Meet Our Team
Dr. Chiara D'amore, Executive DirectOr
Chiara D’Amore, Ph.D. is the founder of the Community Ecology Institute. She holds a M.S. in Environmental Science and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Sustainability Education. She has worked as an environmental consultant and educator for more than 20 years. Her overarching focus is on promoting the benefits of time spent in nature on personal, social, and ecological well-being She is dedicated to helping create a healthy, beautiful and abundant future where people and nature thrive together.
ROOTS & WINGS LEARNING COMMUNITY DIRECTOR
Lindsay is an experienced educator with a BA in Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution and an MA in Education. She is dedicated to serving the community through youth programming that promotes independent learning, creativity and environmental stewardship. Lindsay utilizes her trainings in restorative practices when designing educational environments and has experience working with diverse populations, including at-risk youth and those in the criminal justice system.
GREEN SEEDS INTERNSHIP PROGRAM LEAD
Nicki brings more than 20 years of nonprofit experience and expertise to the leadership of CEI's high school and college internship program. Nicki has managed program expansion, led curriculum development, and served as the main point of contact for service collaborations, partnerships, and programming requests and provided direct support to children and families. Nicki has a Bachelor's in Sociology and a Master's of Social Work with a specialization in Social Action and Community Development.
Theresa has a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology and a Master’s Degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice. Her primary passion has been advocating for and upholding human rights. She sees environmental sustainability and food security as a natural extension of that work. Her career has included the design and management of community-based youth education programs as well as training and technical assistance projects for state and federal programs supporting migrant and refugee families and families with limited incomes.
Justin serves as CEI's farm & volunteer coordinator through the AmeriCorps program. He graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor’s in Spanish and Government and subsequently worked on various global public health projects. After several amazing farming experiences, he's excited to join the Freetown Farm family to engage volunteers and organizations with the common goal to improve the health of our communities.
COMMUNITY OF FAMILIES IN NATURE (CFIN) LEAD
Sara is a classically trained, eclectically minded educator. In 2008 after 10 years as a classroom teacher, she left the public school system to raise her kids and begin a homeschooling journey. She has worn many hats these past 15 years: Mom, licensed home child care provider, founder and leader of a family nature club: The Gifts of Trees, independent reading and language arts teacher, Language Arts teacher at Roots and Wings during the 2019-2020 school year, and CFIN event leader. She is now the leader of the full CFIN program!
NOURISHING GARDENS COORDINATOR
Loni serves as CEI's Nourishing Gardens Program Coordinator. Loni has been a long-time CFIN program participant and completed the CEI Nourishing Gardens training program in 2022. She brings a passion for community development, specifically cultivating a safe, supportive, and healthy environment that promotes the wellbeing of all life. Loni has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Social Work.
Peter has joined the CEI team through the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. He has both masters and bachelor's degrees in Geographic Sciences from the University of Maryland and worked in their College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the last year. Peter has also worked as an agricultural researcher and park ranger and played in a marching band.
COMMUNICATION COORDINATOR AND FARM STEWARD
Christy joined the CEI team through the Chesapeake Conservation Corps in 2021 and is now a full-time staff member. Christy has a bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Geography. In addition to her work at Freetown Farm, which is focused on increasing the presence of beautiful native plant species, she will be helping to manage CEI's communications and outreach activities, including preparing for our wide array of community events and educational workshops.
CFIN Event Leader and Nourishing Gardens Specialist
Zaneta became a part of our community as a part of our first Nourishing Gardens program. She has joined our team to help with our efforts to create ecologically beneficial food growing gardens both at Freetown Farm and the community. She is also a part of our CFIN team, with a focus on nature-based art experiences. Zaneta has a degree in Health Education with an emphasis in Community Wellness and is a mother and educator with over 10 years of experience advocating for people with disabilities.
Roots & Wings Instructor and CFIN Event Leader
Chelsea has been the Columbia Families in Nature "Seedlings" leader since 2015. She has her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development with a focus in Child Life, has worked as a Child Life Specialist, and has extensive knowledge of developmentally appropriate activities for young children, ways to help caregivers promote healthy development, and maintaining a safe space during exploration. With Roots & Wings she focuses on classes for our younger learners that explore the garden and forest ecosystems at Freetown Farm.
Roots & Wings HS Project Mentor
Frankie is a lifelong lover of nature and the outdoors, promoter of native plants, and student of primitive skills, She is a passionate educator who believes things are best learned by getting as hands-on as possible. In her spare time, she can be found on her family farm gardening and hanging out with her dog, Fang. For the last 12 years, she has taught science and history at various local homeschool co-ops and enrichment programs for various age groups. Other hobbies include playing D and D, reading, and crafts. She has three kids, 21, 16, and 12.
Roots & Wings Art Instructor
Shiren is an artist, mother, health & wellness coach, certified daycare provider and homeschooling mama. She believes we all hold inside what is needed to create anything we put our mind to. She has been working with and caring for children and adults for 14+ years as a teacher, special needs supporter and nurse. She is a certified beauty/special effects makeup & prosthetic artist and has experience in photography, painting, graffiti, and sculpting. She incorporates mindfulness and attention to detail in all her teachings and believes everyone can have a “artist eye”.
CFIN Event Leader
Cecilia is a native Spanish speaker and has over 20 years of experience teaching dance and sharing her passion for movement and music. She trained with the Royal Academy of Dance in Classical Dance with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance in Modern Dance and she holds an Associate Diploma as a Ballet teacher. In addition to dance, she has a passion for creativity, she is a professional graphic designer having gotten her degree from the school of Design of the National Institute of Fine Arts; she loves yoga (and is a Kidding Around Yoga teacher), nature, art and kids.
Roots & Wings Instructor & Program Assistant
Heather fell in love with the outdoors while at school in West Virginia. After graduating with a degree in recreation and parks management, she spent several years working in recreational childcare before earning a master's degree in Library Science. She has been working as a librarian for the past 15 years, including several years as an elementary school media specialist, where she enjoyed sharing her love of children's books and makerspaces. Heather is thrilled to join the Roots & Wings team where she will get to combine her three passions: working with children, nature, and books!
Roots & Wings TA & Youth Garden Manager
Dana is pursuing her Masters degree in Environmental Studies at Prescott College where she’s focused on ecotherapy and the intersections of mental health and sustainability. Much of her professional work has been in educational settings and non-profits, largely working with young adults with intellectual disabilities, previously having developed and taught a program to strengthen soft skills and skills for transitioning to the workplace and independent living for 26 individuals. She has worked in schools with K-8 students. Dana opts for hiking, working with horses, and making poetry in her free time.