About Dan

As a kid I hated school. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I didn’t actually hate learning, I just hated learning in the traditional way. I hated being lectured in a classroom.

This realization began at 19 years old when I sat in my first business class in college realizing that I made a mistake by choosing Business Management as a major.

Looking for a way out, I heard that my college offered an Outdoor Education major and made this drastic change just 3 weeks into my freshman year. Little did I know at the time, this would be one of the best decisions of my life.   

That decision I made because “it sounded fun” changed the way that I view the world and shaped who I am as a human. The more I learned about the history, philosophy, and practice surrounding Outdoor and Experiential Education, the more I knew I had found my purpose. I wanted to show the world that there are more effective ways of educating our youth. It was empowering to realize that I wasn’t programmed to sit still and be force-fed information. I needed to engage my body and my senses along with my mind, and I believed that others would learn more effectively that way as well.

I began to noticed that I thrive in certain settings. I loved being challenged physically and I loved to problem solve. I reflected on my lifetime of playing sports and it made sense as to why I felt so connected to each of those activities so much more than I ever did to anything in the academic realm. Most of the things that felt like core parts of who I was at the time came from my experiences with playing sports.

One of my OE classes had a final exam that required building a fire, setting up a tarp, and navigating a course in the woods with a map and compass and it had to be completed within a certain amount of time. To me that felt like an accomplishment. I had learned so much in such a short amount of time, and I learned it by DOING it.

So just like that, at 19 years old I realized that our entire education system is broken and I knew the solution. I knew this was important work, but I needed some direction. How would I use this newfound belief about learning to find a career that gave me a sense of purpose?

At the end of my sophomore year I landed a direct-care role with a small wilderness therapy program outside of Boone, NC. I spent three summers with this magical program where I developed and sharpened many skills. I became an expert in many primitive living skills and grew more connected to the natural world. I honed my “soft” skills and learned how to support struggling adolescents. Those three summers were some of the most formative experiences of my life and helped shape my path forward. At the end of that third summer I was offered a top leadership position within the program, but I still felt like I was putting the pieces of myself together and figuring out who I was and I wasn’t ready to commit to staying put for any period of time. So, I went back to school to finish my final semester and earned my degree in Outdoor Education and Psychology with a concentration in The Therapeutic Use of Adventure.

I spent my college career as a distance runner on the school’s Cross Country team. This is actually the reason I selected the school that I did and the main reason I went to college. Being a distance runner was a big part of my identity at the time. I felt most balanced when I was running regularly and I desperately needed an intense physical outlet to blow off steam and take care of my mental health. Towards the end of my collegiate career, I began to dream of something big. It’s hard to explain why, but I needed a big challenge to focus on. Initially I thought about training for an Ironman but quickly replaced that vision with the idea of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.

A few short months after graduating I was standing at the southern terminus of the AT with a long, grueling 2,186 mile walk ahead of me. 150 days and some 5 million steps later I finished the trail by summiting Mt. Katahdin in Maine. To this day that experience remains the hardest things I have ever done as well as one of the most rewarding. I made so many deep connections with others I spent time with. I fought through some very close calls with hypothermia. I slogged through one of the rainiest seasons the trail had seen in over 30 years, each day waking up to put on the same wet socks and shoes. Why? At the time I don’t think I knew the answer to that question, but now over ten years later I’m pretty sure I do. I needed to test myself, find my limits and push beyond them. I needed to know who I was at the core when everything else was stripped away. This also gave me just a taste of what the hundreds of adolescents I’ve worked with experienced when they were forced to do something like this mostly against their will.

In the decade or more since that time, I have worked with several programs, small and large, mostly helping young people build skills and learn more about themselves through real experiences, mostly outdoors and/or adventure based. Most recently before I joined RCT, I spent over 7 years working with teens at a residential treatment center near Asheville, NC. I got to wear many hats but mostly served as the Adventure Therapy Director and finished my time there as the Program Director. In 2022 I became a Certified Professional Life Coach and started a private practice.

I consider myself to be a lifelong student and have been so fortunate to have so many mentors guide me along the way. I like to think that most of what I am in my role as a Coach at RCT is a mentor. My first priority with my clients is building rapport and trust. I work hard to show up consistently for my clients to provide a stable, non-judgmental space for them to bring their whole selves. From there much of my approach revolves around helping clients identify their values and make everyday choices that help them live those values. As you might imagine, I spend a good bit of time moving, playing, and exploring with my clients. Creating inclusive spaces in the outdoors (and beyond) is an important value of mine, so I love working with diverse populations.

In my personal life I am a new dad and love spending time with my wife, our son Brooks, and our dog Townes. When I get a chance to play, I am often kayaking the steep whitewater creeks around western NC.


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