Kristen Van Norman Founder and Executive Director
Kristen Van Norman, a native of Colorado, she grew up in the Vail Valley. Kristen is a graduate of Fort Lewis College with a B.A. in Political Science. She followed this with attending the Josef Korbel School of International Studies graduating with a M.A. in International Human Rights with concentrations in Gender and International Law in the Middle East. Afterwards, she worked at a small non-profit in Vail promoting lifelong education as their Program and Development Manager. Most recently, she worked for Ascend Athletics in Kabul, Afghanistan, a non-profit driven by empowering women through teaching leadership skills while pursuing outdoor pursuits such as mountaineering and rock climbing.
Upon arriving back in the United States, Kristen wanted to share her love of the outdoors with young women in Chaffee County and elevateHER was born. She believes that using outdoor adventure as a mode of teaching young women can impart lifelong lessons and build close female relationships. Kristen is excited to bring together a group of strong women to teach the next generation of independent women lifelong skills so that they can succeed no matter the challenges they face.
If not working hard with the girls of elevateHER, you can find Kristen enjoying many outdoor pursuits such as rock climbing, hiking, camping, rafting, and snowboarding. If its an indoor day, Kristen is an avid reader of historical fiction with strong female character leads.
Elinor Asay Development Director
Elinor is the Development Director for elevateHER, where she brings 4 years of progressive experience in fundraising and development. She also brings a strong commitment to youth development and education programs, with almost 10 years of climbing experience and 5 years of experience in a variety of youth development programs.
Elinor graduated from Santa Clara University with a double major in History and Political Science. She also holds a Master’s degree in International Development from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, where she focused on environmental and technology development in South Asia and West Africa. She has traveled extensively, especially in Nepal, where she worked to support girls' education and empowerment issues with the nonprofits Edge of Seven and The Small World.
Originally from the Washington DC area, Elinor went west in 2006 and has never looked back. She is an avid rock climber, backpacker, snowboarder, and cook, and enjoys exploring the trails near her home in Boulder, CO.
Chelsilyn Ball Adventures Coordinator
Chelsilyn was raised in the mountains of Colorado and developed a love for the outdoors as a young girl. She often went hunting and fishing with her family and was raised under starry skies with campfires to keep warm. At the age of 13, she was accepted into Colorado Mountain College’s First Ascent Youth Leadership Program, which changed her life. The program allowed Chelsilyn to go rafting, rock climbing and mountain climbing.
Josie Popelka Outdoor Mentor
Before moving to Colorado for school, Josie grew up in Iowa. She moved to Alamosa to get her Bachelor’s degree in Physical Geography and Environmental Science from Adams State University. There she gained an interest in outdoor education by working for the Adams State Adventure Program leading backpacking, snowshoeing, and rock and ice climbing trips. She also grew a love for the upper Arkansas River valley while living in Buena Vista during the summers working as a rafting guide before permanently moving to Salida in 2014. When she isn’t working, Josie enjoys spending time outside whether it is rock climbing, rafting, trail running, or hiking with her dog. Josie is excited about working with ElevateHER and passing on her passion and love for the outdoors to all the girls that come through the program.
Board of Directors
Jessica Jones has been living in Buena Vista since 2008. She and her husband opened House Rock Kitchen on Main St. in June of 2015 which serves healthy and clean food. From 2009 to present, Jess has healed herself from Lyme disease through diet change, lifestyle change, detox, yoga and heightened awareness. Consequently, she has a deep passion for living a healthy lifestyle physically, mentally and spiritually.
Jess has been blessed by many remarkable teachers and experiences along her path and is honored to help our local young woman find their own peace, joy, strengths and passions. When she is not eating at House Rock Kitchen you can find her reading, hiking, running, paddle boarding, mountain biking or off traveling.
Candace Bryans has been living in Buena Vista full time since 2014. She originally came to Buena Vista during the summers from 2009 – 2014 to work as a raft guide. Candace has been teaching AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and Math for the past 8 years. Prior to teaching Candace spent five years working for the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Hospital Inpatient Pharmacy. She brings a strong background in non-profit fund raising and volunteer work. In addition to volunteer work in Thailand, Burma, and Morocco, she has served on several non-profit boards, worked in the education and funds department for Heifer International, and has been the Sponsorship Coordinator for the Autumn Color Run for the past three years. An avid runner, climber and outdoors woman, Candace is excited to assist elevateHER and to support its work empowering young women to push beyond their comfort zones and try new activities.
Heather is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 10+ years of therapy experience with children, teens and adults. Her specialties include child/adolescent therapy (including play therapy), family therapy, and treating depression/anxiety disorders. She is the owner of Thrive Therapeutic Solutions located in Buena Vista, CO. Originally from New Mexico, she moved to Chaffee County 10 years ago. Heather is also the proud mom of two middle school girls. She also serves on the Chaffee County Early Childhood Council.