Greetings from Camp RYLA! Meet the people who make District 5130 RYLA Camp a once-in-a-lifetime leadership learning experience.

Cassie Pitkin, RYLA Camp Director

Camper year:  2006

Schools attended:  Petaluma High School, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

3 words to describe leadership:  Brave. Ethical. Motivating.

Cassie attended RYLA in 2006 as she was about to start her senior at Petaluma High School.  She attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she earned her Bachelor’s in kinesiology (but is now afraid of blood) and her Master’s in Counseling and Guidance for Higher Education.  A trained rape crisis counselor, Cassie has served in AmeriCorps and has been a proud year-round coach of Special Olympics. After working as a head academic advisor for the College of Engineering at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, she is now an Instructor Manager for the Enterprise division of General Assembly.  Cassie enjoys every part of RYLA, but really looks forward to watching campers learn more about themselves than they ever thought possible as they create bonds that will last a lifetime. 

Nelson Le, Counselor

Camper  Year:  2008

Schools Attended:  Piner High School, Santa Rosa JC

3 Words to Describe Leadership:  Accountability, Respect, Courage 

Summer 2008 Nelson attended his first summer camp RYLA. After graduating high school he took a short break from school before heading to the Santa Rosa Junior College and getting his AA in Art. Nelson is in training to become an optician and traveling the world. What Nelson loves about RYLA is seeing the campers grow and create bonds within a week that will be everlasting.  

Paco Villegas, Counselor

Camper year: 2013

Schools attended: Casa Grande High School, Santa Rosa Junior College, California State University Monterey Bay 

3 words to describe leadership: Humble, Empathetic, Empowering

Paco grew up in Sonoma County and attended Camp RYLA in 2013. After high school, he enrolled in the local community college, and then eventually transferred to California State University Monterey Bay. He is in his last semester working towards a Bachelor’s in marine science and is currently working as an undergraduate researcher for the Watershed Environment and Ecology Lab. Camp RYLA was a pivotal moment in Paco’s life and all the life lessons and memories acquired from that experience are kept close to him. What he loves most about RYLA is being able to inspire and motivate young adults to better themselves and their community. 

Jacob Reynolds, Counselor

Camper year: 2017

Schools attended: Fort Bragg High School, Sacramento City College

3 words to describe leadership: Honesty, Courage, Patience

Summer 2017 Jacob attended his first RYLA camp. After graduating Fort Bragg Highschool, he moved to Davis, CA where he attends Sacramento City College. Jacob plans to transfer to Sacramento State University to work towards a bachelor's degree in business administration. Jacob is currently working in student housing property management in Davis, CA. Jacob’s favorite thing about RYLA is the shift and growth the campers experience while there for just one week. RYLA changed Jacob for the better.  He hopes for the same outcome for future generations of RYLA campers.

Maggie VanWeele, Counselor

Camper year: 2013

Schools attended: Analy High School, University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington

3 words to describe leadership:  Honesty, Support, Individualized

Maggie grew up in Sebastopol and attended RYLA in 2013 before her senior year at Analy High School. After Analy she went to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington where she played varsity volleyball for the Loggers and earned a double major in Business Leadership and Environmental Policy. After undergrad she moved to Victor, Idaho to explore the Teton mountain range. In Teton Valley she dabbled in hobby farming, skiing, and worked in an amazing local restaurant called Forage Bistro. She lives in Boise, Idaho now with her boyfriend Eric, cat Stevie and dog Fred. She is the tasting room manager at Telaya Wine Co, a family owned boutique winery. RYLA has always been a very special place to Maggie. A place to be challenged, encouraged, loved and motivated. Maggie loves supporting new campers every year on their own journey to becoming leaders for their communities.

Ricky Sims, Head Counselor

Camper Year:  2009

Schools attended:  Petaluma High School, Humboldt State University

3 Words to describe Leadership:  Consistency, Humbleness, Motivated

Ricky Sims attended RYLA in 2009 as a camper before he started his senior year at Petaluma High School. He attended Humboldt State University where he played football for 4 years and studied Kinesiology. Ricky is currently living in Reno where he is the Senior Operations Manager for Fedex ground. Ricky to put it lightly is very passionate about RYLA, he truly loves watching young men and women go through the changes that he once did at this camp that have impacted his life to this day.  

Bethany Munson, Head Counselor

Camper Year:  2011

Schools attended:  El Molino High School, Western Washington University, University of Arizona

Three words to describe leadership:  Brave, Inclusive, and Thoughtful

Bethany (she/they) graduated from El Molino High School in 2012. She designed her own major at Western Washington University titled “Law, Diversity, and Justice: Mental Health and Youth Advocacy.” Bethany stayed in the PNW for a couple years before moving to the desert to attend law school at the University of Arizona. Following graduation, Bethany clerked for a juvenile court judge for a year and then started her first attorney job representing youth during foster care cases. Bethany plays in a kickball league and enjoys exploring the Sonoran Desert. 

Bethany loves watching campers leave RYLA with a better understanding of themselves and what it means to be in community with others.

Taylar Minnis, Counselor

Camper Year: 2022

Schools Attended: Upper Lake High School, College of the Siskiyous

3 words to describe leadership: Passionate, Motivating, and Caring

Taylar grew up in Lake County and attended RYLA in 2022, the summer before her senior year at Upper Lake High School. After graduating highschool Taylar is now attending College of the Siskiyous where she is playing basketball and studying Kinesiology and Business. Taylar’s favorite thing about RYLA as a camper was meeting amazing people who became family while learning to better her leadership skills. Taylar’s favorite thing about RYLA as a counselor was watching the transformation of each camper from their first day there versus the last day of camp. “I loved watching the growth of the campers, I experienced so much growth as a leader while being a camper and I took everything I learned back to my high school where I was the ASB president and used all the leadership skills I learned.”  

Elif Myers, Counselor

Camper year: 2014

Schools attended: Fort Bragg High School, Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma State University

3 words to describe leadership: Honesty, vulnerability, kindness

RYLA has held a special place in Elif's heart since first attending in 2014. From interpersonal growth to leadership skills, she is grateful for all this wonderful camp offered her. Now almost 10 years after being a camper, Elif is stoked to share the experience with younger generations. After graduating from Fort Bragg High School, Elif attended Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University.  Graduating with a degree in Geography, Environment, and Planning, Elif has worked a variety of jobs in the environmental field. Currently, Elif lives in Seattle, Washington where she leads environmental research projects and studies geology. In her spare time, you can find Elif rock climbing, playing guitar, or car camping at various parks.

Frankie Fontanilla, Counselor

Camper year: 2012

Schools attended: Fort Bragg High School, Saint Mary's College of CA 

3 words to describe leadership: 

Frankie attended RYLA as a camper in 2013. Inspired by leadership and community service, she attended Saint Mary's College of CA to study Allied Health. After graduating, Frankie served two years in the Peace Corps. She lived in a small village in Botswana, where she was an HIV/AIDS Capacity Building Volunteer, working with the local school and health post to increase awareness and access to resources when it comes to Youth Development, Gender Based Violence, and HIV/AIDS. Always looking for ways to practice and leadership and mentorship, Frankie is so excited to be a counselor and get to know tomorrow's leaders. 

Krystian Schwarz, Counselor

Camper year: 2012

Schools attended: Fort Bragg High School, St. Mary's College of CA, University of San Francisco

3 words to describe leadership:  Thoughtful, Inspiring, Inclusive

Krystian attended RYLA way back in the summer of 2012. He built upon his experiences gained at camp and went on to study at St. Mary's College of CA. Krystian has worked in many areas (teaching, recruiting, & human resources) but has always strived to give back to his community and the people around him through his work. Krystian is currently working at UC Berkeley in recruiting and attending the University of San Francisco in the Masters of Fine Arts: Writing program.