Summit’s leadership and administrative team is composed of dedicated individuals who bring more than 125 years of combined experience to the operation of the program. Most of this experience has been in outdoor adventure programs specifically designed for struggling youth. We believe that a treatment center, and the outcomes of treatment, are only as good as the people providing it (click here to see outcomes). You and your child may remember our beautiful campus, or the serenity of the mountains, but you will likely remember the positive connections you make with our staff above all else.
Meet Our Team
Nichol Ernst, LCSW, Executive Director, Therapist, Owner
Nichol is a lifelong Mainer. He was born in Portland. Nichol spent his childhood enjoying all that the ocean and mountains of Maine have to offer. Nichol has only once lived out of the state to pursue his undergraduate degree at Brown University. Nichol then fulfilled his lifelong dream of moving west by migrating west of Portland toward the border of New Hampshire, where he now lives.
Nichol spent many years as a field guide at Summit, beginning in the fall of 2003. Inspired by his work at Summit, Nichol received his Masters In Social work from the University Of New England. He began working full-time as a therapist at Summit in 2008.
Later, Nichol became the Clinical Director of Summit Achievement. He served in that role for many years, though now he is currently the Executive Director of Summit Achievement. While he loves his leadership role, he still carries a small caseload as a therapist. Nichol’s areas of expertise include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family systems theory, and social coaching. Additionally, Nichol is certified in EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy) and Mindfulness. In 2018 Nichol became a co-owner of Summit.
Nichol and his certified therapy dog, Baxter, are often found walking through the woods with students or joining them on their wilderness expeditions. When not working with students and families, Nichol can be found working on his small farm in Western Maine with his family cultivating therapeutic metaphors.
Learn more about Nichol here.
Listen to Nichol’s story on the podcast, Stories from the Field: Demystifying Wilderness Therapy.
Will White, DA, LCSW, LADC, Director of Outreach and Business Development, Co-Founder, Owner
Will grew up in Western Massachusetts and spent most of his childhood summers at his great-grandfather’s home near the White Mountains of New Hampshire. During those summers in the White Mountains, Will experienced many adventures that would eventually start him on the path of his 30-year career in the field of Wilderness Therapy.
Will headed to Colorado for his undergraduate degree in the early 1980s, where the mountains allowed him to climb, ski and thrive in the outdoors. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder, and his Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Denver. Will moved back to the east coast in 1987 and worked in various mental health settings in New Hampshire before helping start Summit Achievement. In 2011, while working full-time at Summit, he completed a Doctorate degree in Leadership from Franklin Pierce University, culminating in his dissertation, Stories from the Elders: Chronicles and Narratives from the Early Years of Wilderness Therapy.
Will believes that Wilderness Therapy is the most effective mental health treatment for struggling young people. This belief motivated him to join in the founding of Summit Achievement and continues to drive his work and pursuits to this day. Will is a nationally recognized expert in Adventure/Wilderness Therapy and is a much sought-after speaker on the topic. He has presented at national and international conferences. He is the author of the book, Stories from the Field: A History of Wilderness Therapy and the host of the podcast, Stories from the Field: Demystifying Wilderness Therapy.
Will has been licensed as a Clinical Social Worker and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor for over 35 years in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire (on the Maine border) with his wife and sons.
Learn more about Will here
Anson McNulty, BA, Operations Director, Owner
Anson grew up in the West Village of New York City, where he got to experience the vast culture and diversity the city has to offer. As Anson is dyslexic, he went to a special boarding school in midstate New York where he started to develop his love for nature.
Anson attended Unity College in Maine where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation Administration. Anson first discovered Summit Achievement shortly after graduating college. He was drawn to this work as it allowed him to be outside and give back to youth. He experienced so much support in his journey through dyslexia, and Anson wanted the opportunity to provide that same support to young people.
Anson has worked at Summit Achievement since 2002. Since starting out as a guide, he’s held multiple roles at Summit. Currently, Anson serves as the Operations Director, as well as being a co-owner. Anson is responsible for hiring and training guide staff and for overseeing the general day-to-day operations of the program. In addition to his education at Unity College, Anson is also certified as Wilderness First Responder, CPR Instructor, and CPI (Crisis Prevention and Intervention) Instructor.
When Anson is not at Summit, which isn’t often, he likes to spend time with his family on the Saco River and enjoys the scenic roads of New Hampshire and Maine on his motorcycle.
Learn more about Anson here.
Caitlyn E. Cook, LCPC, ATR-BC, Clinical Director, Therapist
Caitlyn grew up on Long Island, New York. Throughout her childhood, she could usually be found in the art room, barn, or out on the sports field. She discovered the restorative quality of the wilderness early on while spending summers in the northwoods of Maine at her family’s cabin.
As an undergraduate, Caitlyn attended the University of Rhode Island where she competed as a Division I pole vaulter and graduated with a degree in Communication Studies. After working in the field of Interior Design for several years, Caitlyn craved the grounding effects of the woods and set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. It was during this experience that she learned of Art Therapy and made the decision to pursue a graduate degree in the field. Obtaining her Masters from Pratt Institute in Art Therapy and Creativity Development, Caitlyn focused on blending her passions for art and adventure. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and a Board Certified Art Psychotherapist (ATR-BC). Through her graduate research, she stumbled upon Summit Achievement and its unique hybrid model. Caitlyn was struck by how Summit was able to bridge the life lessons from the backcountry with the skills needed to thrive in the frontcountry. While she had the immediate sense that Summit would somehow be a part of her own journey, the path there was indirect. Caitlyn went on to gain valuable experience working with adults in a psychiatric day-treatment program followed by leading the creation and implementation of two art therapy initiatives in an intensive outpatient program for adolescents and individuals with eating disorders. From there, she spent two years as an Expressive Therapist in a residential treatment center where she established and led wilderness therapy groups for adjudicated youth.
In 2014, Caitlyn decided to join the Summit team as a guide. She quickly transitioned into a therapist role when one opened up, and eventually became Clinical Director in 2018. Caitlyn specializes in designing creative interventions to meet the needs of each unique student and family, pulling from expertise in the areas of Art Therapy, trauma-informed care, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, family systems, and Internal Family Systems.
When she’s not at Summit, you can find her spending time with her family on the lakes or in the mountains near her home just over the border in New Hampshire.
Learn more about Caitlyn here.
Shannon H. Palentchar, BS, Admissions Director
Shannon was born and raised in North Carolina. Before moving to New England for her job at Summit Achievement, Shannon remained in the Southeast, where she fostered a love of the outdoors.
Shannon received her Bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University. She has been working with adolescents and their families for over 20 years in a variety of settings including adventure guiding, Wilderness Therapy, therapeutic boarding schools, and residential treatment centers. Shannon worked in admissions for a therapeutic program for adolescent boys, and then went on to work in admissions at a residential treatment facility for young adult women.
After years of experience working in admissions, she knew that in order to do her job well and love doing it, the program she represented had to compliment her own passions and beliefs. Due to her personal love of the wilderness, background in adventure guiding, and experience working at a therapeutic boarding school, Shannon was very intrigued to learn about Summit Achievement – a Wilderness Therapy program that offered exciting adventure-based expeditions along with a truly individualized and supportive school. When she heard Summit was looking for an Admissions Director, it didn’t take her long to pack up her family and move from North Carolina to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Shannon has been with Summit since 2014.
Shannon loves the outdoors and associated adventure sports and enjoys sharing these experiences with friends and family. Some of Shannon’s favorite hobbies include hiking, camping, trail running, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, traveling with her family, and watching her teenage daughter play sports. You can read a blog she wrote about moving to New England to work for Summit here.
Learn more about Shannon here.
Listen to Shannon’s story on the podcast, Stories from the Field: Demystifying Wilderness Therapy
Doug Dobkowski, MEd, Academic Director
Doug grew up in Clifton, NJ, a mid-sized city in Northeast, NJ. His parents regularly took Doug and his 3 siblings out into nature. The family enjoyed hiking, camping, and canoeing. Outdoor traditions were consistent throughout his childhood and adolescence. As Doug became more independent, he found comfort in the outdoors. He saw the outdoors as a place to recharge, reflect, and cope with adversity.
After graduating high school, Doug attended Rutgers University where he earned a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics and used that degree to become a classroom teacher. He earned his Masters degree as a Teacher of Mathematics from Pace University and spent 8 years as a classroom teacher, working mainly with students with special needs. Doug wanted to share his love of the outdoors with his students, so he started an outdoors club. He soon realized how much he enjoyed outdoor leadership and made the shift from classroom teacher to outdoor educator.
Doug first learned about wilderness therapy from a close friend and adventure partner who participated in a program as a teenager. Doug decided to pursue work in wilderness therapy where he found Summit Achievement. After working as a field guide for 4 ½ years, Doug transitioned to the role of academic director.
Doug resides in New Hampshire. You can find him rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing, trail running, walking his dog, and telling corny dad jokes.
Mike Deluca, LCSW, Therapist
Mike grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts where he spent much of his time playing sports and in the ocean. His earliest experiences with wilderness were often with his family on fishing trips or ski vacations in the White Mountains.
Mike attended Green Mountain College in Vermont for his undergraduate degree in Adventure Education. While attending Green Mountain College, Mike completed a four-month National Outdoor Leadership (NOLS) Semester in Patagonia, Chile. This experience helped him hone his instruction skills and also ignited a love for international travel and wilderness. Before graduating college he worked as a mountain guide in the Jämtland Mountains in Sweden. Following graduation, Mike instructed with Outward Bound for several years. He worked with adjudicated youth at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School before transitioning to the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center (TIOBEC) off the coast of Boston. There he worked with at-risk youth from the Boston Public School System. He received extensive training in diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence during this time.
Mike’s work with Outward Bound led to exploring Wilderness Therapy programs. In the spring of 2008, he started as a wilderness guide at Summit Achievement. Mike worked as a guide at Summit for three years and developed effective skills for engaging youth in difficult conversations about their lives, their choices, and their relationships. In the spring of 2011, he traveled to Uganda and volunteered with the Bududa Learning Center, before starting his Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of New Hampshire. After completing his MSW, Mike took a position working at a community mental health center in the Mount Washington Valley.
In 2018 he returned to Summit as part of the clinical team. He enjoys working with youth from all backgrounds and brings much of his experience from wilderness guiding and social justice into his practice. Creating emotionally and physically safe environments for young people to be vulnerable is important to Mike. He is particularly interested in supporting youth with emotional dysregulation, depression, and anxiety.
When not working, Mike continues to explore the backcountry. He is fond of canoeing when it’s warm and backcountry skiing when it’s not. He still longs to travel and see the world and is often daydreaming of the next culture and continent to explore. In the meantime, he’s recently picked up fly fishing!
Alicia Jacobs, LMSW-CC, Therapist
Alicia was born and raised in Southern New Hampshire. As a child, she enjoyed frequent outdoor adventures including swimming, camping, and frog catching. Alicia’s family raised her to value mental wellness, and she always knew she wanted to practice as a clinician one day.
Alicia earned her Master of Social Work degree from The University of New Hampshire in 2018. She then began working in rural community mental health, where she was able to engage with a diverse population of adults and adolescents struggling with severe mental illness, substance use disorders, and socioeconomic limitations and challenges. Most recently, Alicia served on the clinical team in a twelve-step-based, residential substance use treatment facility. Alicia has experience in crisis prevention and intervention, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and group psychotherapy. Prior to entering the field of Social Work, Alicia earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at The University of New Hampshire. She often uses elements of her background in Philosophy to enhance her work as a clinician.
After her work in community mental health and in-patient substance abuse treatment, Alicia eventually found her way to the team of therapists at Summit Achievement. Her role at Summit Achievement affords her the opportunity to combine her love of nature with her passion for individual and group psychotherapy.
When she is not on campus here at Summit, Alicia enjoys playing music, spending time with family, and playing “tourist” in her hometown.
Nick Faraldi, Director of Parent Support
Nick grew up on the Jersey Shore in Point Pleasant. As a teenager, Nick struggled with addiction and his family life experienced considerable challenges as a result. His parents enrolled him at Summit Achievement when he was 16 years old, an experience that would have a long-lasting impact on his personal life. It would also help shape his career trajectory of working with struggling teens.
Nick pursued his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology at New Jersey City University. He had the opportunity to do a semester abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, a significant experience of adventure and academics. His first experience working with at-risk adolescents was at New Hope Foundation, an adolescent substance use treatment facility. After graduation, Nick became a guide at Summit while earning his Master’s in Social Work from Rutgers University. Nick continued working as a guide until a therapist position opened, and he was subsequently hired as a member of the clinical team.
In his current role as the Director of Parent Support, Nick teaches parents skills to better communicate with their children, effectively hold boundaries, and to understand parenting patterns. While he doesn’t directly work with students anymore, he enjoys the collaboration with the clinical team to best support family systems. Nick wanted to return to Summit because of the profound impact his own experience as a student at Summit had on him. It was the people and the connections he made that were so pivotal in making changes in his own life. He wanted to be a part of that change for others.
Nick, his wife, and his daughter seek out adventure as often as they can through biking, kayaking, and connecting with nature. Nick is an avid reader and lover of live music and movies.
Pete Sanfilippo, BS, Teacher
Pete grew up in Walpole, Massachusetts, and is the oldest of five children. Pete attended Walpole High School before moving north to Maine for his undergraduate degree.
Pete attended Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Soon after, Pete moved to Conway, NH in 2003 and discovered a passion for teaching. Pete started his teaching career in special education before returning to school to pursue a Master’s degree in Secondary Mathematics Education at Plymouth State University. Pete has experience working with students in seventh through twelfth grades.
Pete joined the Summit Achievement community in 2012 as the Math teacher. Pete took a four-year hiatus to teach Math at a public high school in New Hampshire but returned to Summit in 2019 to resume his role on the academic team. Pete really enjoys the unique classroom environment that Summit offers, as well as the opportunity to work with students with diverse learning styles. Pete is extremely passionate about Mathematics and is excited to support student growth as a teacher and academic advisor.
Pete lives in Conway, New Hampshire with his wife and three children. When not teaching, Pete enjoys spending time with his family– especially on the lakes and rivers in the summer, and on the slopes in winter!
Aurora Binette, BS, Teacher
Aurora was born and raised in Franconia, New Hampshire. Aurora grew up minutes away from Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch, both of which she frequently visited to ski and hike. From a young age, Aurora loved the outdoors and the adventures the mountains held.
Aurora graduated from Plymouth State University with an Associates of Arts in Sociology before taking an academic break to serve as a Corps Man in the United States Navy. Afterward, Aurora attended Boston University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Developmental Psychology. Aurora is currently attending New England College to earn her Master’s in Special Education Literacy: Reading and Language Arts. She will also be working on earning a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Studies in Philosophy and Literature.
Before taking her job at Summit, Aurora assisted with the reunification of families that have been affected by Substance Use Disorder and mental health issues. In addition, Aurora has worked with women and children’s advocacy groups. Because of Aurora’s own struggles with school dynamics as a teenager, her love for the wilderness, and her drive to work with youth, Aurora was drawn to working with Summit students and their families. Aurora loves that Summit offers a supportive environment where students can gain confidence and have positive role models.
Aurora began her role as the English Language Arts teacher at Summit in March of 2021. She spends her time in the classroom with students helping them with their individual curriculums, as well as helping students master relevant study skills.
Aurora lives just over the border in New Hampshire with her husband and her cat Megan. Outside of the classroom, you can find Aurora cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, cooking, and playing her bass. You might even see Aurora on the trail with Megan wearing her neon harness, as Megan joins Aurora on most of her adventures.
Park Cawley, BA, Teacher
Park grew up right next to The White Mountains in Conway, New Hampshire. Living in a beautiful location, he had a natural curiosity about the world and the environment that led him to pursue Science in school. After being accepted into Colby College, Park found his place in the Environmental Science department.
His studies allowed for travel to study Conservation Biology and experiment on the effects of climate change on coral reefs. Culminating his undergraduate degree with projects working on healthy urban streams, Park graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2019. He spent a few years in Colorado teaching outdoor and environmental education to school-aged children. This experience presented opportunities to develop his teaching style and interact with hundreds of students over thousands of hours. After seeing how combining an outdoor setting with direct instruction was beneficial to students learning in all different styles, Park wanted to pursue a career teaching in a non-traditional environment.
After moving back to New England, Park joined the Summit Achievement Academic team as a Science teacher in 2021. He works with students on their individual science curriculum. He also advises students about the best ways to reach their academic goals and ways to be academically successful at Summit and beyond!
When not working, Park has a variety of activities to keep himself busy. He can be seen rock climbing, hiking, biking, hammocking with a book, and playing guitar.
Andrew T. Farris, BA, Program Director
Andrew graduated from Green Mountain College with a Bachelor’s degree in Adventure Recreation. He is certified in Wilderness First Responder and is a Leave No Trace Master Educator. Prior to joining the Summit team, Andrew taught environmental education to elementary students, adventure education to college and corporate groups, and provided adaptive recreation opportunities for people with physical and cognitive disabilities at a summer camp associated with a children’s hospital. Andrew enjoys fly fishing, hiking, backcountry skiing, making music, and witty puns.
Learn more about Andrew here.
Monique Britt, Office Manager
Monique traveled extensively throughout her childhood as a child of an Air Force servicemember. She and her family found adventure wherever they landed by diving right into the local culture. Having two hometowns – one in southern Illinois and the other right here in the Mount Washington Valley – made for diverse family vacations between base assignments.
After settling into civilian life, Monique attended the University of Illinois in Champagne and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. Monique came to the Mount Washington Valley to visit family often and ended up staying here to raise her two, (now adult), children. She managed a couple of small businesses over her years in the Valley before coming to Summit Achievement.
Monique has said that the Summit mission statement really spoke to her as a mother, nature lover, and community member. Her role as office and business manager allows for a unique position. She enjoys bookkeeping as well as interacting with the Summit community in her capacity as Human Resources.
In her spare time, Monique is a Reiki practitioner and loves gardening and photography. She and her husband enjoy hiking and snowshoeing the many local trails. In warmer months, they love kayaking and boating on the beautiful ponds and lakes of Maine with their children and granddaughter.
Kate Lambert, BS, Chef
Kate hails from Ellsworth, Maine. She spent her summers attending and working at Tanglewood 4H Camp in Lincolnville, Maine. There she found there was an emphasis on community building and supporting community with healthy, local, and organic food. Summers spent learning in the Tanglewood kitchen definitively shaped Kate’s food philosophy.
With her growing interest in sustainable food and community, she headed off to Vancouver, British Columbia to earn a Bachelor of Science in Global Resource Systems at the University of British Columbia. She has since worked as a natural foods cook, a baker, as well as an environmental educator with school-aged students.
Working in the environmental education industry led her to discover Summit Achievement. At Summit, Kate appreciates that healthy food is considered part of the whole picture of student treatment and health. Kate uses her love of cooking and interest in natural foods to prepare meals for the Summit students and staff while they are on campus.
Kate lives in Fryeburg, Maine with her partner and her puppy. She can usually be found hiking, gardening, canoeing, or cross country skiing in her free time.
Dr. Drexel R. Gordon, DO, Medical Director
Drexel originally hails from Texas. His life partner, a Mainer he met during residency, imported him to Maine, however, he still finds time to visit family in Texas every year.
Drexel is a self-described “living” enthusiast who took 20 circuitous years exploring art, music, theater, and nature before ultimately finding his way to the study of medicine. Drexel graduated from Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1990 and subsequently completed a residency in Family Medicine in Dallas.
In 1999, one of Summit’s founders, Adam, invited him to visit Summit Achievement. Drexel remembers feeling drawn to Summit immediately. He has served as Medical Director since January 2000, providing medical education and oversight to support each student’s success in the program. Drexel enjoys helping adolescents find their way to a respectful balance between their desire for autonomy and self-determination and the slow, deliberate, careful cultivation of the lifelong, supportive communities that we all need.
In addition to overseeing Summit’s medical services, Drexel practices Osteopathic NeuroMuscular Medicine in Auburn, Maine. Prior medical experience includes 27 years in solo primary care and 15 years as medical director of a skilled nursing and rehab facility.
In between working, he may be found gardening, exploring, singing, or playing music. He relishes his current roles as husband, father of two, and steward of nine acres.
Ana Nadeau, BS, Program Nurse
During her studies at the University of New England, Ana worked at Midcoast hospital as a CNA in the ICU. After earning her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, she gained a repertoire of nursing experience, working in a multitude of areas–internal medicine, triage, home health, and most recently as a public health nurse for the state of Maine, where she specifically worked with the marginalized maternal and pediatric population, traveling all over the state. She worked together with child protective services, government-funded agencies, pediatricians, and local hospitals to provide the best physical and mental care during her home visits. The home visits that Ana conducted with these underprivileged families broadened her perspective on the immense lack of professional, compassionate, and emotionally intelligent mental health services available. At this job, an inkling of wanting to expand on adolescent nursing care and mental health led her to apply to Summit Achievement and Traverse in 2020.
Ana truly delights in her role at Summit and is honored to be the program nurse. She is able to utilize her skill set as an RN to thoroughly assess each student that enters through the doors at Summit. She takes great pride in educating, monitoring, advocating, and providing the best compassionate care she can with the student population. The all-encompassing care that each student obtains during their stay at Summit is something she has never seen elsewhere in all her other nursing roles. It truly is amazing!
Life outside of Summit for Ana entails a lot of something called “hygge” (pronounced “hue-guh”), with her husband and two small kids. She enjoys funny adult card games (What Do You Meme, anyone?) and is also in the midst of teaching herself the balalaika. Her absolute favorite place in the world is Peaks Island, and her own version of heaven would be if the Autumn season was year-round. If you know of a place that is like that, please reach out to her ASAP.