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Astro Camp Summer Camp Staff

Allan TisoAllan Tiso
Astrocamp Director

"The outdoors is a special place to teach. It is the perfect classroom in that it helps the teacher by presenting itself to each student in a very personal manner. The way that the outdoors presents itself assures that the student will be reached with the information and experience we desire to convey. All we need to do is guide the student. That is what Guided Discoveries does best."

Allan grew up on the Great South Bay, Long Island, where he had an immediate connection to the marine environment. Upon moving to Southern California, Allantaught outdoor education through the San Diego County office of education and the Campfire youth organization. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources and a multiple-subject teaching credential, both from Humboldt State University, while working with felony convicted youths and subsequently directing the Ryan Youth Center in Eureka.

Allan joined Guided Discoveries in 1995 as an instructor with the Catalina Island Marine Institute at Cherry Cove.  He was promoted to Assistant Program Director and then to Program Director at Fourth of July Cove and then atToyon Bay.  Allan is very creative and has made many innovative contributions to the educational programs.

In 2004 Allan became the Astrocamp Director where he oversees the overall operation of the program.  He directly supervises the department directors and the financial operations of the program and facility.  Allan also works closely with the Guided Discoveries Project Director on all facility improvements and renovations.  During the summer, Allan works with the Astrocamp Summer Adventure Camps and teaches blacksmithing along with his management duties.

Contact Allan at allan@gdi.org or 951.659.6062


Chirs Comenicali JPGChris Domenicali
Astrocamp Summer Camp Program Director

"Astrocamp allows kids to try new things in a safe setting. Not only will everyone feel physically safe, but emotionally as well as they are surrounded by new friends and family. It is a great place to explore and try something new!"

Chris grew up in the rolling hills of Vermont. He was involved with many sports as well as anything that got him running around outside.While in high school, Chris worked with youth in the local after school program and served as a mentor to local fifth graders.

He studied at Kalamazoo College in Michigan where he received his bachelors in Math and Physics. After four years of Michigan weather, which was seemingly worse than Vermont's, he escaped to Idyllwild, California to work for Guided Discoveries.

Chris started as an instructor at Astrocamp in 2008 before moving to the Master Teacher position followed by Assistant Program Director. He is now the Summer Camp Program Director.  In his free time he tutors students at Idyllwild Arts Academy High School. He also loves mountain biking, rock climbing and hiking. Taking people on adventures in Astrocamp's backyard is one of his favorite things to do.

Contact Chris at ropes@astrocamp.org or 951.659.6062


Dave Branconier PictureDave Branconier
AstrocampSummer Camp Director

"I believe the camp experience is the optimal vehicle to develop, in youth, environmental literacy and an appreciation for their place in the environment as well as a voice in their personal communities.  Having been involved in most aspects of summer camp, outdoor education and formal classroom education over my 30+ years in youth development, I have often witnessed more growth in a young person during a session of summer camp than a semester in the classroom.  The residential camp experience provides the opportunity and tools to encourage deeper relationships with nature, peers and adults.  I am excited to join Guided Discoveries at Astrocamp and continue this work with such a highly regarded leadership staff and program."

Dave comes to Guided Discoveries with 35 years and many miles traveled in the youth development arena.  He has been a classroom teacher, coach and school administrator.  He has designed and directed various day and residential camping programs in addition to high adventure excursions from the Sierra Nevada to the beaches of Big Sur, to the Mojave Desert.

Dave graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Biology and logged many hours in the University's marine lab in San Felipe, Mexico.  Among his adventures he spent three years teaching overseas in Chuuk, Micronesia and gained valuable insight into tropical ecosystems, the dynamics of the marine setting and coral reefs as well as the cultural aspects of life among the indigenous people.

Most recently, Dave completed seven years with the Orange County Department of Education as Manager of their Outdoor Science School and currently teaches Environmental Science at Xavier College Prep in Palm Desert, California.  Dave has extensive experience with curriculum and program design.  He has led numerous staff development sessions involving leadership, camper relationships and program operations.

As an American Camp Association standards visitor for the last 25 years, Dave is well versed in the industry standards and best practices of camp program delivery, risk management, and quality of experience.

Contact Dave at dave@astrocamp.org or 951.659.6062


Jeff Hartwell- Food Services Director1Jeff Hartwell
AstrocampFood Service Director

  "I have always felt fortunate to work for Guided Discoveries. I get to live in the mountains, which I absolutely love. We're away from the craziness, crowds, and freeways of the city and we have fresh air and four seasons here in Idyllwild. Our program and our staff gives kids an experience they love and will remember with smiles forever. ... My grandkids think I work and live in a really awesome place, and I do."

Feeling a little worn outfrom the demands of his restaurant field, Jeff applied for a cooking position with Guided Discoveries.  In 1995 he joined the Astrocamp food service staff as the Second Cook.  Because of his management and cooking skills he was selected as the Head Chef and Food Service Director at Guided Discoveries' program at Cherry Cove on Catalina Island.  In 2002 Jeff rejoined Astrocamp as the Head Chef and Food Service Director.

Jeff has cooked and managed in a variety of restaurants, hospitals and nursing homes over the years.  His years of experience in the food service industry has benefited the Astrocamp program in many ways.  His love for the mountains and his passion for cooking created the perfect fit for Jeff.

Contact Jeff at jeff@astrocamp.org or 951.659.6062


Schutte BioPatrick Schutte
Astrocamp Assistant Summer Camp Director

"Working with Guided Discoveries has given me the opportunity to positively change children's lives through science and youth development.  Throughout my tenure at Astrocamp, I have gained much self-confidence and figured out who I truly am; I hope to give our campers that same gift of self-discovery."

Patrick was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky.  Recently he has moved to Southern California to work with Guided Discoveries on a full time basis.  Patrick started as an Astrocamp counselor in 2008 and since then he has been the Head counselor and also the Assistant Camp Director.

Patrick studied Physical Education at the University of Louisville.  He is an Eagle Scout and has spent many hours volunteering his time at various Louisville orphanages.

Contact Patrick at Patrick@astrocamp.org or (winter) 909 625-9164 or (Summer) 951 659-6062


Shawn Denum - Maintenance DirectorShawn Denham
Astrocamp Maintenance Director

"Working with Guided Discoveries is always -- in my case -- a day-by-day mission in keeping all of our friends and clients as satisfied as we can. It is a true joy when children can learn, be safe and enjoy this program. Guided Discoveries is a company that does care for every employee, be it food service, maintenance or program staff."

Shawn started in the maintenance department at Guided Discoveries in 1995, having spent several years in the construction trades.

As Maintenance Director, Shawn is in charge of 92 acres, 35 buildings, 356 beds in five dorms and a crew of seven, all tasked with keeping campers and staff happy with the place they call home. Shawn also is in charge of snow removal, fire abatement, budgeting and day-to-day maintenance.

Shawn has worked at CIMI at Toyon Bay as well as Astrocamp.  He met is wife while working at the Catalina Island Marine Institute.

He holds Hazmat and petroleum certifications and trained with the Riverside Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Contact Shawn at shawn@astrocamp.org or 951.659.6062