I grew up in Saltsburg, PA, a small town in western Pennsylvania (~30 miles east of Pittsburgh). I attended The Kiski School, an all-boys boarding school in my hometown, and later went on to study Philosophy, Spanish, and Italian at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
After graduating in 2013, I started saving up money for a move to the west coast. In September 2014, I packed up all my essentials and headed west on an open-ended climbing road trip. Six weeks later I arrived in Payahuunadü (Bishop, CA).
After two years of frugal living and rock climbing, it was time new challenges. I had been studying nutrition on my own since 2012 and knew I wanted to be in the wellness industry in some capacity. So I moved to Tucson in February of 2017 with plans to attend massage therapy school. Instead, I ended up completing the Primal Health Coach certification course and creating AC Nutrition and Wellness. A few months later, I moved back to Payahuunadü and began working with Jolie Varela, founder of Indigenous Women Hike…
During the second semester of my freshman year at Duquesne, I had enrolled in a “Race Matters” philosophy course with Dr. George Yancey. We discussed the subtleties of systemic, institutionalized racism, sexism, and bigotry, both historically and today; we talked about the nuances of (white/male) privilege. This led me not only to dig in and begin reconciling my own privilege, but also, for the first time, to start critically analyzing my experiences in the world as a white-passing person of color. I took several other courses in Philosophy of Race during my four years at Duquesne, eventually writing my senior thesis on systemic racism and cyclical poverty in the US under the supervision of Dr. Yancey. Having the opportunity and privilege to learn from Dr. Yancey changed my life; it reshaped my world view. From the first course I took with him freshman year, I knew I wanted to use my privilege to influence progress and ignite change. But until recently, I just didn’t how to do it.
Fast forward to June 2017…I’m living in Tucson with this brand new health coaching business, just trying to figure things out and find people to coach. I saw Jolie posting video blogs on social media about “An Indigenous Woman’s Journey to Health.” She was going out for hikes on her ancestral homelands in Payahuunadü (the place of flowing water) and describing her journey: her emotions, goals, and obstacles; the importance of rediscovering her health in hopes of inspiring her community to do the same. So I reached out; I sent her a message just to let her know that I thought what she was doing was awesome and inspiring, and if she had any questions about nutrition or fitness she should let me know. We ended up getting on a discovery call and decided to keep in touch. A few months later she had founded Indigenous Women Hike and when I had moved back to Payahuunadü, we met up and decided to work together in a one-on-one coaching relationship. Six weeks later we were hosting our first hike and climb day for Native youth for which I provided healthy snacks and lunch. Since then, our youth hike and climb days have continued and led to more and more opportunities for me to use my knowledge in nutrition and wellness to influence change in my community; I finally figured out how to be an activist.
DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a rapidly growing movement in the outdoor industry with organizations like IWH (and many others) leading the way. This has inspired me to work towards doing the same in the wellness/paleo community; to help create a space for individuals for underrepresented groups (I hope that one day I can attend Paleo f(x) and see more than 10 other people of color). I haven’t figured out exactly how to go about this yet, but if this past year has given me the confidence to just keep pushing forward.
Sometimes I forget, but I do actually have hobbies and interests outside of coaching and activism:
I’m a huge sports fan; watch Lakers, Steelers, Penguins, Pirates; play pick-up basketball and ultimate frisbee.
Barbell-based strength training.
Cooking — especially for friends and family :)
Rock climbing — alpine, sport, and bouldering.
Hiking and backpacking.
Fictional reading — favorites include Harry Potter, The Alchemist, The Hobbit / Lord of the Rings, Dune, A Song of Ice and Fire.
I’ve also been playing ukulele and singing for about a year and a half after a lifetime of thinking I had no musical talent whatsoever. And I love it!