Meet Our Staff
Executive Director & Founder
Maria (pronouns: she/her) is a seasoned facilitator, mentor, and self-directed educational consultant with nineteen years of experience in alternative educational settings. Determined to provide a safe, non-coercive, self-directed learning option in Northern New York where young people can freely choose their own unique paths, Maria founded Deep Root Center in January 2014.
Maria firmly believes that learning is an individual pursuit - driven by curiosity, interests, and aspirations. And, within that, education is a
collaboration, which includes a supportive community, mentor-ship, mutual respect, trust, deep conversations, questions, hands-on experimentation, and playfulness.
Born and raised in Northern New York, Maria left for twelve years. In that time, she earned a Fashion Design degree at Cazenovia College, worked as a nanny and then in retail (managing a cookware store) in the greater Boston area, moved to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and married her husband, Mike, (also from the NoCo) in Denver. They returned home in 1995 to raise their two children. She went back to college when her kids were young and earned a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology from SUNY Potsdam in 2003. She also received her certification in mental health first aid in August of 2020.
A writer, Maria, creates a weekly blog post for Deep Root Center. She has also written two children's chapter books - one of which has been self-published.
Maria is the lead staff person at DRC-Canton and is in North Lawrence every Wednesday to support the DRC- East staff.
Staff - Canton
Elian (pronouns: he/him) is originally from Iowa, and went to school in Delaware. He came up to Canton to go to college. School hasn’t turned out to be for him so while he was pursuing his degree in Early Childhood Education, he decided to leave and finish his teaching assistant certificate on his own.
In his free time, Elian likes to embroider, paint, and write creative non-fiction. He has also been playing guitar since he was 8. He volunteers sometimes at various places around Potsdam. His guinea pig, Emmie, is his world and he has Finn, his sidekick, who takes the form of a white, wiry-haired terrier with an overbite.
Like Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” Elian has a lot of jobs. He reviews off-brand Fruit Loops on Facebook, he’s a pet dad, a volunteer, a writer, an artist, a guitarist, an embroiderer, and he bakes mean gluten-free, sugar-free cookies. He now works at Deep Root, which he can add to his long list of things that excite him.
We are delighted that Elian will continue as staff at the Canton Center.
Apprentice - Canton
Ryan (pronouns: he/him) finished his High School career at Deep Root Center in June 2020. He joined the staff as an apprentice last year and we are thrilled that he accepted our invitation to continue in that position this year.
Ryan is a chess player and a self-taught musician. He can usually be found in front of the game board with an opponent on the other side of the table and a cadre of kids surrounding them, offering tips and advice on the next move. Yes, at DRC, chess has become a team sport. When he is not playing chess, he is playing the keyboard and mentoring young people in the music room.
Ryan also has a keen interest in psychology and spends a good deal of time reading psychological texts. This fascination has given him the opportunity to explore various methods of working with people.
Ryan has a rare ability to be completely present in each moment and every single conversation. This gift will serve him well as he transitions from student to staff person.
Lead Staff - DRC East
Angie (pronouns: she/her) is a North Country native who has been working with youth in non-traditional settings for the past 25 years. She enjoys her tiny house in the foothills of the ADK Park, and her love of nature and photography have given her a fulfilling pastime during the pandemic. She is a Board Member of the Local Living Venture and the Academy of Excellence as well as an Auxiliary member for both the local AmVets and Fire Department.
A bit of a hippie at heart, she is heavily involved with the Doers Raising Doers community and teaching her children and grandchildren about the moon phases and her “pocket rocks”. Like most born and raised NoCo girls, she enjoys fishing, hiking, and camping. She is looking forward to getting to know the DRC community and helping it grow and thrive in the coming years.
Apprentice - DRC East
Nic Hayes (pronouns: they/them) is super excited to join the staff at DRC–East. They grew up in Florida and moved to Lawrenceville, NY, last year to live with family and explore new possibilities. They are an artist – both traditional and digital and enjoy writing poetry and acting. Nic spends time playing video games and is interested in building houses and sculptures within the virtual world. They would like to learn more about designing garden spaces and keeping a garden of their own.
Nic is looking forward to hanging out with the DRC-East Peeps making art, building with Legos, writing and creating plays and short vignettes, composing poetry, playing video games, and most especially engaged in Nerf gun wars.
We are thrilled to welcome Nic to our crew.
Board of Directors
Interim Board President, Steve Hamilton, joined the board in February 2019.
Board Secretary, Kara McLuckie, exemplifies some of the best traits of her Capricorn birth sign: She is patient, disciplined, humorous and reserved. These characteristics come in handy in her role as Secretary of the DRC Board of Directors. Free time usually inspires Kara to read, garden, play with dogs, ride a bicycle long distances, and call people out on subtly racist or homophobic rhetoric on Facebook. For the future, Kara would like to prepare meals in batches for convenience, make gallons of salsa with homegrown tomatoes and hot peppers, be early for appointments, resume teaching writing, and run a Half-Ironman triathlon before she turns 43. Kara also occasionally works with a Nigerian non-profit organization on sexual and reproductive health education for adolescents living with HIV.
Board Treasurer, Candace Cowser, is a local entrepreneur who grew up in the Syracuse area and moved to Canton in 1994. She opened her hair salon, Shapes and Colors by Candace, in 1997. She is the eldest of nine children, eight girls and one boy, and was homeschooled from 7th - 12th grade. She taught for a major hair product manufacturer for seven years. Those who know her would not be surprised to learn Candace is a skydiver. She currently lives in Canton with her two sons, an outdoor enthusiast and a fifteen year old chef, who prefers to cook sans shirt and shoes.