Our Program Director this year is Katie Bender. Katie has attended IA since 1985 and was a Pel for many years. Now a kindergarten teacher, Katie is excited to bring her professional experience to the IA Youth Program and to support an amazing team of equally enthusiastic, creative, and adventurous youth leaders this summer! Katie’s daughters (Abby 10, Brooke 7, and Lilla 5) are counting down the days until IA.
Marc Bender will be providing support to the youth program as a program assistant. Marc is an Assistant Principal at Wellesley High School and his background is in school counseling. He has been on the youth staff in both Toddlers and Brookies in the past and looks forward to getting to know the kids in each of the groups this summer. Marc is an avid “yardener” and chief caretaker of his daughters’ cats Skippy, BooBoo, and Stella. Marc and Katie live with their girls in Medfield, MA.
Mara Dowdall is a longtime Shoaler and former Pel who is thrilled to be attending IA week now with her own family. Mara has spent the last decade as UU parish minister (most recently at the UU Society of Burlington, VT) and has worked with children and youth in a variety of ways over the years. Mara lives in Burlington with her husband Ben (also on the youth staff) and sons Dean (6) and Cassidy (2), who are already hooked on Star. She is excited to be spending mornings with the toddler cohort this summer!
Emma Weinert attended IA when she was a toddler, and is excited to be back at IA again this year with her sisters! Emma is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and teaches outdoors skills to college students, staff, and elementary school students. Emma loves being in the outdoors and being around children – some Shoalers may remember her walking around last year with her niece attached to her hip. She is very excited to be spending her mornings with the toddlers this summer!
Tryst Chagnon is Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh. Tryst also works as a divorce and custody mediator. She is a longtime Shoaler, the previous IA Youth Director and a former Pel. In her spare time she enjoys live and recorded music, spending time with friends, traveling, and dancing. Tryst lives in Raleigh, NC, with her partner, their three children, and their dog, Puddy.
Ben Fowler began coming to Star Island as a Pelican in the mid 1990s and decided he liked it so much he stayed around for a decade, eventually working year-round on the facilities staff. Ben and his wife Mara Dowdall met during their Pelican summers, and they now live in Burlington, Vermont with their two sons—Dean (6) and Cassidy (2). Ben works as an engineer in the energy efficiency field and while not doing that, enjoys biking and other outdoor adventures, and all things science/tech geeky.
Yuri Yamamoto is the Music Director at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh and a staff accompanist at Meredith College Music Department. She has six children of her own. Yuri has a Ph.D. in genetics and also enjoys reading and writing. Yuri loves musical improvisation and looks forward to being on Star with the Larries again this summer!
Elizabeth McVey Erickson is a former longtime Pelican and has served on the Youth Staff at the Pel Reunion Conference. She also has experience running two church school programs. Liz began going to Star Island in 1961 (!) and is thrilled to be back for another action-packed week with the Larries at the IA Conference this year. Liz met her husband (who does not attend Star Island), when they were both students at Andover Newton Theological School. They have two grown children and live on the coast of Maine.
Rev. Megan Lynes grew up UU with Katie Bender at the Follen Church in Lexington, MA. After serving as the Parish Minister at the First Parish in Bedford for the last nine years, Megan recently made the leap to become the Minister of Faith Formation at the First Church in Sterling, MA, with Senior Minister, Robin Bartlett. Megan has also worked as a chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and with teens at the Interfaith Youth Initiative in Boston, and on the ropes course at Interlocken International Summer Camp in NH. She’s a member of a playback theatre troupe called True Story Theatre. Some of Megan’s favorite activities are improv theatre, team building games, making all sorts of art, contra dancing, playing with her cats, and laughing with friends old and new. This is her third year with the Brookies, and she’s looking forward to partnering with Andy Linscott and being with awesome youth for a great week on Star!
Andy Linscott is husband to Robin Bartlett, step-dad to Cecilia and Eloisa, and dad to Isaac. Andy has spent many a summer as a camp counselor. He currently works as an Academic & Career Coach at Fitchburg State University. Andy is excited to work with Megan Lynes this year.
Robin Bartlett is wife to Andy Linscott, mother to Cecilia, Eloisa and Isaac, and Senior Pastor of the First Church in Sterling, MA (where she shares the church’s ministry with fellow youth program staff member Megan Lynes!) Robin has been a counselor in the IA youth program on and off for twenty-one years. She has also been the children’s program director, Sandpiper editor, and Minister of the week. However, leader of the middle school Marshlandians is by far her favorite role on Island. She pledges allegiance to Marshlandia forever: Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Dave Nagel (who lives in Philadelphia, PA) first came to Star as a conferee at age 12 and met his wife Emily while working as a Pelican. They have two kids, Owen and Willa. This is his second time working on IA Youth Staff and is very excited to help all Marshlandians enjoy their week on Star!
Rev. Leon Dunkley is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist. He is a graduate of the Starr King School for the Ministry and has served churches in St. Paul. MN and Silver Spring, MD. His first career was as a professor of music. He taught for seven years at Brooklyn College and at Duke University. He left the academy in 2005 to pursue the ministry. He is a baseball fan, a dog lover and an unapologetic beer snob (who doesn’t take himself too seriously). He is a tireless advocate for joy, health, honesty and integrity.
Amelia Forman-Stiles lives on a farm in a tiny cabin in downeast Maine with her two amazing kiddos. She has her B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic and currently works with Aroostook Mental Health Center as a Sexual Assault Community Educator and Advocate. As an educator she brings curriculum into classrooms pre-K through college age, addressing everything from bullying and harassment, boundaries, consent and healthy relationships to best response practices and community resources and supports for survivors. As an advocate she works to support survivors as they navigate legal and other systems and as they focus on healing and moving forward. She also enjoys making the occasional film and writing a rare poem or two. Amelia worked as a Pel for many years and this will be her third year as a conferee at I.A.