Meet Our Staff

MEET OUR LEADERSHIP TEAM

John Grago, MA

Executive Director

John is GBA’s “Man for All Seasons”. He is innately gifted and extensively experienced. After receiving his B.A. in Psychology from West Virginia University he earned his M.A. in Counseling from Marshall University. He has over 20 years experience in the Mental Health Field, with over 15 of those years in the private sector. He has been a licensed therapist and professionally comprehends GBA’s model of Relationality. He is adept at training therapists and conducting therapy with students. He has been a program director of a therapeutic academy, and he knows how to correlate the various components of a comprehensive therapeutic model. He has been an Admissions Director, and he understands the unique emotional needs of parents enrolling their daughter. He knows hundreds of people from other schools and programs as well as Private Educational Consultants. He understands the profession of Adolescent Therapy/Education. He has worked with GBA founder, L Jay Mitchell, for over ten years and has contributed to the maturation of GBA’s Relationality Model. Students flock to John and his wise, caring counsel. Staff are drawn to him as a leader and problem solver. GBA is fortunate to have John Grago as Executive Director.

Mike Beswick, LICSW, BCD

Clinical Director

Mike has developed a national reputation for his work in facilitating healing workshops for young people and their families. It is Mike’s belief that the solutions to many adolescent issues are best addressed through working with the entire family system and he utilizes innovative methods to assist young women in coming to an understanding of the intent of their parent’s actions.

Additionally, he is convinced that modern adolescent culture provide minimal guidance for today’s teens, and, in fact, frequently leads them towards self-destructive behaviors in their search for identity. These “acting out” behaviors, including substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, defiance, and life apathy, are transformed into psychiatric diagnoses, which may paradoxically become stigmatizing and lead to further deterioration. Mike came to Greenbrier Academy out of recognition that it is one of the few places where young women’s “problems” are viewed contextually; their negative actions are their attempts to find acceptance or relief from pain. Greenbrier Academy’s philosophy reduces the shame associated with their past and sparks the desire to discover the authentic self. Mike is certified to supervise the therapeutic hours required for MSW candidates to obtain LPC certification.

Mike brings a wealth of experience to his work at Greenbrier, including advanced training in psychodrama, numerous years of working with students and families regarding significant substance abuse issues, guided imagery, experiential therapy and facilitating nearly 1000 intensive family workshops. He’s listed in the Cambridge Registry of Who’s Who in America and has presented at numerous national conferences.

Mike is married and has two teenage boys, who constantly ask why he wants to spend his day working with girls.

Lowell Galford

Academic Director/Math Teacher

Mr. Galford is excited to return to the GBA family as a math and science teacher after being away for a year caring for his father. He is passionate about teaching and helping youth grow. During his year away from GBA, he taught at an alternative school and coordinated an afterschool program. He is an experienced educator in science, math, agriculture education, and special education. Interestingly, teaching was not his first career. Before becoming a teacher he worked in research and extension at UGA, and Clemson.

Amber Reed

Residential Director

When parents tour Greenbrier Academy, they often ask about the program’s model and how it works. Meeting Amber may be the best answer to their questions, as she credits working at Greenbrier Academy as being a turning point in her own life direction. Starting as a mentor to the girls, she absorbed the lessons and philosophy offered at Greenbrier Academy and made changes in her life that resulted in her quickly becoming a source of inspiration to the students.

Amber lives by the motto, “we will love you until you can love yourself” and everyone that meets her, be it student, staff or visitor immediately feels embraced by her warmth, compassion and ability to empathically connect.

Kelly Sams

Human Resource Director

GBA’s Director of Human Resources maintains a close relationship not only with staff but with our students as well. Kelly joined our team with a background in sales, marketing, admissions, and administration. With expertise in relationship management and communication, Kelly is a valuable and friendly resource for everyone at Greenbrier Academy.

Having grown up in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, Kelly studied sociology, business administration, and health and aging at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Inspired by her desire to help people, Kelly began her professional career working in nursing homes as a certified nursing assistant and activities coordinator. This path led Kelly to a 180 bed skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in Beckley, West Virginia, where she served both employees and residents for six years as the Director of Admissions, Sales, and Marketing.

Kelly found her way to Greenbrier Academy in 2015. With her personable attitude and enthusiasm to help others, she assimilated GBA’s philosophies naturally. Kelly feels blessed to have found the opportunity to make a difference in young lives every day. No matter what, Kelly always keeps a positive outlook and a smile on her face. A believer in the power of ambition and vision, Kelly draws inspiration from one of her favorite quotes by George Bernard Shaw which states, “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘why?’ I dream of thinks that never were and say, ‘why not?’ ”

At home, Kelly loves to spend time with her family. She has two daughters, ages 7 and 10. Her family enjoys participating in outdoor activities together and visiting the beach as much as possible. Kelly also has a creative eye for photography and frequently spends her free time taking photos and documenting life through pictures.

L. Jay Mitchell

Founder

Jay has been actively involved in the profession of adolescent mental health for over 25 years. As a USAF Judge Advocate and as a partner in a civil law practice he focused on cases involving psychological assessment, capacity and emotional injury. His experience with forensic behavioral scientists led to an exploration of the behavioral, cognitive and emotional change process. This led to founding and directing the SUWS Adolescent Program in 1982, a one month outdoor intervention removing intransigent emotional impasses. SUWS is the longest continuous operating program of its kind in the United States. To date there have been over 10,000 graduates of these programs. He has worked for years with Dr. Brent Slife in the development and application of a therapeutic model called “strong relationality”. This model is being incorporated at Greenbrier Academy. He has written, published, and presented papers in the field while also training practitioners.

Brent D. Slife, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist/Co-Founder

Dr. Slife is a clinical psychologist who is currently Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University. He has been honored recently with several awards for his scholarship and teaching, including the Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association for his contribution to psychology, the Eliza R. Snow Award for research on the interface of science and religion, the Karl G. Maeser Award for top researcher at BYU, the Circle of Honor Award from the Student Honor Association, and both “Teacher of the Year” by the university and “Most Outstanding Professor” by the psychology student honorary, Psi Chi.

Professor Slife moved from Baylor University where he served as Director of Clinical Training for many years and was honored there as “Outstanding Research Professor” as well as the “Circle of Achievement” award for his teaching. As a Fellow of several professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, he recently served as the President of the Society of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, on the Council of the American Psychological Association, and on the editorial boards of eight journals: Journal of Mind and Behavior, Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, Humanistic Psychologist, Journal of Qualitative Research in Psychology, International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, Qualitative Psychology, and Terrorism Research.

He has authored or co-authored over 200 articles and 7 books, including Human Frailty, Vice, and Suffering: Flourishing in the Context of Limits and Dependency (in press, APA Books), Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Psychological Issues (2013, McGraw-Hill), Critical Thinking About Psychology: Hidden Assumptions and Plausible Alternatives (2005, APA Books), Critical Issues in Psychotherapy: Translating New Ideas into Practice (2001, Sage Publications), What’s Behind the Research? Hidden Assumptions in the Behavioral Sciences (1995, Sage Publications), and Time and Psychological Explanation (1993, SUNY Press).

Dr. Slife is a co-owner, executive board member, therapist/counselor trainer, family program facilitator, and consulting clinical psychologist at Greenbrier Academy. For more information please check his website at http://www.brentslife.com.

Mike Beswick, LICSW, BCD

Family Programming Clinical Director

Mike has developed a national reputation for his work in facilitating healing workshops for young people and their families. It is Mike’s belief that the solutions to many adolescent issues are best addressed through working with the entire family system and he utilizes innovative methods to assist young women in coming to an understanding of the intent of their parent’s actions.

Additionally, he is convinced that modern adolescent culture provide minimal guidance for today’s teens, and, in fact, frequently leads them towards self-destructive behaviors in their search for identity. These “acting out” behaviors, including substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, defiance, and life apathy, are transformed into psychiatric diagnoses, which may paradoxically become stigmatizing and lead to further deterioration. Mike came to Greenbrier Academy out of recognition that it is one of the few places where young women’s “problems” are viewed contextually; their negative actions are their attempts to find acceptance or relief from pain. Greenbrier Academy’s philosophy reduces the shame associated with their past and sparks the desire to discover the authentic self. Mike is certified to supervise the therapeutic hours required for MSW candidates to obtain LPC certification.

Mike brings a wealth of experience to his work at Greenbrier, including advanced training in psychodrama, numerous years of working with students and families regarding significant substance abuse issues, guided imagery, experiential therapy and facilitating nearly 1000 intensive family workshops. He’s listed in the Cambridge Registry of Who’s Who in America and has presented at numerous national conferences.

Mike is married and has two teenage boys, who constantly ask why he wants to spend his day working with girls.

MEET OUR ADMISSIONS TEAM

Beth Ragland

Director of Admissions & Outreach

Beth joined Greenbrier Academy in 2008. Beth began her college studies at Auburn University and completed her higher education at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She has been in the marketing and management of programs for struggling teens since 1994, a majority of those years working with one of the largest providers of residential behavioral healthcare services for teens in the United States. With her, she brings experience in start-ups, working with short, intermediate and long term residential programs, therapeutic boarding schools and day treatment/schools. Beth also brings the ability to manage and assist in the administration and implementation of these programs and schools.

“In the years that I have worked with these programs/schools, it is the children and their families that make this profession so rewarding. From the first phone call from a parent or referring professional, I feel we have a tremendous responsibility to make sure that young lady and her family will benefit from their experience at Greenbrier. Helping parents work through their fears and doubts and then supporting them throughout their daughter’s stay are measures I feel make this time in their lives much less stressful. Watching the students grow, excel in their academics and build self-esteem is truly a gift. The entire staff at Greenbrier Academy is very committed to our students, their families and each other, which is why I am extremely proud to join this team of knowledgeable, experienced, and caring professionals.”

Beth has worked on various community projects including the Junior League, the Gothic Guild (supporting the arts), Angels for Children, the Alabama Child Care Association and the Council for Families and Youth, in addition to serving on the Board of Directors for Partnership for a Drug Free Community. Beth’s hobbies include reading, travel, movies, Pilates and spending as much time as possible at the beach and with her daughter.

Lauren Ware

Admission and Tours

With a degree in Corporate Communication from James Madison University, Lauren joins Greenbrier Academy with a background in business relations and marketing. Her college program incorporated new media and technology to supplement her professional skills. While studying at JMU, she also took time to pursue her passion for writing. Lauren is a creative-minded individual who enjoys incorporating her own personal touches on assignments.

After graduation, Lauren worked for 3 years in customer service where she enjoyed helping people. It was her goal to begin a career where she could use her creativity and business techniques to make a difference in the world. She knew she had discovered something special at our school the first time she arrived on campus. Lauren loves the opportunity she has found at Greenbrier Academy to help our young women and their families obtain the support they deserve. For her, utilizing her skills to positively impact the lives of young women is a dream come true.

Having grown up on a farm in rural Virginia, Lauren feels at home working in the mountains of West Virginia. She believes there is no better place for healing and growth than in a secluded, pastoral setting. Farm life instilled in Lauren a deep appreciation for nature. In her time away from campus, she enjoys hiking and kayaking. Animals hold a special place in Lauren’s heart and she is always on the lookout for creatures in need of love and attention. As a lover of literature, Lauren encourages others to read and find meaning in books. She finds one quote by her favorite author, Anne Lamott, to be particularly meaningful at GBA. It reads, “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”

MEET OUR THERAPEUTICS TEAM

Mike Beswick, LICSW, BCD

Clinical Director, Family Programming Clinical Director

Mike has developed a national reputation for his work in facilitating healing workshops for young people and their families. It is Mike’s belief that the solutions to many adolescent issues are best addressed through working with the entire family system and he utilizes innovative methods to assist young women in coming to an understanding of the intent of their parent’s actions.

Additionally, he is convinced that modern adolescent culture provide minimal guidance for today’s teens, and, in fact, frequently leads them towards self-destructive behaviors in their search for identity. These “acting out” behaviors, including substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, defiance, and life apathy, are transformed into psychiatric diagnoses, which may paradoxically become stigmatizing and lead to further deterioration. Mike came to Greenbrier Academy out of recognition that it is one of the few places where young women’s “problems” are viewed contextually; their negative actions are their attempts to find acceptance or relief from pain. Greenbrier Academy’s philosophy reduces the shame associated with their past and sparks the desire to discover the authentic self. Mike is certified to supervise the therapeutic hours required for MSW candidates to obtain LPC certification.

Mike brings a wealth of experience to his work at Greenbrier, including advanced training in psychodrama, numerous years of working with students and families regarding significant substance abuse issues, guided imagery, experiential therapy and facilitating nearly 1000 intensive family workshops. He’s listed in the Cambridge Registry of Who’s Who in America and has presented at numerous national conferences.

Mike is married and has two teenage boys, who constantly ask why he wants to spend his day working with girls.

Shellie Beeker, LPC, NCC

Counselor

Shellie is another great problem solver, especially in working with adolescents. She earned her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Heal Counseling as well as Post-Graduate Certificates in Addiction’s Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy from Appalachian State University. Her passion is to help adolescent females discover their unique voice and develop into women of strength and vision. Shellie uniquely uses the Expressive Arts in working with students to increase their resiliency and connections to self, family and others. She is considered an expert in this are having presented on the subject at various state and regional professional conferences. GBA also relies on her experience in preparing students for their future academic endeavors including college. Her experience includes assisting college freshmen transitioning through their first year. She enjoys the outdoors, hiking with her dog, gardening, painting, and exploring places as well as ideas.

Maureen Marko, MFT

Counselor

Maureen enriches the GBA clinical team with her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Drexel University. Her family systems perspectives complement the GBA Relationality Model and her fellow counselors’ specialties. She praises the relational culture of GBA above the various therapeutic settings in which she has worked including an inpatient psychiatric hospital, outpatient community mental health and home based family therapy program. Parents praise her ability to not only help set boundaries and reasonable expectations for family interaction, but to maintain those agreements. Relational systems govern our human interactions. We are fortunate to have Maureen as a student and practicer of those systems.

Kelly Beasley, MA

Counselor / Equine Assisted Therapist

After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech she earned her Master’s Degree in mental health counseling and human development from the CACREP accredited Lindsey Wilson College. She brings a variety of contextual therapeutic experiences to GBA. They include residential therapeutic programming, psycosocial rehabilitation, psychiatric inpatient, therapeutic classroom, and outpatient mental health. Her experience as a case manager, residential house manager as well as a counselor assists GBA in the implementation of our Family Units. She is enlivened by helping students heal interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. She has a loving family and enjoys music as well as college football. GBA appreciates her reliability and consistency in working with staff and students as well as her professional expertise.

Kelley Sandell Sills, MA, YT500

Counselor / Yoga Therapist

She is often referred to as a “gem”. Very few counselors have her skill sets and experience. A Counselor, MA, YT500prerequisite to success in working with complex students is critical thinking. She is exceptionally intelligent with honed critical thinking ability. Her husband was a philosophy professor, and you can imagine their dinner time discussions. She mixes practicality and common sense with academic acumen. For several years she was the managing director of a wellness resort and spa. At GBA we use the power of therapeutic yoga and body movement to open up students’ abilities to emote and think more clearly. She has years of yoga training and instructing. That includes hundreds of hours in Yoga Therapy Advanced training programs and is a Certified Kripalu Yoga Instructor. She has seen success in working with Spa residents, personal clients, and even prisoners at a federal prison. She is an accomplished artist, and potter, assisting our girls in advance pottery and art competitions. As an experienced, sharp professional, she quickly gains the trust of people from all walks of life. We experience her as multi-talented and able to do almost anything to help other people. She is mission driven and fully embraces our Relationality Model.

Tanya McClung, MA

Counselor

After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree from Concord University in Social Work, Tanya began working at Greenbrier Academy shortly after as a residential assistant and the assistant to the medical coordinator. After working at Greenbrier Academy for several years, Tanya was inspired by the philosophy and therapeutic practices at Greenbrier which led her to continue her education at Liberty University, where she obtained her Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling with studies in Christian theology.

Tanya believes relationships play a pivotal role in our development and how we actively function in our lives. With this belief and the experiences she has gained at GBA, Tanya’s passion is to help adolescents explore their beliefs, strengths and weakness in order to gain coping skills and develop meaningful and loving relationships. Tanya also firmly believes in the ability for others to work together and the benefits of teamwork, which is extremely helpful when working with the many different staff at GBA.
Some of Tanya’s outside interests include music, baking, reading, crafts, camping, traveling, and spending as much time as possible with her loving family.

Heather Bowden, MA

Counselor

Heather joins us from the New River Valley in Southwestern Virginia. Prior to earning her undergraduate degree in Studio Art at Hollins University, Heather lived in Ghana, West Africa, for a year in 2010. During this time, she founded a primary school in a remote rainforest village. The founding and development of this school was a momentous accomplishment for Heather and one that is close to her heart. Even after moving back to the U.S., she returned to the village twice for a total of six additional months. The Nsumensa Village Primary School still operates today thanks to funding by donations to a non-profit organization, the Pocket Project, of which Heather is the president.

Heather is honored to have been a part of such an impactful project in Ghana. It was her service in the village that ignited her passion for humanitarian work. Drawn to the field of social work, Heather graduated with an M.S.W. from Radford University. With impressive experience in international education work, youth residential treatment centers, private practice counseling, and hospice, she joins the Greenbrier Academy family. Heather enjoys working with our young women at GBA to empower and heal on an individual, family, and community level.

In her time away from campus, Heather continues to pursue her love of art. She is a very family-oriented individual and, yes, that family includes her dog, Henry. Henry even accompanies Heather to campus at times to meet with her students. Heather loves animals and has experience participating in wildlife rescues. She is a nature lover at heart and spends as much time as possible outdoors.

Dinah Palmer

Medical Coordinator

With over ten years of healthcare experience and her compassionate and caring nature, Dinah has spent her nursing career promoting the quality of life in her community. She is committed to working closely with local political, community, and medical leaders to promote economic, social, and educational growth for her fellow citizens. Dinah says, “My passion is to see my fellow man gain education, healthcare, and happiness in life regardless of social and economic status.” She is a staunch spokesperson against domestic violence, “so our children and their family can become productive citizens and little children can feel safe and loved.”

During past work at an adolescent behavioral science hospital unit, Dinah had the opportunity to work with adolescents from various economic and social backgrounds. As part of the treatment team, she was able to gain valuable insights regarding the issues that teens face today. She says, “Each person has his/her own unique personality and must be approached accordingly. I love watching the growth and development of each student as they advance toward a successful life and career, knowing that I am a small part of their success. Through kindness, consideration, and guidance, I want to serve as an example to these young students.”

Dinah also enjoys singing, writing stories for her granddaughter, and being involved in community and church activities.

Greta Lutman, LPC, LCAS

Family Therapy Specialist

Greta received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Wake Forest University in 1988, and her Masters’ Degree in Counseling from Appalachian State University in 1992, with concentrations in Substance Abuse Counseling and Marriage and Family Counseling. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in both Georgia and North Carolina, and is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist (LCAS) in North Carolina.

Having worked in therapeutic wilderness programs and boarding schools since 2000, Greta understands the process that students and families go through in each of these settings, and endeavors to assist clients in making sense of the process, their relationships, and themselves. A central tenet of Interpersonal Neurobiology (see the work of Dr. Daniel J. Siegel) is that parents can best assist in the growth and maturing of their children by participating in their own growth process. She was thrilled to join the team at Greenbrier Academy where she can help parents engage in their own changes; not just so their children will benefit, but because the best kept secret of parenting is that the parents must grow.

Greta’s therapeutic skills and interests include Gestalt Dialogs, Metaphor Therapy, Guided Imagery, timeline work, Family Systems Therapy, Structural Family Therapy, Interpersonal Neurobiology, body-centered approaches for trauma, anxiety and grief; thoughtful use of transference and countertransference, and clinical application of the Enneagram. However, all “techniques” occur in the context of relationships and Greta is passionate about creating honest, genuine, and instructive relationships with her clients (both students and parents) as a prerequisite to any intervention.  She focuses intensely on understanding the context of her clients’ lives, their struggles, and inspiring them to make behavioral and attitude change from the inside out.

Greta’s interests include cultural studies, ethnic arts, food, customs and religions, traveling, modern art, and photography. She lives with her husband, their two cats and rescued Belgian Malinois in Clyde, North Carolina, where she is in school learning jewelry-making.

MEET OUR ACADEMICS TEAM

Lowell Galford

Academic Director/Math Teacher

Mr. Galford is excited to return to the GBA family as a math and science teacher after being away for a year caring for his father. He is passionate about teaching and helping youth grow. During his year away from GBA, he taught at an alternative school and coordinated an afterschool program. He is an experienced educator in science, math, agriculture education, and special education. Interestingly, teaching was not his first career. Before becoming a teacher he worked in research and extension at UGA, and Clemson.

Ron McAllister

Assistant Academic Director/History Teacher

A long-term resident of West Virginia, Ron is a graduate of West Virginia State College, and has taught Science and Social Studies at St. Anthony’s School before coming to Greenbrier Academy. Ron enjoys taking advantage of Greenbrier’s spacious campus during his science classes. His students use its natural resources as opportunities to get out of the classroom and do “in the field” observations and experiments. He is a master at creating experiential learning activities and likes to see students involved in real-life problem solving situations.

One example of Ron’s diverse interests is in his leadership with Greenbrier’s clubs through the theatre production for Dark of the Moon, involving students in the creation of periactoids that will serve as a backdrop for the play. These tall triangular columns are mounted on platforms with casters, and have three sides that can be turned and moved easily about the stage to show different scenes at different times throughout the production. His interest in theatre comes through involvement in historical interpretation and re-enactment. When asked why he teaches he says, “Because I enjoy sharing new information, thoughts, and ideas with others, and watching students grow.”

Ron and his wife moved east and are excited to settle in the mountains they love. Ron enjoys indoor and outdoor cultural activities such as canoeing, kayaking, spelunking, finger weaving, and reading.

Anne Hunter

Art Teacher / Drumming Coordinator

Anne has worked in the field of arts education since 2009. She joined Greenbrier Academy in 2012, bringing with her a love of art and creative expression. Before her start at GBA, Anne worked as a guide with the True North Wilderness Program in Vermont in 2008. While in Vermont, she also served as an aid and behavior interventionist for an 8th grade student. Anne graduated from Alfred University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and Education. Motivated by her love of travel, she studied abroad for some time at Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence, Italy.

Anne’s creativity and drive to help children led her to Greenbrier Academy. Serving as both our art teacher and drumming coordinator, her inventiveness is put to good use at our school. “I love engaging in the process and experience of healing teens through art and rhythm,” says Anne. She finds it tremendously rewarding to witness her students’ journeys as they find strength and self-worth through honoring their unique creative expression, whether it be through visual art or through the power of drumming. “I love watching students reach for new goals as they develop the discipline and passion to meet them.” Anne enjoys working with teens in particular because of the vibrancy and spirit that they bring to the classroom. She strives to encourage her students to discover their inner beauty and confidence by helping to guide them technically and emotionally as they push their creative boundaries. “I love helping students understand the significance of their voice and the integral part they play in our school and community.” She feels lucky to teach in such an amiable environment alongside her devoted and compassionate coworkers.

A strong proponent of humanitarian work, Anne has participated in service trips to Kenya and the Dominican Republic as well as a GBA service trip to Nicaragua. She gives back on a local level by painting murals in her community here at home. Anne enjoys getting students involved in such projects as well. She enters students into art contests at the local Carnegie Hall and promotes their involvement in the charity event “Empty Bowls.” She also accompanies her drumming performance group to local schools, churches, festivals, and private events in the area. In her time away from GBA, Anne participates in making and selling many kinds of art, including the ceramics that she creates in her own personal ceramics studio at home.

Starr Woodall

English Teacher

With a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in English and Math Education, Starr joined the Greenbrier Academy family in 2015.

An altruistic teacher who works across the curriculum and incorporates artistic techniques into her lessons, Starr uses a curriculum that trains students to reason as individuals, to think deeply, analytically and imaginatively.

She has a love for nature, painting, upcycling books, and is an avid reader. Starr runs a few miles in the early morning and in the evenings she loves to cook and dance around the kitchen with her husband and enjoy playtime with their toddler son.

Phillip Soyring

Science Teacher

With a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Environmental Health Management from Ferris State University, a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from Rutgers University and a Master’s degree in Secondary Education (physics) from Western Maryland College, Phil arrived at Greenbrier Academy with fifteen years teaching experience in high school science and a wide array of former careers including public health and preventive medicine, safety and industrial hygiene, environmental science and radiation health. Phil also served in the US Navy for seven years, where he developed a passion for teaching after it played a big role in his military duties.

Phil enjoys providing his students with real life examples of why the material he teaches is important, as well as the importance of personal responsibility for success.

When Phil is not working he and his wife are very active and enjoy all water sports, biking and hiking, as well as antiques and international travel. Phil really enjoys the customized approach to education that Greenbrier Academy offers to the students and enjoys helping the girls to transition to being successful in their next phase of their life journey, whatever that may be.

Stephanie Sizemore

Learning Specialist

Stephanie arrived at Greenbrier Academy with 23 years teaching experience and is licensed in multiple subjects in K-8. A Davis and Elkins College graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Education, she holds a West Virginia Permanent Professional Teaching Certificate.

Stephanie develops individual education plans for students utilizing a variety of learning resources to accomplish educational goals. She feels the working environment at Greenbrier Academy is rewarding, as it is a place where everyone works together to support and encourage the girls to build healthy relationships with themselves and others.

When Stephanie is not working she enjoys spending time with her family, camping and attending music festivals.

Adam Lewis

Math Teacher & College Prep

A Concord University graduate with a degree in math education, Adam was born in West Virginia and worked as a private tutor for two years before joining Greenbrier Academy in 2014. Before arriving at Greenbrier Academy, he also helped to organize a writing center at New River Community and Technical College.

Adam’s mathematical interests include geometry, abstract algebra and the role of mathematics as both a cultural instrument and a system for logical expression. To appeal to different learning styles, his preferred teaching style combines direct instruction, technology applications and opportunities for student creativity and research. Adam also studies languages, literacy and linguistics.

Outside of school, Adam’s hobbies include camping, hiking and computer programming.

Susie Blankenship

Registrar / College Counselor

Susie joined the Greenbrier Academy team in 2011 after obtaining her first Bachelor’s degree in HR Business Management from Radford University, a second Bachelor’s degree in Human Service Counseling from Old Dominion University and some Master’s work in Special Education at Grand Canyon University.

With prior experience as a TCI instructor, one-on-one assistant and administrative assistant, Susie originally served as a lead night residential advisor at Greenbrier Academy. She then transferred to the math department before assuming her current position as registrar/college counselor.

Married with a daughter and twin boys, Susie enjoys hunting, NASCAR, volleyball and basketball, as well as spending time with her family go kart racing. She is also a member and officer of the Narrows Jr. Woman’s Club.

Laura Cooper

School of Horsemanship

The skills of horsemanship come naturally to our equine coordinator, Laura. Born in Severn, Maryland, Laura began riding horses at age 12. She began teaching riding in 1986. Finding that she enjoyed working with children, Laura began a career working as a teacher’s assistant in a special education setting. She also worked at Easy Rider Ranch in Hanover Maryland where she instructed youth riders on trails and taught barrel racing. While working at Easy Rider Ranch, Laura assisted the program’s equine therapists. Upon moving to West Virginia, Laura started her own business and gained experience in customer service. Laura continued to utilize her horsemanship talents and, in 2008, she won a saddle and belt buckle after racing her thoroughbred in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

In 2013, Laura came to Greenbrier Academy as a residential advisor. Later that year, she began her equine career with our school, serving as the barn manager. She is certified in Stable Management and English and Western riding. With an impressive background of showing in both English and Western riding, Laura easily meets the varying needs of our horsemanship students. Laura builds relationships with our students effortlessly and is a trusted mentor to those in her classes.

Away from school, Laura loves to spend time with her beloved pets, including the two dogs that accompany her to campus most days, Mylo and Molly. Animals are not only significant in Laura’s career; they are a part of her life. Laura feels at home in nature, and frequently visits the local creeks and forests to explore and hike with Milo and Molly. Naturally, Laura always finds time to take trail rides on her own horse at home.

Dixie Conley

Equine Assistant

With an impressive background in teaching western, jumping, and dressage, Dixie is eager to share her knowledge of horsemanship with our students. Dixie graduated with high honors from Meredith Manor International Equestrian College, where she received her teaching certification and horse training certification. During her time there, Dixie helped to manage a 40 horse barn. She specializes in the Dressage and Western disciplines.

Growing up in West Virginia with a long-time love of horses, Dixie enjoys spending time with her students on Greenbrier Academy’s serene property. Dixie believes that the horse is the most therapeutic animal and she encourages students of all skill levels to participate in the equine therapy and riding programs. Our students truly appreciate and benefit from the one-on-one instruction they receive with her. Dixie has always been passionate about helping others and she is excited to share her passion for horses with the girls at Greenbrier Academy.

Cristiano Melo

Spanish Teacher/Academics

Arriving at GBA from Brazil, Cristiano brings with him a vast knowledge of languages and cultures to share with our students. Cristiano attended the Southern University of Santa Catarina where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Language Education and Second Language Learning. Working as a teacher, Cristiano gained experience teaching English and Portuguese to middle and high school students in Brazil for seven years. He also taught at Colégio UNESC for three years and at KNN Idiomas, a language school, for three years. In 2011, Cristiano was awarded and elected into the Fulbright Program, where he received a Language Teaching Assistant scholarship allowing him to teach Portuguese at Bluefield State College for one scholastic year.

Growing up, he always respected a teacher’s role because of their ability to positively influence those in their classes. Being a teacher, he has had the opportunity to motivate individuals who may have felt misguided or misunderstood. He loves being able to provide students with a new view of learning and strives to inspire them as he has been inspired.

Having worked closely with young adults and business professionals for some time, Cristiano has walked with people from many different paths of life. As a teacher of both the young and old, he has spent time not only cultivating an effective approach to teaching, but also learning how to listen to, motivate, and understand his students on an individual level. Having led him to Greenbrier Academy, languages are, above all, Cristiano’s passion. “As some may give themselves to more commonly recognized artistic passions, I devote most of my time to this art form,” says Cristiano. “I think the ability to communicate with and understand people from all over the world is something magical.” At GBA, Cristiano found another interest in the school’s theater program. “Allowing one to become another person on stage, through physical expression and imagination, provides a deeper understanding of self and one’s personal capabilities.”

In his time away from GBA, Cristiano enjoys being in nature and experiencing the natural beauties of the world. Outdoor sports and games always keep him grounded and in high spirits. His other interests include reading, watching movies, participating in theater, and traveling. At school, Cristiano is driven by his philosophy that positivity and personal progression can be born out of a student finding their worth in everyday accomplishments. “Gaining self esteem in daily successes quickly diminishes negative feelings on which one may be focusing. Therefore, I try to constantly provide opportunities for my students to accomplish these small successes in order for them to take their own steps in finding more meaningful success in life.” In a lighter sense, Cristiano seeks to incorporate fun and humor in his classroom. “We are all here to enjoy life, and I think promoting light heartedness and warm humor is a great way to build strong, trusting connections with my GBA students.”

Rodger Persinger

Academic substitute

MEET OUR RESIDENTIAL TEAM

Amber Reed

Residential Director

When parents tour Greenbrier Academy, they often ask about the program’s model and how it works. Meeting Amber may be the best answer to their questions, as she credits working at Greenbrier Academy as being a turning point in her own life direction. Starting as a mentor to the girls, she absorbed the lessons and philosophy offered at Greenbrier Academy and made changes in her life that resulted in her quickly becoming a source of inspiration to the students.

Amber lives by the motto, “we will love you until you can love yourself” and everyone that meets her, be it student, staff or visitor immediately feels embraced by her warmth, compassion and ability to empathically connect.

Alicia Dennison

Residential Assistant

Alicia joined Greenbrier Academy in 2012. As a residential advisor, she works directly with our students. During her time here, Alicia has developed such a love and passion for her work. “The greatest part about working directly with the girls is getting to see, firsthand, the significant changes they make from the day they first walk through our doors to the day they graduate from our program,” says Alicia.
Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her Husband and their two, soon to be three, children. Alicia and her husband have a son with special needs who holds such a special place in her heart. With him, Alicia found the opportunity to attend many trainings and seminars on the power and importance of family. Understanding the importance of that bond, her family can always be found doing things together. They especially enjoy taking scenic drives through our beautiful state, going to the movies, and spending time outdoors. Alicia strives to bring this commitment and focus on family from home with her to GBA. “I like to help the girls see just how wonderful good, healthy relationships can be. My wish is to continue learning and growing while at Greenbrier Academy while working toward my goal of becoming a special education teacher.”

Lindsay Fink

Residential Assistant

Lindsay moved to Summers County from Clarksburg, West Virginia. She has been employed at GBA since March of 2016. She studied at Fairmont State University where she received her Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in English. She was named to the President’s and Dean’s List and had the honor of being selected for Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology. After graduating in 2015, she proceeded to work at Romano Law Office which gave her the experience of working with the pubic and finding facts, resources, and solutions. Passionate about being able to help others, the move to work at GBA was a natural fit. Lindsay loves having the opportunity to spend time with, get to know, and contribute to the journeys of the amazing young ladies at GBA. In her free time, she enjoys being outside, playing with her chocolate lab, and spending time with family and friends. One of her favorite sayings is a quote by Carl Yung, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Michelle Dekle

Residential Assistant

Michelle feels blessed to have worked at GBA since 2009. She enjoys serving as a residential advisor as it allows her to work closely with our girls. The meaningful relationships that she develops with our students promote a family environment on campus. During her time at Greenbrier Academy, she has experienced so many emotions with the girls. “There have been sad moments, and I have cried with those dealing with the struggles in their lives. I have also shed tears of joy seeing the girls overcome their struggles and fears.”

What Michelle enjoys most about her job is serving as a positive influence in the girls’ lives and hearing the success stories from those who have graduated from GBA. She also loves participating with the current students while on teambuilding trips. Michelle accompanies the girls on many adventurous outings, including rafting, zip lining, and rock climbing. On campus, she is always quick to encourage and motivate our students to stay active and cheers them on while watching them play sports.

Outside of GBA, Michelle enjoys spending time with her husband of thirteen years and their two children. Her hobbies include participating in church activities, playing basketball, and listening to music.

Hope Dolan

Residential Assistant

Having worked as a residential advisor for Greenbrier Academy since January of 2013, Hope has touched the lives of so many of our students. Her personal career goal is to work in a position in which she can help others. Her job at GBA allows her to fulfill this goal. For Hope, the most rewarding part of her career is getting to know all of the amazing girls who step through our front door. Of course, that makes saying goodbyes an emotional and difficult aspect of her job. It is important to Hope to make meaningful connections with our students. As much as she strives to be a role model for the girls, she also learns a lot from them as well. The impact our students have made on her life will be with her forever.

As a residential advisor at Greenbrier Academy, Hope has the opportunity to work closely with therapists, academic advisers, and the rest of the residential staff on her team. This closeness and teamwork allow Hope to meet each individual need of the girls who she supervises. Hope has two younger sisters who are within the age range of GBA students. She believes that her relationship with her sisters gives her an advantage when building rapport and determining the needs of our students. “Life at GBA is exciting and no one day with the girls is ever the same,” she remarks. Even with the emotions and challenges, Hope describes her position at GBA as the best job she has ever had.

Away from campus, Hope is currently working toward an associate degree in accounting. When she is not studying, Hope spends most of her free time reading, singing, and spending time with her family.

MEET OUR CONTINUING CARE AND CONSULTING TEAM

Ron Schwenkler, LPC, NCC, ALPS

Clinical Director Over Aftercare

With 15 years experience working with youth and families, Ron engages others with depth. One dimension that makes Ron special to Greenbrier Academy is his programmatic experience. He has worked in a group home setting for adolescents and served as a wilderness instructor, counselor and a family program facilitator for numerous years. Ron has continued to advance in this field and has served as the Director for two prominent program phases, both in a wilderness setting and a longer-term program. Ron also co-developed and facilitated After Care programs, which supports families to leverage their success in integrating their hard-earned gains from a residential setting experience when they return home.

Ron knows youth and families. Ron also knows balance as seen in the other parts of his life. He and his wife are raising two beautiful and energy-filled boys and recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl to their family. He has a black-belt in Kenpo, and is a 15-year veteran of the martial arts. Ron also loves to be in the wilderness. Anyone working with Ron has an experience coming to them. They can trust they will be pushed to live more authentically.

Ron continues to strive in his relational development, seeking supervision with Dr. Slife regularly to understand how relationality is applied implicitly in theories. During Ron’s academic and theoretical training he has studied Gestalt and Jungian extensively and currently is pursuing further training in Jungian Depth Psychology and Dialectic Behavioral Therapy. Ron continues to seek expertise in all neurological matters from Dr. Hipskind. Ron holds the following licenses and certificates:

  • National Certified Counselor
    Licensed Professional Counselor (West Virginia)
    Approved Licensed Professional Supervisor (West Virginia)
    Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (Montana)
    Distance Credentialed Counselor
    Grief Recovery Specialist

Hassan A. Jafary, M.D.

Consulting Psychiatrist

Dr. Hassan A. Jafary (aka Dr. Nick) is presently working at Beckley Psychiatric Services in Beckley, WV. He started this office in July 2008 after he qualified as a Psychiatrist from Cornell University. He completed his four years of residency at the Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Hospital. He was Chief Resident in his final years of residency.

After finishing his residency he moved back to Beckley, WV where his family has resided for many years. He grew up in Punjab, Pakistan where he completed his schooling and acquired his first degree, majoring in Pre-med. He always intended to follow in the footsteps of his two older siblings, who are medical physicians in Beckley. He was also a keen sportsman during this period.

He applied and was accepted at the medical university in Dominican Republic where he stayed seven years and completed his medical degree. He had an exceptional experience in the Dominican Republic. Not only did he learn Spanish, but he also learned valuable communication skills while serving the locals. This has proven to be an advantage during his residency and in running his current practice. He now owns and runs a thriving and very successful psychiatric office. He is well known, respected and liked by his patients and medical community due to his classic approach and excellent bed side manner.

Carole T Giunta, Ph.D.

Consulting Psychologist

Dr. Carole Giunta is a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 20 years experience in assessment and treatment. Throughout her training and professional life, Dr. Giunta has had a strong interest in psychological assessment. It is her commitment to making psychological assessment results accessible and useful which guides the philosophy of her practice. For many years, Dr. Giunta and her associates have been actively involved in helping young people and families understand their strengths and vulnerabilities and discover new paths for healing and learning. Dr. Giunta greatly enjoys the opportunity to work with adolescents and their families.

In addition to her interest in adolescents, Dr. Giunta also conducts evaluations with a broad range of other clients, working closely with attorneys and physicians to facilitate understanding of their clients’ mental health and neuropsychological functioning in light of legal or medical problems. She frequently consults on matters of mental health and the law and provides expert witness testimony. Dr. Giunta holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Vermont.

Dr. Giunta and her associate, Dr. Orth, conduct psychological and psychoeducational assessments at Greenbrier Academy. To learn more about services offered, please visit http://www.giunta-associates.com

James E. Orth, Ph.D., ABP

Consulting Psychologist Show Info

Dr. Jim Orth has enjoyed providing psychological services to children, adolescents and their families for more than 22 years. Board Certified in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, he has particular interests in patterns of attachment as manifested throughout development, and in the impact of sensory processing and other areas of self-regulation upon the developing child’s abilities to learn, to manage emotions, and to establish and maintain relationships with others. Dr. Orth has published articles regarding regulatory problems in children, psychotherapy, and doctor-patient relationships.

Dr. Orth shares with Giunta and Associates a commitment to high-quality, comprehensive psychological assessments that provide understandable and useful information for teenagers, their families, and those involved in their education and care. Evaluations may help clarify diagnoses, identify strengths and supports, and develop recommendations for treatment and for enhancing development. Dr. Orth draws upon extensive experience evaluating children and adolescents with complex presentations, many of whom have received multiple evaluations and treatment efforts yet continue to have major difficulties functioning in different areas of their lives. To learn more about services offered, please visit http://www.giunta-associates.com.