjoys cheering on his Red Sox when they play at Safeco Field.

Andrea Sweerus

Lead Facilitator

Andrea is an Intervention teacher at Rose Hill Middle School and has five years of experience in the classroom. Andrea has previously taught in Tacoma at the high school level and in Kent as a middle level behavior teacher before moving north to complete graduate school. She has a Masters in Policy Studies from the University of Washington, a Bachelors in History from Saint Martin's University and her Special Education endorsement from Seattle Pacific University. When she is not working with kids she enjoys riding her horse, competing with her two dogs, hiking, and home improvement projects.

Aimee Coonerty-Femiano, Ph.D.

Lead Facilitator

Jennifer has a masters in teaching with a special education endorsement. She works as a behavioral intervention teacher at a local school district. Before becoming a teacher, Jennifer worked as a recreational therapist at a local private mental health hospital. In her free-time, Jennifer enjoys hiking, running, traveling, hanging out with her two dogs and home improvements.

Christen Manangan, MA, Ph. D (candidate)

Lead Facilitator

Christen is in her fifth year of graduate school for clinical psychology. She will be training at the University of California San Francisco, Division of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Psychiatry, in the fall to complete her predoctoral internship. Christen has seven years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families in a variety of therapeutic settings. In her free time, Christen enjoys spending time with family and friends, outdoor activities, and traveling.

Jennifer Stevens, M. Ed.

Lead Facilitator

Jennifer has a masters in teaching with a special education endorsement. She works as a behavioral intervention teacher at a local school district. Before becoming a teacher, Jennifer worked as a recreational therapist at a local private mental health hospital. In her free-time, Jennifer enjoys hiking, running, traveling, hanging out with her two dogs and home improvements.

Kevin Junker, Aspiring Youth counselor portrait.

Kevin Junker, M. Ed.

Lead Facilitator

After Gradrating from Columbia University Teachers College with a Masters in Education in Counseling Psychology Kevin started working with the Yonkers school district. During his summers off Kevin Completed a bicycle trip across the United States Kevin was intrigued with the idea of combining counseling with the therapeutic affects of the wilderness. Kevin left the east coast to live and work in Trout Creek Montana with a wilderness program called Explorations for three years. Kevin now lives with his partner Laura and son Gus in Ballard and works with the Seattle Public Schools at salmon Bay Middle School in the Aspergers Inclusion Program.

Kate Reeves, Aspiring Youth counselor portrait.

Kate Reeves, MA, LMFTA

Lead Facilitator

For the past seven years, Kate has worked with youth and young adults in clinical, residential, and educational settings. Building on a lifetime of theater training, Kate has long been incorporating improvisation and performance techniques into her individual and group work. She is currently an adjunct faculty member at Antioch University Seattle and has a private practice in Bellevue. She particularly enjoys helping couples and families struggling with the social impact of anxiety disorders.

Briton Kolber, Aspiring Youth counselor portrait.

Briton Kolber, MA, LMFTA

Lead Facilitator

Briton's life has been steeped in psychology and improvisation for over twenty years. He is currently a private practice therapist for individuals, couples, and families in the Fremont/Wallingford area of Seattle. Since interning at Southwest Youth and Family Services and working at Aspiring Youth's Summer Program, Briton has led group therapy sessions using improvisational theater techniques. Married and with two young children, he strives to find compassion and humor as much as possible.

Raffael Boccamazzo, Aspiring Youth counselor portrait.

Raffael Boccamazzo, PsyD

Group Facilitator

Dr. Boccamazzo has spent the last five years working with a variety of clients in a variety of settings. While the majority of his time was spent training in correctional, residential settings, he also greatly enjoyed working with adolescents and parents in the Seattle area. In addition to facilitating groups with Aspiring Youth, Dr. Boccamazzo has two private practice locations that serve adolescent and adult clients in Bellevue and West Seattle. In addition to his psychological pursuits, Dr. Boccamazzo enjoys acting and cooking, both of which he has done since childhood.

Nicole Koleshis, OT

Group Facilitator

Nicole is a master kids yoga teacher and pediatric occupational therapist. She has been sharing yoga with children and families since 2002 and has been working primarily with children on the Autism Spectrum through her work as an OT since receiving her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Hartford in 2002. Additionally, Nicole holds an advanced certification in Sensory Integration from the University of Southern California. Nicole has numerous children's yoga certifications through Next Generation Yoga, Radiant Child Yoga Program and Integrated Movement Therapy.

Jacalyn Williams, M. Ed.

Team Member

Jacalyn is a Special Education teacher and the Asst. Girls Soccer coach at Eastlake High School. A Maine native, Jacalyn loves working with kids, traveling, and the outdoors! Jacalyn has a BA in Psychology and a MAEd. in special education.

Johnny Spangler, Aspiring Youth counselor portrait.

Johnny Spangler, BA

Team Member

Johnny has been working with youth since he was one. He has spent the last ten years facilitating challenge education, communication and improvisation skills for middle and high schoolers. For the past 4 years he has been applying his training to special education, working with youth of all ages. He has his B.A. from Seattle University in Psychology and received his challenge education training and certification from the WSU 4H Challenge Course in Bonney Lake. His passions lie in education and he spends his free time exploring new avenues to approach the processes of teaching and learning.

Dwayne Collins, Aspiring Youth counselor portrait.

Dwayne Collins, BA

Team Member

Dwayne is from North Carolina and has a degree in Media Writing. He works as an kindergarten instructional assistant at Sand Point Elementary. Dwayne also instructs a video production class and helps assist a social communication class at Ryther.

Ben Wahl, MSW

Program Coordinator / Lead Facilitator

Ben has worked with children, adolescents and young adults for over fifteen years as the director of an outdoor education program and in a variety of other roles. In 2005, Ben founded the Aspiring Youth Program. Ben holds a BA from Wesleyan University and an MSW from the University of Washington. In his free time Ben enjoys telemark skiing, gardening, trail running and other outdoor pursuits.

Ben Wahl, MSW

Program Coordinator / Lead Facilitator

Ben has worked with children, adolescents and young adults for over fifteen years as the director of an outdoor education program and in a variety of other roles. In 2005, Ben founded the Aspiring Youth Program. Ben holds a BA from Wesleyan University and an MSW from the University of Washington. In his free time Ben enjoys telemark skiing, gardening, trail running and other outdoor pursuits.

Grant Leitheiser, MS, LMFT

Team Member

Grant has worked with adolescents and young adults for over 10 years both nationally and internationally in office settings, summer camps, groups, retreats, and service trips. He loves incorporating movement and creativity into his work and strongly believes in the benefits of experiential learning - learning though "doing," particularly when navigating social differences. Grant "comes alive" in the outdoors, particularly the mountains, and could easily be found trail running, hiking, backpacking, skiing/snowboarding, or camping on a free weekend with his wife and children. He received his Masters in Counseling from San Francisco State University and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Nationally Certified Counselor.

Christen Manangan, MA, Ph. D (candidate)

Lead Facilitator

Christen is in her fifth year of graduate school for clinical psychology. She will be training at the University of California San Francisco, Division of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Psychiatry, in the fall to complete her predoctoral internship. Christen has seven years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families in a variety of therapeutic settings. In her free time, Christen enjoys spending time with family and friends, outdoor activities, and traveling.

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Aspiring Youth is a program of RYTHER, a 501c3 not-for-profit agency