Elana Mintz, Executive Director. Elana is the founder and executive director of Urban Adventure Squad/Urban Learning and Teaching Center. She began UAS in 2014 to support families on days when schools were closed, so that parents/guardians could go to work and children could learn about environmental science, history, the arts, architecture, and much more while they explored the neighborhoods, greenspaces, and waterways of the Washington, D.C. area.
As executive director, Elana oversees the organization's efforts to support students and teachers by bringing curriculum-aligned, outdoors-focused learning to classrooms in DC. In 2018, UAS was awarded its first grant--a $20,000 Community Stormwater Solutions Grant from the DC Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) to develop and implement a curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grades on "D.C.'s Hidden Waterways" at Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in Brookland. In 2019, UAS was awarded a second DOEE grant for a new project, "Geocaching D.C.'s Waterways," that is supporting work with several DC schools and communities.
Elana spent over 20 years in editorial and communications positions at CNA, the Brookings Institution, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Congressional Quarterly. She currently serves on the Heath Education Curriculum Advisory Committee for Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools and the Youth Committee at Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland. Her two older children were founding members of Urban Adventure Squad.
Christy Brock, Director of Programming. Christy researches, develops curricula for, and leads all UAS programs. She is the Squad’s best resource for magical, not-to-be-missed, family-friendly places in D.C., but she won't divulge all Squad secrets! Christy graduated from American University in 2008 with a literature degree, and has cared for and taught children since then. Before becoming UAS director of programming, she was a nanny and taught preschool at Washington Hebrew Congregation's Early Childhood Center. Christy is certified in First Aid and CPR, and is a certified Freedom Barre Instructor and avid runner.
Maia Banayan, Squad Leader/Program Educator. Maia is so excited to return as a Squad leader after her semester abroad in Santiago, Chile. She is a senior at American University studying international relations and environmental sustainability. She loves all activities outdoors and spends her time away from the Squad at various community gardens throughout DC. Her favorite plants to grow are fruits and vegetables, specifically figs! Maia has worked at organizations helping to bring garden and environmental education to lower income communities in D.C. and Tel Aviv. She just got her group exercise instructor's certification and is excited to bring her high energy, love of the outdoors, and passion for education and learning from all types of people to UAS! Maia is certified in First Aid, CPR, and EpiPen administration.
Brielle Brookins, Squad Leader/Program Educator. Brielle is a Doctoral Candidate in developmental psychology at Howard University. Her research interests include student academic achievement, culturally relevant pedagogy, and school climate and culture. Prior to joining the Squad, Brielle has worked with Capstone Institute, Janney Elementary School, Big Brother Big Sister, For the Love of Children, and the YMCA. Brielle is certified in First Aid, CPR, and EpiPen administration. She has also completed the DC Mandated Reporter training and the Safe Shores Stewards of Children training.
Laurel Clark Squad Leader/Program Educator. Laurel is a senior at American University pursuing degrees in environmental studies and public relations. Prior to UAS, Laurel worked as an environmental educator intern for American University’s Office of Sustainability. Laurel also volunteered as an assistant teacher at Dumbarton Oaks Parks Conservancy, working with students on environmental education. She acted as the Vice President of Recognition for her 1,200-person dormitory through American University’s Residence Hall Association and served as the National Communications Coordinator on the Executive Board for the Residence Hall Association. This year, Laurel returns for a third semester as a Freshman Resident Assistant at American University. Laurel is certified in First Aid, CPR, and EpiPen administration. She has completed the DC Mandated Reporter training and the Safe Shores Stewards of Children training. She loves running by the water and spending time exploring new places in Washington, D.C. with friends.
Ebony McCovery, Squad Leader/Program Educator. Ebony has a heart and passion for people and the world around her. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and her Master of Social Work degree from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA. She has worked as an elementary school teacher and a social work professional prior to relocating to Washington, D.C. in 2017. Ebony is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Work at Howard University. She hopes to positively impact and transform the lives of everyone she encounters. She hopes her experience with Urban Adventure Squad allows her to do just that! Ebony is certified in First Aid, CPR, and EpiPen administration. She has completed her DC Mandated Reporter training and her Safe Shores Stewards of Children certificate.
Peter Merlo-Coyne, Squad Leader/Program Educator. Peter has a love for experiential learning, working with kids, and all things outside. He is a senior at the University of Maryland, studying chemistry. Prior to Urban Adventure Squad, he worked at the University of Maryland Challenge Course, where he focused on bringing people of different backgrounds together based on shared experiences. In his spare time, Peter loves biking everywhere he can, rock climbing, and trying new foods. Peter is certified in First Aid and CPR.
Ashley Turnbull, Squad Leader/Program Educator. Ashley is a doctoral student at The Howard University, studying Educational Psychology. She earned her Bachelor degrees in Sociology and Human Development & Family Studies from UNC-Greensboro, and her Masters in Education from Lipscomb University. She has a background in teaching, and holds a strong passion for ensuring all students receive quality educational opportunities. Ashley's research is focused on improving K-12 education for African American students by exploring the racial identity development of Black students, and improving teacher training programs. In her free time, she enjoys finding delicious food around the city, listening to music, traveling, and reading. Ashley has completed her DC Mandated Reporter training.