There is No "I" in Team

Natalie joined The Woods Project in February 2016. She brings nearly two decades of experience in the areas of non-profit management and development and comes to TWP with a passion for making a real difference in the world for the well-being and personal growth of disadvantaged populations and communities. Her professional career has run the gamut from… Educating and speaking out against white supremacists and hate crimes; running a summer camp amongst the California Redwoods in Saratoga, California, to securing financial support for a world renown, international university; advocating for and advancing opportunities to provide physical activity, recreation and sports to people with physical disabilities throughout their lifespan, to fundraising for a multi-million dollar cottage community that benefits the lives of injured military veterans and their families and disabled athletes. Natalie understands and personifies the grit and determination TWP seeks to imbue in teenagers from Houston’s most at-risk populations. She believes that no child should be left behind and that given the opportunity to expand their horizons and push themselves beyond their comfort zones, TWP participants will not only grow, develop and change their life trajectories, but the world to which they in turn dedicate themselves, will be a better one for all. Natalie spent most of her childhood in Phoenix, Az. and as an adult has lived in both southern and northern California, Cincinnati, Ohio, Birmingham, Alabama and most recently Houston, Texas. Natalie lives with the loves of her life, her husband Scott and sons Abraham and Samuel. natalie@thewoodsproject.org
Jessi Manley is the Development Director for The Woods Project. Jessi graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a Bachelor’s of Arts & Science in Exercise Science. She and her husband moved from Kansas City, Missouri to Katy, Texas in 2007. Since moving to Texas, they have been blessed with 2 wonderful children. Jessi comes to The Woods Project after working with FamiliesEmpowered, another non-profit in Houston, where she was responsible for event planning. Jessi has always had a heart for service and a passion for helping others. She understands the importance of working with today’s young people. She is excited to be part of The Woods Project and be part of positively impacting the lives of so many Houston students. Jessi enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, bowling, and being outside – doing any & everything. jessi@thewoodsproject.org
Manny joined The Woods Project in January of 2022 as a TWP Alumni and recent graduate from Colby College. After his 2016 Summer Trip to Yosemite with TWP, he decided to pursue a career in the earth sciences. After receiving the Posse Scholarship to Colby, a small liberal arts school in central Maine, he majored in Geology and minored in Environmental Studies and Computer Science. While studying, he volunteered as a STEM Coach at the local middle school, and taught introductory geology topics to first-years as a Teacher’s Assistant. As a student, Manny has visited the Grand Canyon, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, and studied Geology in Bermuda. He also conducted research utilizing Machine Learning in Geomorphology, climate change effects on Small Island Developing States, and deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. Manny also became Co-President of WMHB, a non-profit community radio station that focused on empowering the diverse talents of students and members of the Waterville community. With a passion towards science communication and outdoor education, he used his platform to spread environmental awareness while also volunteering and teaching. Outside of work and post radio-hosting, Manny enjoys listening to Alternative and Indie Rock, cooking (usually) delicious meals, and playing games with his friends. Manny is excited to continue to work alongside students and educators here at The Woods Project and is eager to see what’s to come. manny@thewoodsproject.org
Michael joined The Woods Project in July of 2018. While a native of Houston, his true home has always been amongst the surrounding trees and hills of the city. His liberal arts degree from the University of St. Thomas, with an emphasis in education and English, benefited him as he worked as a special needs teacher with students with neurological differences for nearly a decade. Michael’s commitment to empower youth is directly connected to his belief that the words, behaviors, and attitudes we carry shape us and the world around us. He is excited to work with The Woods Project and provide students with the opportunity to develop skills that will help them become their best selves. He believes the forest is our best teacher — the rigors and peace that come from understanding our place in nature help us to grow as individuals and participants. Michael’s heart and soul belong to his wife and best friend, Kimberly, and their three boys — Elijah, Jacob, and Matthew. You can often find the five of them, along with their dog Zina, running off into the woods for their next adventure.  michael@thewoodsproject.org
Adriane joined The Woods Project as Finance Operations Manager in October 2018, after serving as a TWP volunteer in various capacities. She is a Houston native who adores the outdoors. She majored in art history at Dartmouth College and has an MBA from the University of Houston. She is passionate about the planet, and serves on The Nature Conservancy’s Houston Advisory Board. She was very lucky to grow up camping, and as a teenager she spent five weeks backpacking in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming with NOLS. She also worked as a groom on a horse farm in Kentucky, and was an exchange student in Japan, Spain and France. She believes deeply in the mission and vision of The Woods Project – and is beyond thrilled to be a part of the team! She loves hanging out with family and friends (especially if coffee is involved) solo camping, music festivals, cooking, reading, traveling, horses, and martial arts. Above all, she loves being a mom to her two college-age daughters. adriane@thewoodsproject.org

Jess joined The Woods Project as Program Development Manager in 2021, after serving as a TWP school coordinator and volunteer for five years. Jess has a background as an educator and a scientist.

She previously taught Environmental Engineering at Energy Institute in Houston ISD, and before that she was as a Seismology Data Scientist with IRIS. She graduated with a Bachelors degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a Masters Degree from Northwestern University. Jess believes that nature is the world’s best classroom, both academically and personally. She loves getting students outside and engaging their curiosity. Through working with The Woods Project, she has seen students get excited to learn about the world and about themselves. There is nothing better than a student climbing their first mountain, seeing their first deer, or opening up to a circle of friends. As a mentor, a guide, and a backpack leader, Jess has proven herself as someone who lives TWP values – her openness to new people and experiences, zest for challenge and adventure, and tenacity when the going gets tough, make her the perfect fit for The Woods Project! Outside of TWP, Jess enjoys cooking and trying new food, taking long walks with her dog, and playing (and winning) board games. jmerino@thewoodsproject.org