Rob Christensen, MA

Founder | Executive Director | Field Instructor

Rob has been working in education for 15 years, and has a dual-tract masters degree in clinical and school counseling. He currently works as a school counselor in Thompson Falls, MT.  Throughout his educational experience, he has helped write grants, develop curriculum for, and install 12 climbing walls in MT  schools. He has written grants, developed curriculum for, and coordinated extensive after-school programs, and helped them evolve into the comprehensive outdoor and adventure education program ASCENT is today.


His favorite outdoor activities include bow hunting, fly fishing, backpacking, and kayaking. He is passionate about outdoor recreation, stewardship, and experiential and adventure education, and believes wholeheartedly in its benefits for our youth and community.

Angelo Alderete

Chairman of the Board | Field Instructor

I spent my youth in Colorado where I enjoyed hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, rafting, and outdoor photography. After graduating from high school, I enlisted in the military and served for almost 30 years. During my various duty assignments I seized every chance to explore and experience every culture and environment. Although I've lived in Montana for several years now, I am new to the Thompson Falls area. I have hiked several trails in the area, and with the help and advice of so many good people in the area, look forward to exploring many more in the years ahead.


Last year I was fortunate enough to join Rob on some of his many camping expeditions and was totally impressed with the experience, education and camaraderie instilled in the young campers. Later, I was honored when Rob asked if I'd like to join the Project ASCENT program. I firmly believe in its philosophy and vision, one of which will be able to help the many military veterans in the area. Having served in the military I feel I can continue to be of service to them and the local community through this program. 

Andrea Christensen 

Secretary | Field Volunteer

Andrea owns and operates a small business that offers residential painting and faux finishing. She is also a budding artist in the community and has participated in shows locally and statewide. She is dedicated to making positive changes in her community and believes the way to make those changes is by introducing youth to unique job opportunities, and supporting those who follow their passions.


She believes wholeheartedly in the significance of broadening one's spirit through art and nature. She is eager to challenge herself to learn more about recreational opportunities in this area, and loves kayaking, fishing, and being in the woods and mountains!

Amy Fernandez 


I grew up in Ohio and Florida, my husband & I moved our family to Montana in 1993.  I have been in the bookkeeping field for most of my adult life. I have worked as an Office Manager for various businesses, including our own company.

During my years as an Office Manager for a large painting contractor I gained valuable knowledge of working with General Contractors, Subcontractors, Government and State Agencies, CPAs, Insurance Agencies and more.  I learned firsthand the inner workings of keeping a company running smoothly, and being part of a team.  Since this experience I have worked for other types of businesses also, and continued to build my skill set.   I am a Notary Pubic for the State of Montana.  I have experience with payroll processing and reporting.

I take pride in my organizational skills.  I am some what of a paperwork nerd, I love taking on tasks and seeing them through to completion.  I am a numbers gal, and have to have things come out even, sometimes requiring digging in to see where any differences occur, but I don’t give up on that!

My favorite thing on earth to do is spend time with my husband, our son, daughter and son-in-law.  I also enjoy going camping and spending relaxing time outdoors.  I am blessed with amazing friends. 

 I am so grateful for the wonderful life I live!

I feel that all of these qualities will be beneficial in my role as Treasurer for Project Ascent.  I admire all of my fellow Board Members for their vision, passion, and commitment and I am honored to be a part of such an awesome program for our youth.

Anita Brown

Board Member

I was born and raised in Montana and spent some of my time each summer with my Grandparents in the Thompson Falls area.  They were helpful in teaching me about the adventures of camping, boating and fishing. I moved to Washington state when I met and married my husband, where we lived for 32 years. During my time there I was a 4-H leader of horse, pig, and rabbit projects. My own family raised and showed all these projects, along with raising beef for ourselves.  Our 4-H group was always actively involved in the community with fundraisers, including an annual winter fundraiser for the Wishing Star Foundation. 


After that I was an FFA adviser for the Wahluke School District. I also was assistant coach for the High School track and field team. During these years, I day-cared for 5 years, worked 7 years at the local hardware store, then 9 years at the Wahluke School district as a Para Pro, Librarian, Ag Science teacher and ASB secretary. In 2002 I started my own business as a seasonal fruit stand that soon became a pizza, sub sandwich, ice cream parlor. After my husband retired I eventually sold my business and we moved to Thompson Falls in 2014. 


Here we enjoy the full 4 seasons, 4 wheeling adventures, camping, fishing and huckleberry picking. Currently I am the Manager of the local bowling alley. I am happy to be back in Montana and enjoy the area as I was able to while growing up. Project Ascent is giving kids the opportunities that I had while being in this area and discovering what is available to them. I am happy that I was invited to be involved with this program!

Ron Hawkinson 

Board Member

Ron is a retired US Army Vietnam veteran who has also completed 15 years in the Federal Civil Service before retiring to his home state of Montana. After seeing most of the world from Europe to the far east, his goal is to live the rest of his life enjoying the great state of Montana.   Ron is an avid bow hunter and has spent several years as an instructor for Mt. Fish Wildlife and Parks.  His interest is primarily traditional archery and hands-on making most of the equipment used. 


He has hunted and backpacked most of the western states and Alaska, and his interests also include fishing of all kinds including bow fishing for carp. He admits that wild game is preferred at the table, and that when the freezer is empty it is time to pick up a firearm. Summertime is spent looking for new hunting spots, picking huckleberries and taking in the scenery of northwest Montana. His latest hobby is watching the various birds who stop in for a bite, and identifying them. Ron has served on the citizens advisory counsel to FWP and has also held positions on the Montana Bow Hunters Association Board of Directors.  He is also an active member and has been on of the Board of Directors for the Clark Fork Valley Elks Lodge 2757 .

Doug Padden 

Board Member

Doug is a native Montanan, and an avid outdoors man. He teaches at the Thompson Falls Junior High school, and also helps run and manage his family ranch outside of Plains. He is a former smoke jumper. His interests include local plant and animal identification and land management. He also has managed science teams that have brought home two Envirothon State Championships and collected many top honors.

Simone Schilthuis 

Board Member

I was born and raised on the rolling farm hills of southern Ontario, Canada, and spent the majority of my time riding horses, swimming, being in the forest, building snow forts, and enjoying every sparkle of sunshine I could.  Although I enjoyed the farming community I grew up in, when I watch Neon Rider, I knew my heart actually belonged in the mountains and wanted to make my career path in working with adolescents.

After college I worked in the Dominican Republic for four years working with troubled youth in residential programming.  I had numerous opportunities to lead various camping and hiking trips, day trips, and community volunteering opportunities with the students.   Some of my roles in this program included team leader for summer program, and working in the counseling department.

After being in the DR, I was able to spend a summer in Northern Ontario at a wilderness camp for youth, leading canoe trips for a week at a time.  I immensely enjoyed being able to educate and participate with kids in the beauty of camping, fishing, the vastness of the wilderness, and appreciated the camaraderie and connection which was cultivated through shared wild experiences.

In 2008, I moved to Montana at the first chance I got, working in another adventure-based program for trouble adolescent girls.  Some of my work included opportunities to take the girls kayaking, hiking, camping, rock climbing, completing trail work in Glacier National Park each summer, and coaching soccer for 2 seasons. 

I decided to obtain my Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling to build on the skills I already had, in order to continue to help those I came into contact with.  I attended MSU-Bozeman, and upon completion of the program in 2012 I moved to Thompson Falls for my first mental health therapist position, and have stayed ever since.  I currently work with adults, youth, and children, providing mental health counseling in Sanders County.

In my spare time I greatly enjoy riding my horse, paddle boarding on the Clark Fork, fishing, hiking and backpacking, camping, and making sure my hammock goes with me every time I’m out on the trail!

“For it is when I got out into the wild, that I find the wild within.” (I think this is an original Simone quote)

John Dowd

Board Member

John is a journalist and photographer that loves the outdoors and has lived in several states across the country, learning to adventure in the outdoors in many different environments. Throughout his life he has had the opportunity to learn and to teach a multitude of outdoor activities including scuba diving, climbing, hiking, spelunking, wilderness survival, kayaking, bush craft, fishing and more. He has gotten to work with youth on several occasions, where he has specialized in instructing leadership and wilderness skills.


John also spent several summers working at a scout camp where he oversaw large youth groups of various ages. For years he has also taught wilderness survival to ROTC, College students and other youth groups. John is extremely excited to be part of Project ASCENT and to be part of an organization so committed to helping youth, and the community, find themselves in the outdoors

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Project ASCENT is a

501(c)3 Non-Profit Corporation.

EIN: 82-2938914