Meet our Forest Mentors

Allison Worrell - RIVER OTTER - Forest Mentor (she/her)

Allison is a 3rd generation Sacramento local and loves the American River, the Pacific Ocean & all natural bodies of water she’s had the pleasure & privilege to visit. When Allison’s son was just an infant in March 2020, she found great refuge and peace by visiting the American river almost every single day of 2020 and beyond. She and her mom, Theresa, her husband, Zach, & her son, ZG, still visit frequently and always find joy, solace, and comfort in our beautiful American River. Allison has had a wide and ranging work life. She was a student dj with KYDS 91.5 FM @ El Camino HS. She has been teaching and performing hoopdance and making hula hoops since 2007. She has been a CAMTC certified massage therapist since 2012 and assists frequently at her alma mater, Fair Oaks Massage Institute. She attended UCSC and UCD and is also a UCD graduate. She also loves being a mom to her son, ZG! She loves dancing at outdoor music concerts and festivals, as well as visiting the rivers and ocean and its beaches, tide pools and shores. Allison enjoys bringing others to these wonderful wild places around us, and she strives to help others find joyful connection with themselves, their communities and their environments. 

Amelia Wiggs - Forest Mentor (she/her)

Amelia grew up in Westminster, California and spent her childhood taking road trips to go camping, hiking, paddle boarding and rock climbing throughout the state. She thinks spending time in nature is one of the best ways to have fun and recenter yourself. This is one of the reasons she chose to major in Environmental Science and Management at UC Davis. Amelia has also played sports all her life and high jumps for the UC Davis Track and Field team. However, her favorite experience during college was interning at the Cache Creek Nature Conservancy where she helped develop habitat restoration plans as a part of their wildlife monitoring team. She also participated in some of their traditional ecological knowledge workshops. This included a cultural burn demonstration where she got to see indigenous environmentalism in action. She is excited to share her knowledge and help create a safe place for kids to explore and play in nature. She believes in increasing accessibility to outdoor experiences and supporting the local community so every kid can experience the joy of learning about the environment. She also can’t wait to learn from their creativity and curiosity.

Anna Lopez - HAWK - Program Coordinator, Forest Mentor (she/they)

Anna, a recent Davis resident, returned to California after six years in South Dakota. During her time there, she mentored at a summer science and Lakota camp for three years, guiding children aged 3 to 17 in the Black Hills. Now, as the Education and Outreach Coordinator at Davis Food Co-op, she conducts cooking classes and tours for elementary school kids. Excited about her role as a Forest Mentor at Davis Forest School, Anna combines her love for nature with her experience working with children. She believes in the unique wisdom children possess and looks forward to learning from them

Bella Buford - Equity and Access Program Coordinator (she/her)

Bella, raised in an agricultural town in Southern California, fell in love with nature amidst sand dunes and cacti before discovering redwoods and rivers. Her journey led her to UC Davis, where she studied environmental studies and human development. She explored her curiosity and passion for the environment through hiking around the Pacific Northwest. After graduating, Bella became a Forest Mentor, sharing her wisdom and love for nature with our local community. Although her journey led her to Tufts University for graduate studies, her heart remains connected to the local landscapes and communities.

At Tufts, Bella is a Racial Equity in Policy and Planning Fellow, where she continues racial equity and social justice work in outdoor spaces. Though now remote, Bella remains dedicated, supporting the team through grant writing and design. While she misses the hands-on experiences of Davis Forest School, her commitment to conservation and sustainable practices remains unwavering.

Binuta Sudhakaran - GREAT EGRET - Forest Mentor (they/them)

Binuta spent their early years in the lush tropical land of Kerala in India. The rain-soaked smells and sounds of the monsoons are their favorite memories of childhood. As they grew older and moved to the Middle East, they missed the rich landscape of their homeland, but learned to appreciate the desolate beauty of the deserts and the oasis that surrounded the cities.

Having finally settled in Davis in 2007 to raise a family, Binuta soon recognized how much of our identity as individuals is rooted in the land we live on. They are drawn to the immense role that Putah Creek played in Indigenous culture and the evolution of agriculture and farming in the area.

Binuta has a degree in Architecture and Sustainable design. In addition to raising two unschooling kiddos, Binuta teaches yoga/meditation, is a minimalist, and is passionate about the role of self-guided nature explorations in early childhood. Their aim is to have every child go through a Forest School program in their community — awakening them to the deep bond they share with the land and recognizing the healing power of that connection.

Candice Wang - WILD ROSE - Program Founder & Director (she/her)

Candice spent her childhood years in Los Angeles, and there was a piece of land that separated her family’s backyard from the freeway. Candice and her siblings called this space “Neverland” and they spent hours every day engaged in imaginative play between the woods and wildflowers that inhabited this land. As a mother raising two young daughters in Los Angeles, Candice realized the landscape of “play” had substantially changed from when she was a child, and found raising children in a city very limiting.  After her family learned about forest schools, their lives completely changed. Candice discovered her mission of creating accessible nature programs for her communities, and founded Davis Forest School in early 2018. Candice also co-founded Atlanta Forest School in Atlanta, Georgia in 2019. Candice attended UC Davis as an undergraduate student and managed the local teen center for the City of Davis during her college years. She also volunteered as a camp counselor for several summers through the City. Candice has her MBA with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior from California Lutheran University. She is Wilderness First Aid and CPR certified, and trained in nonviolent communication. 

Carley Roberts - Forest Mentor (she/her)

Bay Area raised, Carley spent most of her childhood in nature! Blessed with a big backyard and access to public parks, Carley immersed herself in rivers and redwoods, seeking natural wildlife at an early age. Carley’s grandparents, Carl and Colleen Sorem, often took her to Sycamore Park in Livermore or further destinations like Yosemite and Stanislaus National Forest. Fun fact: Both of Carley’s grandparents were teachers and hiked Half Dome in their sixties!  

Moving to Davis in 2020, Carley finished her undergrad degree in psychology while continuing to teach indoor rock climbing. Instructing outdoor activities has been an ongoing passion of Carley’s and an integral part of her life.

Outside of working with youth, you can find Carley hiking in Tahoe or the Bay Area, rock climbing, or hanging out with friends and family. If you’re looking for any vegan or vegetarian recipes, don’t hesitate to reach out to her

Crystal Armstrong- BRUSH RABBIT - Forest Mentor (she/her)

Born and raised in San Diego, CA, Crystal grew up hiking Cowles Mountain and exploring the tide pools of La Jolla. She met a naturalist on her first day of sixth grade camp and knew she wanted to be just like her when she grew up. As an undergraduate student, Crystal worked as a research assistant for the Mabry Lab and did extensive field work out in the Quail Ridge Reserve of Lake Berryessa. She went on to earn her B.S. in psychology, teaching credential, and Master’s in science education from UC Davis. She taught high school chemistry for 2 years before taking time away to have a family.

Since becoming a parent, Crystal learned how important outdoor play is for children to engage in and sought activities for her family to participate in. She began attending the Davis Forest School Parent/Child Program with her son and quickly fell in love. She is delighted to be able to give back to the program that changed her life and her parenting. Crystal loves animals, gardening, and learning and teaching others about the natural world!

Diego Bocanegra - KING FISHER - Lead Forest Mentor (he/him)

Diego was raised in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California alongside a large family. He grew up spending summers in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley where he found a love for the outdoors. Daily hikes in the Rocky Mountains, picking huckleberries and jumping into Flathead Lake helped to form core memories. Returning to urban LA county, he quickly realized that his peers didn’t share this same love for nature, and that it was something that needed to change. At 18 he packed 13 family members into a van and went on a road trip across the country to various National Parks, an experience they wouldn’t have had otherwise. He went on to study Wildlife Conservation Biology and Music at UC Davis, graduating in 2022. He is a plant and reptile enthusiast, and loves learning about how parts of nature interact. Diego wishes to attend graduate school and help break down the accessibility barriers surrounding the outdoors. Other interests include playing the drums, foraging, and rock climbing.

Frederick Nelson - FERN - Forest Mentor (he/him)

Meet Fred, a driven graduate student at UC Davis, hailing from the vibrant city of Houston, Texas. He embarked on his academic journey at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he earned his BS in Biology, igniting his passion for the environment and those who call it home.

Beyond academics, Fred finds joy in giving back to his community, regularly volunteering at the Sacramento Farmers Market. When he’s not immersed in his studies or lending a helping hand, you can find him gliding through the streets on his rollerblades or scaling indoor rock walls in pursuit of a challenge.

Fred’s adventurous spirit extends beyond physical activities; he delights in exploring new locales and delving into their natural history, often seeking out the local museums for an enriching experience. Alongside his love for outdoor pursuits, Fred cherishes moments spent cycling through scenic routes and bonding with his beloved canine companion, ChaCha.

In 2016, Fred embarked on an unforgettable journey as an intern in Yellowstone National Park, further deepening his connection to nature and fueling his desire to make a positive impact on the environment. Since then, he has been involved in outreach programs aimed at getting people excited about the natural world around them.

Jamie Testa - WILD RADISH - Forest Mentor (she/her)

Jamie grew up in both Arizona and Northern California.  With little exposure to the outdoors from her family, she had to find her love for the outdoors by herself.  Striking out on her own to hike she realized that being outdoors brought her a sense of tranquility and connection to life that she had been missing.

Now, as a mother, Jamie makes it a point to explore the natural world with her son. Jamie is convinced that nature has an incredible ability to heal, calm the nervous system, and foster a sense of belonging. Her goal is to help children grow up with a natural appreciation and connection to the great outdoors. This past summer, she co-led four weeks of camps with Davis Forest School. Jamie is also a long-time yogi and owns two yoga studios (Akasha Yoga) in Davis and West Sacramento.

Jessie Ostrove - THISTLE - Forest Mentor (she/her)

Jessie was born and raised in Los Angeles, California amidst the hustle and bustle of city life. Apart from a few causal camping trips, she didn’t get her nature fix until college time when she and her friends would go on backpacking trips, float in Lake Berryessa, or ski in Tahoe, to name a few. Throughout college, Jessie worked in a research lab studying how nature can help strengthen the bond between parents and their children, utilizing “care farming” techniques such as therapeutic gardening and hanging out with donkeys. Besides her job working on a flower and citrus farm, Jessie is a hopeful environmental scientist or nature writer. In her (very limited) free time, Jessie can be found practicing yoga, playing the trombone or piano, needlepointing, playing with her kitties, or skiing over the winter weekends in Tahoe.

Lina Wood - RIVER - Forest Mentor (she/her)

Lina was born in Germany and is the eldest of five siblings. She grew up playing in the woods behind her family’s apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden with her sister and their close friend. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 8 years old and although she no longer had the forest at her fingertips, she and her friends found little nature spots wherever they were to be found, with the consensus that the more expansive, and wilder, and freer, the better. She earned a BS in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution at UCLA where she also taught outdoor education seminars as a guide through their Outdoor Leadership Training Program. After working in environmental consulting for three years in downtown LA, she moved to Davis to continue her education in ecology at UC Davis. She co-taught at Kindergruppe Waldwichtel, a German immersion forest school in Davis from 2017-2020 and became a certified California Naturalist in 2020. She finds great joy in getting outdoors with children, including her own two, and believes that a personal connection with nature fosters well-being and a sense of global responsibility.

Mari Ceja - RED TAIL - Forest Mentor (she/they)

Mari was born in Paredones, Michoacan Mexico and immigrated with her family to the US in 1997. She has six sisters and four brothers. She comes from a farm working family, often picking fruits  or pruning grapevines. She studied Chicano Studies at UC Davis  and obtained a minor in History and Philosophy of Science. Mari has fond memories of the land in Mexico, as a kid she would climb trees, jump in puddles and fly kites with her brother Meño. Mari enjoys working with students of all ages and abilities. Mari also enjoys gardening, exercising and writing.

Matt Mokski - SEA OTTER - Assistant Forest Mentor (he/him)

Matt is a student in the Redwood SEED scholars program at UC Davis. He is part of the Aggie Golf Club and enjoys playing a round of golf on the weekend. He sometimes goes to the driving range on Fridays to hit a bucket of balls and practice some putting. Matt is from Petaluma, California and grew up being outside. In his free time, he loves hiking, biking, bowling, and spending time with his family and friends. He loves being outside and enjoying nature and hanging out with kids. Over the summer, he likes swimming and going on adventures to San Diego, Yosemite, San Francisco, and Point Reyes. 

Molly Damore Johann - OAK - Lead Forest Mentor (she/her)

Molly was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She spent her summers camping, backpacking, and exploring nature with her family. Some of her most fond childhood memories include playing in the Yosemite rivers and making fairy houses in the garden. These childhood experiences in nature have shaped her love and appreciation for the outdoors and continue to influence her day to day life. Molly has over seven years of nannying experience working with children of various ages from infants to middle school. Her favorite activities as a nanny were taking children on adventures through San Francisco, especially Golden Gate Park, where they could discover, connect, and play in nature. Molly is graduating this quarter from UCD with a BS in Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity. Before completing her undergraduate degree, Molly spent a year living and volunteering at Coyote Family Farm in Sonoma County where she learned valuable agriculture and community building skills. She has been working for the past two quarters at the UC Davis Arboretum Nursery, learning to propagate, prune, and care for plants. Some of Molly’s interests include flowering plants, species biodiversity, creating art, spending time in nature, writing, practicing yoga, playing guitar, and rollerblading.

Nat Lefkoff - Forest Mentor (he/him)

Nat was born and raised here in Davis, and has recently returned after living and traveling along the west coast from Olympia, WA to San Diego. Nat has worked a variety of jobs centered around child development ranging from behavioral therapy to summer camps and outdoor education. He believes in the value of kids getting outside and exploring their environments freely and enthusiastically while respecting others, themselves, and their ecosystem. Putah Creek was Nat’s favorite stomping ground throughout his youth and he still enjoys running, dog walking, swimming, and admiring its natural beauty on a daily basis. Along with being a bird and bug enthusiast, Nat is also a career musician who performs, tours, and records original songs. Nat was eager to be a part of the Davis Forest School after bumping into a group of kids and instructors along the creek and was reminded of how fun and fulfilling it is to help connect children to the natural world.

Natascha Paxton - WILLOW - Program Manager; Lead Forest Mentor (she/her)

Natascha has roots in Germany, though she calls California “home.” Some of her most cherished childhood memories involve spending hours on end playing in the forest near her home, equipped with only her imagination and what the woods had to offer.

During a gap year between her college years, Natascha worked at the Earthbound Farms Farmstand, where she tended the land and helped lead workshops and other community events. She especially treasured working with the children who visited the farm and getting to see the flowers, berries, and insects through their eyes. Their sense of wonder had her recalling her own memorable childhood experiences in nature and she recognized a calling for deeper land-based work with children.

Natascha studied Plant Biology at UC Davis, and joined Davis Forest School the fall after she graduated in 2021. Here, she has found joy in cultivating space for the children of this community to connect with nature and explore the magic of the local riparian ecosystem together. She loves learning about traditional relationships between plants and people, and has a budding passion for practicing earth / ancestral skills. Natascha also enjoys filling her days with rock climbing, reading, yoga and meditation.

Olivia Badalamenti - WILD MUSTARD - Forest Mentor (she/her)

Olivia was born in San Luis Obispo, and she grew up hiking, camping, and tidepooling along California’s Central Coast. She was always outside as a child, either collecting tadpoles, playing with her family’s pets (they once had fourteen animals at the same time!), or reading in a hammock. Olivia discovered a love for working with children through teaching swim lessons while she was in high school, and she has spent the past eight years working as a swim instructor and preschool teacher. She is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard and Lifeguard Instructor, and in her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her cats. Olivia recently graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Human Development and a minor in Education, and she plans to focus her career on early childhood education. She is thrilled to be working with a program that allows her to share her love of nature and that values children’s self-directed exploration, play, and joy.

Rosemary Roberts - Admin/Tech Coordinator (she/they)

Rosemary grew up on Kalapuya lands in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and has lived in a variety of bioregions, including in western Europe, eastern Canada, and southern and northern California. With a background in cultural anthropology, midwifery, permaculture, wilderness awareness and herbalism, Rosemary ran Davis Forest School from Fall 2018 to Spring 2020, and deeply enjoyed putting into practice a great passion: helping kids get outside and get dirty (a rather sneaky way of fostering awareness and care of our more-than-human world). Having moved back to Oregon in 2020, Rosemary is grateful to be able to continue supporting the program and community from afar. In addition to parenting and unschooling with two wild kiddos, Rosemary is a freelance sexual/reproductive health educator, and handcrafts herbal tea blends from a rural intentional community near Eugene, OR. 

Stephanie Woldeit - Forest Mentor (she/her)

Stephanie was born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles. She never felt connected to the big sprawling metropolis and often felt deprived of true nature. Stephanie was a facilitator for Free Forest School in LA, before she and her family relocated to Hawaii five years ago, seeking a deeper connection to nature and a more tranquil lifestyle. Stephanie helped build two alternative schools and an eco-village during her time in Hawaii. Her husband’s job has brought them back to California, and they are looking forward to building roots in Davis.

Professionally, Stephanie is a Registered Dietitian, though she is currently taking a break from her career to focus on homeschooling their two kids. Stephanie is excited to be the Lead Forest Mentor of the Friday Homeschool class. She is passionate about homeschooling, kids having free play in nature with other kids, and connecting with other homeschooling families.