Julie Sheppard,  Executive Director, Sedona Sky Academy

In 1999, I started working at Merit Medical Systems, a worldwide medical manufacturing company. I spent nearly 17 years there, working in the Customer Service, Marketing and Sales departments. As my responsibilities grew at Merit, I made the decisions to leave corporate America and focus on my family. In 2017, I joined the team as Solstice West RTC as Director of Business Development. Although my role primarily focused on marketing, outreach, admissions, and business development, I also worked closely with the operations, residential, adventure and clinical teams. Changing courses to work in the mental health field helped me grow professionally but more importantly had an even greater impact on me personally. Being in this field allowed me to get the help my family needed as we guided our own adopted son through mental health struggles and ultimately the difficult decision to place him in a residential treatment program.


I have been married to my husband Jason for over 20 years and I have two boys. My oldest son Bridger is almost 21 years old, working and living on his own, and my younger son Logan is 17, working and about to graduate high school next month. I also have two dogs, Bruno, and Charlie. Charlie is a service dog who goes everywhere I go. He is a goldendoodle, that is the sweetest pup I have ever had.


In my personal time, I love traveling, meeting new people, going to concerts, and being outdoors. Spending time with my family and friends is what recharges me. I have been blessed with an amazing family and loyal, loving group of friends.


Erin Smith

Erin Smith, PhD, is a dedicated advocate for high-quality mental health care and education, based in Prescott, Arizona, United States. With a firm belief in the transformative power of education and compassionate mental health services, Erin has dedicated her career to nurturing individuals’ creativity, intelligence, and capacity for happiness.
Her doctoral research focused on trust in teacher-principal relationships in therapeutic environments, with a particular emphasis on reducing burnout and compassion fatigue among educators. This research laid the foundation for a leadership model designed to enhance well-being in educational settings.
Erin’s journey in education began in 2008 when she joined Spring Ridge Academy as an English teacher. Her passion for creating tailored educational experiences for students in therapeutic schools led her to co-develop a curriculum centered around internal motivational strategies. Her exceptional dedication and innovative approach earned her recognition as a Claes Nobel Top Ten Teacher of the Year in 2014.
Serving in multiple leadership roles, with a focus on operations, Erin collaborates with executive, clinical, academic, and residential teams, leveraging the latest research to develop and implement best practices in programming, human resources, accreditation and legal compliance, and finance. Her aim is to create a culture of growth and evolution for all involved, while making mental healthcare more accessible and affordable.
Erin holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Educational Leadership and Administration, an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in Educational Leadership and Administration, a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Secondary Education and Teaching, and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English Language and Literature. With her extensive expertise and unwavering commitment to improving mental health care and education, Erin Smith continues to make a profound impact in her field.


Andrea Jones

Andrea graduated from the University of Utah with a Master of Social Work degree. She has worked in the behavioral health field for over seventeen years specializing in children and adolescents ages 8-18. Andrea’s experience spans all levels of care including Residential, Day Treatment, Outpatient and Transitional Program. She has held many different leadership positions in treatment organizations.

As her clinical foundation, Andrea believes in treating the “why” behind behaviors verses only focusing on the behaviors themselves. Through cultivating a space where the client feels loved and supported in their treatment process, Andrea focuses on creating a true relationship with the client. This relationship becomes a therapeutic container where there is enough trust, connection and safety to truly address the ‘why’.

Andrea is highly trained in several treatment approaches including, relationship-based approach, narrative/expressive approaches, DBT and CBT.

Andrea has extensive experience working with kids who may need a more sophisticated behavioral and or clinical approach. Andrea believes deeply in an interdisciplinary team approach and working closely with all departments inside a treatment organization to provide the space and support clients need for a successful treatment process.

In her personal time, Andrea enjoys spending time with her family. She loves to attend her niece’s and nephew’s lacrosse and soccer games. She also loves cooking and, in particular, enjoys trying new recipes. Andrea also enjoys going to the movies, listening to music, podcasts and reading books.


Donovan Tagaloa

Donovan was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah and began working in the behavioral health industry at a very young age. Donovan has worked in many different positions in treatment organizations and worked his way up through these roles to where he is today. Donovan feels that having worked, himself, in the same positions that he supervises, and trains is instrumental to his success as a program director.
Donovan feels very fortunate to have had great mentors along his career who have believed in and develop him into the leader he is today. Donovan specializes in developing programs and has worked ages 8 to adult. Another key to Donovan’s success is his passion. He loves using his experience and sharing his knowledge to make a true difference.
When he’s not at work, you can find Donovan either watching or playing sports. His personal motto being simply: ‘GO CHARGERS!’. Donovan loves playing basketball and has jumped on the pickle ball craze as well. Donovan is so excited to have joined the team at Sedona Sky and hopes to offer the best possible care to our kids!


Bethany Becker, Academic Director

Bethany has earned her Bachelor of Science in Social Work and her Bachelor of Art in Spanish at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. 

Bethany has been teaching for 11 years. At SSA, she teaches Spanish and Health. Bethany enjoys witnessing the moment when students understand a concept that they have been struggling with and seeing the growth and change in our students.

Bethany believes that learning does not just take place in the classroom. In class, Bethany uses a variety of supplemental resources; movies, field trips, Internet, and smart board activities. 

In her free time Bethany enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, scrap-booking, painting, running, hiking, reading, and baking.

Bethany likes to quote � Ralph Waldo Emerson- “When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object.” 


Marina Vidrine, Director of Admissions

As the Admission and Marketing Director at Sedona Sky Academy, Marina is the first point of contact for families and Educational Consultants looking for residential treatment. Marina is available to answer questions about our program, schedule tours of our campus and move families along the admissions process. Please feel free to reach out to her by phone call, text or email at 303-886-2883 or [email protected].
Marina has worked in behavioral health for 9 years. She began her career as a clinical coordinator for a transdisciplinary clinical evaluation team that assessed and diagnosed children from 18 months to 13 years old with spectrum disorders.
Spending the majority of her time alone with her computer and piles of medical records, she knew she needed more of the human aspect to the clinical support role she enjoyed so much. She decided to accept the role of clinical outreach ambassador for a teen dual diagnosis program. In this role, she participated in clinical meetings, serving as the discharge planner for all clients leaving the program and admissions meetings, helping direct families who were not appropriate for admission to educational consultants, resources and programs that would better serve their needs.
Marina loves the beautiful campus at Sedona Sky and the surrounding lands that are like a living piece of art. She enjoys hiking, floating on the Verde river and anything that involves her dog Oliver and eating food.


Sarah Kirwan, English/History Teacher

Ms. Kirwan is a native of Gilbert, Arizona. She started riding horses at age 8, competed in hunter/jumper schooling shows locally, and was given her first horse, Megan, (a Thoroughbred) at age sixteen. Since she always enjoyed reading and writing, she decided after two years at Mesa Community College to pursue a degree in English Literature at Arizona State University in the hopes of becoming a teacher. She made the Dean’s list in 2008 while taking several courses on teaching English.

While in college, she was a habilitation and respite provider for children with autism. This work was very close to her heart because she grew up with a brother with autism.
In 2010, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from ASU and began teaching first at a credit recovery school for at-risk youth and then at the renowned charter school BASIS Phoenix.
Over the course of five years teaching sixth grade, she refined her craft and gained very valuable experience teaching gifted children a rigorous curriculum. She was an active member of the school community by putting on the annual talent show in collaboration with the music department, hosting multiple after-school tutoring hours, and sending out weekly newsletters to parents.
When Ms. Kirwan saw a teaching opportunity at a therapeutic boarding school with a horsemanship program in beautiful Rimrock, AZ, she jumped at the opportunity. She loves supporting the girls in their education and personal lives and is so glad to be a part of the Sedona Sky Academy family.

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