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The Open Sky Story

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Aaron Fernandes

Aaron Fernandes

Founder & CEO

Aaron holds a BA in Psychology with a focus in Experiential Education from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. While at Brown, Aaron provided leadership to his Ivy League Champion Men’s Soccer team as captain. He became passionate about a career in outdoor education during a semester abroad in Patagonia, Chile, with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). He then served as manager of the Brown Outdoor Leadership Training (BOLT) program, where he oversaw the development of healthy young leaders.

Aaron’s professional background arcs through a broad spectrum of service, social improvement, and international travel. He has facilitated spiritual wilderness workshops at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California; coordinated of an organic garden with inner-city teenagers; served as an HIV educator in India; and traveled extensively through Africa and South America.

Between 1998 and 2004, Aaron supervised the day-to-day field operations of multiple wilderness organizations. After a stint as Executive Director in 2004, Aaron became the National Director of Field Operations for the wilderness therapy programs of Aspen Education Group (AEG). Through these varied experiences, Aaron has come to understand the value of teamwork and the importance of articulating an audacious and compelling vision.

In 2005, Aaron founded Open Sky as a holistic wilderness treatment experience with an emphasis on intense family participation and exceptional clinical expertise. He focused on attracting the best team in the field, with a drive toward excellence and sustainability on all fronts: delivering treatment services with long-term benefits for students and families, supporting the passions and growth of employees, and engaging in environmentally and socially responsible business practices. Aaron is a critically engaged thinker, loves the outdoors, and deeply enjoys working with people. These characteristics are synthesized with his vision and manifest in his leadership of Open Sky.

In 2009, Aaron was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year by the Durango Chamber of Commerce. More recently, Open Sky was named one of Colorado’s Top 50 Companies to Watch, an honor given by the governor to recognize businesses in Colorado that are successfully contributing to the healthy landscape of their communities.


Emily Fernandes

Emily Fernandes

Executive Director & Co-Founder

On a wilderness trip in Alaska with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in 1995, Emily discovered she could combine two of her passions: working with youth and being outdoors. Since then, she has worked for Aspen Achievement Academy, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, and Connecticut Wilderness School. She was part of the founding team at Open Sky.

Emily worked as the lead therapist for adolescent girls for her first 5 years at Open Sky. Her areas of clinical expertise include depression, anxiety, grief and loss, trauma, self-harm, disordered eating, and adoption and attachment issues. Her clinical approach is informed by cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, family systems, and attachment theories. Relationship building through letter writing is a major focus of her work with students and families.

As a founder and owner of Open Sky, as well as the Clinical and Executive Director, Emily brings a breadth of knowledge with her background as a therapist, field guide, trainer, logistics coordinator, emergency responder, and field director, Emily is known for her direct, caring leadership style, her ability to inspire excellence in others, and her team oriented approach. The student treatment plan is her compass for her decision-making regarding Open Sky’s students, families, and employees.

Emily loves reading, writing, yoga, mountain biking, telemark skiing, rock climbing, spending time with friends and family, and cooking with foods from the local farmers’ market.


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