Jim Silvestri

Operations Assistant/Back-up

Master Senior Field Guide

Joined Open Sky: May 2008
In Wilderness Therapy since: 1994

Interview with Jim

November 2010


Q: If you were able to meet anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?

A: The Dalai Lama, because he seems like a happy man.

Q: What are a few of the defining moments in your life and why?

A: Going to a liberal arts college and having mentors that took an interest in me.  Even though it's been over 20 years since I graduated from college, I still visit and stay in touch with them.

Q: Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?

A: My buddy, Roger Hedlund.  He was my employer for many years.  He taught me many keys to running a successful business including hard work, treating people fair and keeping a close eye on the "bottom line."

Q: What are your unique gifts and/or experiences that help our students?

A: I am passionate about the outdoors and I very much enjoy mentoring youth and young adults.  This passion combined with my experience working in wilderness therapy in the early 90's at Aspen Achievement Academy, and starting a local non-profit for youth in 2002, have proven to me that Mother Nature heals.  To witness her natural pace, I am blown away at the magnificent beauty she creates.  I love to share these observations with Open Sky students.  I see my job as an instigator to seeing Mother Nature's beauty.  When the students become witnesses themselves, they cannot help but see beauty.  This natural connection promotes healing.  Healing is a process, or even a journey.

Q: Why do you work in wilderness therapy?

A: I love to be in the natural world.  There is a natural order of the lifestyle like bedding down when the sun goes down and waking up when the sun comes up.  There are no distractions of society.  I also enjoy the demands that Mother Nature makes, such as self-reliance.  One cannot ignore the natural consequences of making poor decisions in the natural world like being cold and wet without proper rain gear.  In other words, nature teaches us to make good decisions.

Q: Why do you think wilderness therapy works?

A: Because the natural world teaches us to make good decisions.  Making good decisions helps one to feel confident about himself.  As a guide, I value and respect the wilderness and I love to share this with the students.

Q: What do you think Open Sky students need?

A: Good mentors.  People that love them enough to exercise patience and compassion to hear their stories.  I believe that simply listening and hearing what the students have to share allows them to see negative behaviors and begin the process of healing through self-discovery.

Q: What do you like to do for fun when you aren't working in the field?

A: Riding my mountain bike, riding my motorcycles, swimming, reading, dancing and being with friends.

Q: Anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

A: Nothing at this time.

Professional Experience

Executive Director
Grand Youth Adventures (Non-profit)

Field Worker
Second Nature Wilderness

Field Worker
Aspen Achievement Academy


BA, Sociology
Bethany College, Bethany, West Virginia

Wilderness First Responder (WFR)