Meet Our New Mentors!
Explore Austin’s Mentors play a crucial role in supporting our mission both on and off the trail.
Mentoring with Explore Austin means committing to our Explorers for six years and growing together. It means passing down life experience and supporting youth when things get tough. It means creating lifelong bonds that matter so much as our Explorers go out and navigate the world.
We are thrilled to introduce our newest EA Mentors! Get to know these superstars below.
“Hey y’all! My name is Beca* and I’m super excited to be an Explore Austin mentor!
A little bit about me: I am a Hispanic woman, grew up in Brownsville, Texas, and have lived in Austin for the past 6 years. I graduated from UT Austin in 2020 with an architectural engineering degree and now work for a construction company. I love to do most anything that involves the outdoors: rock-climbing, hiking, cycling, running, swimming, you name it. My latest outdoor obsession is bikepacking: biking to far-away campsites with a bike loaded with my camping gear.
When I’m not outside, one of my favorite weekend activities is sitting at a coffee shop and working on my weekly Austin Chronicle crossword puzzle with a hot coffee. I can’t wait to meet everyone. 🙂 ”
*Beca speaks Spanish fluently.
“Helping others succeed has always been a passion of mine. I have worked in small business for the last 36 years and totally relate to the underdog mentality that goes along with running a small business! I started mowing lawns, shoveling snow, and had a paper route before I was able to drive. I guess you could say that I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit.
My personal values: be authentic, dependable, the spoken word is as powerful as the written word, and do the right thing for all the people in your life whether they are family, friends, clients, or strangers. I look at life as an adventure every day.
I have been married to my beautiful wife Jennifer for 24 years and have 3 grown children: Abby, Ally and Andrew who are all in their early 20’s.
When I’m not working, I enjoy learning new skills, especially in the psychology, business, and self-help categories. I also like closing my rings and just going on an afternoon hike. Additionally, I love to socialize and engage in deep conversations with friends and family. Food also makes me happy… I moved to Texas in 2012 and have loved it ever since. What a great place to live!”
“Growing up in California gave me various adventures within a day’s drive–I could be at the beach, on a mountain hike, or camping in the desert. Shortly after my husband and I married 24 years ago, we began our parenting adventure with three kids in four years. We moved our family to central Oregon for ten years before coming to Texas. Now that the kids are grown and off on their life adventures, it is time for us to find a new passion. I have always strived to help others in any way possible. When I heard of Explore Austin, I knew it would be a perfect fit. I am excited to work with my peers while helping to shape and support youth.”
“Hi! I’m Kelsey (she/they). I grew up internationally (in six countries), but I’m happy to have settled in Austin and call it home. I currently work as a researcher for an environmental non-profit where I study air quality and public health. I love arts and crafts, reading, board games, and spending as much time outside as I can. I’ve previously worked as an elementary school teacher, a wildlife biology technician, and I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanuatu from 2014-2016. I’m very excited to be a part of Explore Austin, and I look forward to sharing the joys and challenges of the natural world (and to point out cool birds!) with the Explorers and the Explore Austin team.”
Steph R. Thomas
“Hi, my name is Steph. I was born and raised in Mexico City, and I’ve been living in Austin for the past twelve years. Living in Austin, I enjoy hiking, paddleboarding, and climbing in gyms, at nearby ranches, and on the greenbelt, right in the heart of the city.
I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Advertising and Austin Community College with an associate degree in Graphic Design.
In 2015, after graduating from college, I embarked on a 4,500-mile journey from Austin to Alaska to raise money for cancer research with 71 other UT college students. This journey taught me the value and power of connecting around adventures and challenging experiences to generate change. I stayed with people and communities of all kinds of faith and backgrounds, who all supported us on our journey. The ride and people I rode with and stayed with taught me the value of fun, friendship, collaboration, resilience, patience, hard work, and how to be a good leader and team member.
On my return, I started building my career as an Art Director/Designer. I made advertisements for Dell for a few years, and then last year for REI. I really enjoy being a mentor to young designers. However, during the global pandemic, I realized that I wanted to pursue a more fulfilling career that aligned closer to my values, beliefs and passions. In January of 2022, I decided to make a change and transition out of the advertising industry.
Since then, I’ve acquired an AMGA Climbing Wall Instructor certification, and I am currently working towards a Single Pitch Instructor certification as well as training for climbing. In addition to climbing on my own and with friends, I am passionate about mentoring and empowering youth to reach their full potential. I am excited to be a part of such a great organization.”
*Steph speaks Spanish fluently.
Wilfredo Pérez Espino
“I am Wilfredo Pérez Espino. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. In the summer of 2016, I moved to Austin looking for new professional experiences in architecture and fine arts.
Throughout my life, I have been exposed to outdoor adventures such as camping on different beaches around Puerto Rico and its mountains in the center of the island. Activities like surfing and sailing nurtured my love for the ocean and nature. Living in Austin and looking to replace my old outdoor habits of integrating with nature, I do more hiking and camping around the many parks in Texas, paddle boarding, and enjoying the city’s music culture.”
*Wilfredo speaks Spanish fluently.
Will Haase is a native Texan born and raised in the Houston area. Throughout his youth, he was a part of the Boy Scouts organization where he developed a love for the outdoors and learned the importance of community service. Will attended the University of Houston and, after graduation, moved to Austin to start his career.
Charlise Washington is an ivy-league educated business woman with expertise in the fields of programming, information technology and data analytics. She has over 10 years of experience working at all levels in several Fortune 500 companies and has led computer desktop applications and database management related workshops for over 100 employees. Her knowledge has led her to oversee focus groups and presentations for management and C-level executives.
As a vocal advocate in her community, she’s led political education classes and moderated forums to discuss problems and solutions for current events. Charlise has lent her organizational and logistical acumen to local food drives and demonstrations.
Additionally, Charlise has been a Complete Girlz Inc. teacher and mentor for the past 5 years. Complete Girlz is a NYC based non-profit that builds self-esteem and leadership skills in young women aged 12-21. While there, Charlise led over 40 workshops, built strong relationships amongst her students, and served as a resource for recommendations and references for several students. Charlise also emcees and moderates several events within and associated with multiple non-profits in New York and Georgia that support the arts and life skills.
In her spare time, Charlise enjoys spending time with her Yorkshire Terrier and her nieces at local parks and farmers markets. She enjoys yoga retreats and plays local flag football. She is an avid reader, writer, traveler and skier. Her most ambitious goal is to ski every mountain range within the next 10 years!
Mario was born in Mexico City, Mexico, moved all over as a child, then began traveling on his own when he was 20 years old. Spending time in SE Asia, West Africa, Europe, Brazil, Mexico, and the West Coast of the US. He currently enjoys life in Austin where he is a freelance medical interpreter and jack of all trades. In his spare time, he likes to go paddle boarding, camping, hiking, biking, swimming and dancing. As the youngest of five siblings, he had the opportunity to tag along with his older brothers and learned a lot from them and their friends. He hopes Explore Austin will be an opportunity to pass on some of these teachings to the next generation, especially self-confidence, resilience, leadership, resourcefulness and sociability.
*Mario speaks Spanish fluently.
“Hey, I’m Eric! I grew up in Houston and spent 8 years living out of the US, but I love living in Austin now where I get to enjoy some beautiful trails and delicious food trucks. I have worked in education and youth programs for over 15 years, and now I work with findhelp supporting nonprofits. I love learning about and experiencing this amazing world we live in, and I am really excited about sharing that enthusiasm with young Explorers as a Mentor with Explore Austin!”
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