Meet the Field Advisors: Sam Forti

Where are you from originally?

Columbus, Ohio

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

I’ve always loved the outdoors and wanted to travel. When I found out I could do both, professionally I took my first instructor job and never looked back.

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

My first major travel experience was studying abroad in Mongolia with SIT for one semester in college.

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

SCUBA!

winterline, gap year, sam forti
Sam and his fellow Field Advisors at orientation

What’s the most important thing students and parents should know about you?

I really enjoy helping feel comfortable and confident when it’s their first time in the backcountry or immersed in nature.

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen or done while traveling?

Getting to track and trail the Big 5 (Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard) and other animals in South Africa.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’m good at finding four-leaf clovers and can make a flute out of a plastic straw.

Meet the Field Advisors: Joselin Hernández

Where are you from originally?

I am from Nicaragua, a country full of lakes, volcanoes and beautiful beaches, and warmhearted people. Most of my family still lives there.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

I have worked with different organizations focusing on community service, leadership and global education for students abroad. Later in my career I started working on managerial roles & I realized where I could really contribute the most was in the field, working directly with student groups, as a mentor, as a curriculum designer. Winterline was the perfect next step, to be back in the field, to see and experience firsthand with the students the wins, the joys, the challenges and the personal growth that come from international travel.joselin hernandez, winterline, gap year

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I remember my grandmother taking me on local excursions in Nicaragua, which fed the travel bug inside of me from early on. I decided to do my bachelor’s degree on Tourism Management, with the desire to work on sustainable tourism. I had my first experience abroad when I was 18. I went to Panama on my own for 10 days. I saw the tremendous power travel had on me, pushing me out of my comfort zone & expanding my perspectives on life. 

This trip to Panama motivated me to seek job opportunities where I could facilitate experiential learning experiences for youth abroad, which is how I began working with groups of American students in Nicaragua in 2009. From then on, I have worked in this field in different countries, mostly in Latin America.

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I believe Winterline is an incredible opportunity for growth in so many areas: personally, professionally, socially. The skills portion of the program makes it worthwhile, and its approach to mentoring students to become increasingly more independent and self-sufficient as the program progresses is incredible. I am excited to try and embrace skills with curiosity, enthusiasm and open-mindedness together with students. I am most excited about Rancho Matastal, where we will be learning natural construction techniques, since this is one of my biggest passions. I have done several workshops on Bamboo and Cobb Building Techniques in the past and want to deepen my knowledge of it.joselin hernandez, winterline, gap year

What’s the most important thing students and parents should know about you?

I am 100% committed to support both the students in this journey, and the local partners in each country that have worked so hard to make each learning piece of the program and incredible experience for the students.

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen or done while traveling?

Exploring the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest and being mesmerized by the lush and dense vegetation and diversity of animals, I once saw a panther drinking water from a stream, not so far from me. Interacting with indigenous communities, and their traditions and ceremonies, learning from their plant medicine.joselin hernandez, winterline, gap year

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I speak 4 languages. Spanish is my native language, I learnt English while in high school. Then I moved to France to teach Spanish, where I simultaneously learned French. I went to study Tourism Management and Teachers Training in Austria for 2 years and learned German, which I am still studying. German has been the hardest one to learn.joselin hernandez, winterline, gap year

Meet the Field Advisors: Carlos Gustavo Moriera-Alvarez

Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Costa Rica, I was raised in the mountains of Heredia Province, surrounded by wonderful landscapes and coffee fields all around. I now live in London, but will move soon to Canada.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

I decided to become a Field Advisor because I got to meet 3 WL students 2 years ago when I designed one of the ISP they enrolled in Monteverde. I liked the spirit they had, I loved the way they were just trying to figure out their lives and I wanted to be a part of it since they all told me that they would like me to lead along their side. I wanted to be able to inspire and help them reach their goals and potential.

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I started teaching when I was 20, I was traveling and doing a lot of grassroots development back then… I got to work in with students in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Panama. I taught in tough urban and rural, same as for indigenous and afro communities within those countries. I wanted to change the world back then, that spark of altruism started my travels. Then, with time, the rest of South America, some of Europe and Asia as well.

Carlos Gustavo Moriera-Alvarez, winterline, gap year
Carlos at the YMCA of the Rockies for Orientation

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I am excited about the possibility to create a positive impact in the lives of the students in a way that allows them to discover their path, what may like or not, and to get a general idea of themselves and their role in life.

What’s the most important thing students and parents should know about you?

I am going to push them to their limits, I intend to get them to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I will share with them what implies critical thinking and cultural understanding. I love to talk, I smile a lot, I am also a very peaceful person. They can always reach out and find someone that will listen to them, to try to understand what they may be feeling and experiencing.

Carlos Gustavo Moriera-Alvarez, winterline, gap year
Carlos and the other FAs at Orientation

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen or done while traveling?

There is no way to sum this up with words nor within one sole experience. I lived on the riverside communities scouting the Amazon river all the way from Iquitos (Perú) to Manaos (Brazil). I have done skydiving over the Iguazú waterfalls during sunset. I hicked/ran the Inka Trail towards Machu Picchu. I did 12h trecking over a glacier in Patagonia (Argentina) after backpacking for 300+ km. I backpacked for 1 year between Europe and Asia without a paddle, just figuring out what I wanted to do along the way. Hitchhiked/boat-hiked allover Philippines and then lead a group of volunteer teachers from diverse nationalities. There’s a lot out there in the world, these are a few of the things I remember.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I am very goofy! And I love (in a crazy way) nature and wild animals that are not from the ecosystems I grew up in, therefore I will be with a sense of awe and wonder in these new places… just like a child.

Meeting my Winterline Coworkers

Winterline staff members are spread out across the world – from Southeast Asia, to Latin America, to various cities in the United States. In some ways, this distance is amazing. It allows us to have regional experts in the locations that our students visit, and it means someone is available for assistance in every time zone. However, by far the biggest downside of this distance is that it’s difficult for our staff members to spend time together in person.

There are coworkers I’ve spoken to almost every day for the past two years over the phone, through text, or on a video call – yet we’d never met in person. That is, until September 3rd, when the majority of our office staff met up in Winter Park, Colorado for a staff retreat! We flew in from across the world, with our farthest staff member coming in from Cambodia and our nearest arriving from other parts of Colorado. We also got to spend time with a few members of our sister organization, Thinking Beyond Borders.

winterline, gap year, staff retreat
Colorado views

Now, “work retreat” might sound like an oxymoron to some people, but for many of us, this time together only solidified our passion for Winterline. By far the highlight of these days was getting to know my coworkers on a deeper level! We covered all the basics that just don’t come up over meetings: where people are from, where they went to college, whether they have siblings. But we also got to connect much further. I learned what the perfect day for my coworkers would look like, which values they hold most esteemed, and what their individual goals for the year are.

winterline, gap year, staff retreat
All smiles from Ashley, our Director of Student Services, and Cara, our VP of Sales and Marketing

We sat around and talked, of course, to figure this out, but I also learned a lot about my coworkers through our activities! We participated in a ropes course, just like our students do at orientation. This day was so much fun and it was so inspiring to see how each and every person gave their all. We took risks, we supported each other, and we celebrated each other’s accomplishments. Yet, no one pressured each other to go faster or to complete a course that was too challenging for that individual. This balance of respect for each other’s boundaries and encouragement to push each other to do our best came naturally to our team, and is something that reflects in our workplace relationships, as well.

winterline, gap year, staff retreat
Our Admissions Advisor Nora conquering the ropes course

I think it’s important for you, our students and families, to understand this aspect of our company. Comprehending what goes on behind the scenes or picturing who the individuals are that make up Winterline is hard. Even I have had trouble comprehending this information at times, being separated from the rest of the team!

But let me tell you this: I already knew that Winterline is made up of the most dedicated, passionate individuals. From this staff retreat, I learned that this work ethic comes from strength, diversity, and integrity in my our personal lives. Having a team composed of such well-rounded people allows us to offer a program that allows you or your student to grow and learn, take risks and challenge yourself, and become your best self.

winterline, gap year, staff retreat
Showing some love to our coworkers!

I’m already looking forward to our next retreat. And if you have the chance to talk to any of our incredible staff members, whether it’s about work or not, take us up on it! We’re always happy to meet you, support you, and help you figure out what the right path is for you.

Meet the Field Advisors: Jamie Hackbarth

Where are you from originally?

Columbus, Ohio! Most recently I call home Denver, Colorado.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

I choose to become a field advisor because I believe in the transformational power of experiential education. I experienced the positive impacts of learning outside of the walls of the classroom and want to share that experience with young people today to shape and expand their worldview.

winterline, gap year, jamie hackbarth
Hiking Mont Fitz Roy in Patagonia

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I began traveling during high school down to Honduras to assist at an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS. This experience made me hungry to keep learning from other cultures and people from different life experiences, which led me to study abroad throughout Central America and Barcelona, Spain. After college, I served with the Peace Corps in rural Peru, which is where I began teaching and mentoring young adults. I continued my teaching over the past several years with the State of Colorado by leading educational programs for entrepreneurs and small business owners. I continue to travel for personal growth reasons throughout the world every year and am excited to do so with Winterline!

winterline, jamie hackbarth, gap year
Holding Nala in her Peace Corps community in Peru (brought home the dog!)

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I am most excited to share my passion about global experiential education with students, and mentor them through this process.

What’s the most important thing students and parents should know about you?

I truly believe in the power of authenticity, and bringing that to grow and learn from every experience and person you encounter.

winterline, jamie hackbarth, gap year
Kayaking through Chicago

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen or done while traveling?

Sky-diving over the Great Barrier Reef and exploring the Amazon Jungle with locals!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

As a kid, I used to perform in half-time college basketball games as a mini ‘Harlem Globetrotter’! Ask me how to spin a ball on your finger.

winterline, gap year, jamie hackbarth
Hanging out in Machu Picchu

Meet the Field Advisors: Ellen Molander

Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

After many years as a classroom teacher working in international education I began to feel stagnant and stuck. I wanted to continue working in education with students, but in a different capacity, outside of the classroom. I am passionate about travel, social emotional learning, self discovery and hands on skills based learning. My search for a new career path within education brought me to experiential ed, leading summer programs for high school students. It was through this work that I discovered gap year programs and began leading semesters.winterline, gap year, ellen molander

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I studied Early Childhood Education in University and began my teaching career in the traditional classroom setting. Having always regretted not studying abroad, after my first year of teaching, I began looking for international teaching opportunities. It was then that I packed up and moved to Guatemala to teach 3rd and 4th grade. Upon arrival I was immediately bit by the travel bug! Fast forward 11 years and I’ve never looked back. I’ve lived, taught or traveled on nearly every contenent.

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I truly believe that travel has the ability to break down barriers, change perspectives, and open hearts and minds. I am excited to share this journey with students while traveling through Latin America, a region that has become my home over the last 11 years and is near and dear to my heart. winterline, gap year, ellen molander

What’s the most important thing students and parents should know about you?

Thats a hard one! I love to laugh and have fun. I’m extremely compassionate and caring and dedicated to what I do. I don’t believe in living inside the “box”

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen or done while traveling?

So hard to pick! While living and working in East Africa I had the opportunity to see so many incredible animals in the wild. Something that I never dreamed I would do in my life. In Uganda we tracked white rhino on foot, in Zanzibar I swam with wild dolphins in the Indian Ocean, and in Tanzania I went on countless safaris and saw more animals than I ever thought possible.winterline, gap year, ellen molander

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I am a certified yoga teacher. When I’m not leading student groups you can find me in my mat practicing or leading classes. winterline, gap year, ellen molander

Meet the Field Advisors: Felipe Buitrago

Where are you from originally?

I am from Bogota, the capital of Colombia, situated in the middle of the Andes.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

It excites me to be back in the “field’” once again and witness the power of other ways of learning unfolding through transformational experiences. I think that as an FA I’ll be able to support young people to articulate, in action and in conversation, the narratives of their own journey.felipe buitrago, winterline, gap year

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

My teaching career started back in 2010 at Earlham College, as a Language and Literature program assistant for the Latin American and Spanish department. During that time I was able to support curriculum, lesson plans, and developed collaborative research with faculty.

Traveling has been a part of my life ever since I was granted a scholarship to finish the International Baccalaureate school diploma at a boarding school in Montezuma, NM. Continuing, with my undergraduate education in a small liberal arts school in Richmond, IN, followed by an MA in Outdoor Education; a program between universities in the UK, Norway and Germany. Currently, I live and work for an international school in Berlin, Germany.

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I’m thrilled to be part of an organization that is able to imagine and encourage other ways of learning. I believe that Winterline’s exposure to different skills, scenarios, environments, and cultures is key in a course of imagining new processes of active learning and self-discovery.felipe buitrago, winterline, gap year

What’s the most important thing students and parents should know about you?

I feel honored to be part and accompany the journey of a group of students that choose to explore their curiosity, step beyond their comfort zone, and acknowledge their privilege while preparing for life.

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen or done while traveling?

Tracking a pack of wolves in Yellowstone National Park (Lamar Valley) in a research study back in 2010. For four weeks I was able to learn about and understand the effect on the overall health and impact of the reintroduction of the wolves into the ecosystem of the park.felipe buitrago, winterline, gap year

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’m a big fan of urban gardening. Currently growing in my small balcony: Green beans, a pumpkin, avocado trees, figs, tomatoes, strawberries, coffee, pepper, sweet potato, and two beautiful cucumbers.felipe buitrago, winterline, gap year