Ron Coppess M.A. –
Ron Coppess grew up on a farm in Sunfield, Michigan and graduated from Lakewood High School. He went on to graduate from Ferris State University in 1974 with a degree in Engineering and Design. He received his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from MSU. He was recruited away from the engineering world to come back to Lakewood and teach High School Industrial Arts, including Drafting and Design for 23 years. He also spent 21 years coaching varsity sports.
Ron finished his education career as an Assistant Principal. He has been a licensed professional builder since 1977 and has built many homes in the area.
During his career in education, Ron saw a critical need for at risk children to have a safe place to live and mature. When he retired, he and his wife, Ellyn, decided to found Sunny Crest Youth Ranch – bringing a lifetime of experience in mentoring kids to fulfill a dream of giving them a second chance at a brighter future.
Ellyn Coppess M.A. –
Ellyn is married to Ron Coppess and is the co-founder of Sunny Crest Youth Ranch. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Michigan State University and a Masters Degree in Language Arts from Grand Valley University. She spent six years as Tutorial Coordinator for Lakewood Public Schools and then twenty-one years as an elementary teacher.
Having long shared Ron’s passion for troubled youth, she retired in 2013 from teaching in the public schools in order to focus her energies on expanding the educational programming for the Ranch.
Greg Hooson M.A. – Vice President of Programs and Operations
Greg earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan in 1992. He then went on to earn his Master’s Degree in Counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Greg has worked with at-risk youth for 20 years. He began working with youth at Starr Commonwealth in their Residential Treatment Program in 1994. In his career Greg has worked primarily in Residential Treatment settings holding various positions from Direct Care to Administrative.
Amanda Waidelich M.A., NCC, LPC, LLMFT – Director of Programs and Clinical Services
Amanda is a graduate of Western Michigan University in the Counselor Education department. She obtained her master’s degree in counseling with a marriage and family focus in 2011. Amanda earned her Bachelor’s degree from Olivet College in psychology and women’s studies in 2007. Prior to working at Sunny Crest Youth Ranch, she worked at Michigan State University in the Couple, Child and Family Clinic, as well as Eaton County Youth Facility.
Amanda has spent most of her educational career focused on areas of neglect and abuse such as domestic violence in families, molestation and sexual assault. She completed an internship at Siren/Eaton Shelter where she worked with domestic violence victims and their families. Amanda began volunteering at Sunny crest Youth Ranch in December 2011, and joined the Sunny Crest team fulltime in March 2012. She became a certified Trauma-Focused therapist in July 2012. As clinical director, Amanda has individual therapy with each resident, weekly group therapy and family therapy. Additionally, Amanda works with staff and trains on areas of trauma focused childcare.
Kira Alexander M.A. – Resident Coordinator
Kira Alexander has over ten years of expertise in providing interventions and support to youth and families in crisis. These experiences resulted in intensive work with diverse youth and families in community, academic, judicial, residential, and therapeutic/clinical environments.
Kira graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Family and Community Services and a Graduate Degree in Clinical Social Work. She is currently a Limited Licensed Social Worker in the State of Michigan. She focuses her treatment on utilizing evidence based approaches and innovative therapeutic techniques to promote improved mental health outcomes for those she serves. Her individualistic strength based approach to treatment allows clients to feel safe and empowered in their healing journey.
Kira has extensive experience in working with youth that are impacted by various mental health disorders, as well as those suffering from trauma and loss. She also has a passion for providing treatment specifically to those that have experienced domestic violence, neglect, and abuse. Sand tray therapy, adventure therapy, and play therapy education and trainings have provided Kira with additional approaches she feels helps youth express their experiences when they are unable to use words to verbalize such intense emotions.
Kira believes that every child deserves the opportunity to experience and embrace love, acceptance, success, and hope for their future.
Jon Roberts B.A. -Development Director & Spiritual Coordinator
Jon earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Studies and Bible/Theology from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. While pursuing his degree, Jon worked as Head Supervisor of a historic downtown Chicago Restaurant & Caterer, Berghoff. He has extensive experience in event production and planning.
Jon has worked with at-risk youth since 2010. He launched a program through Young Life to work with the youth of two rival communities, Cabrini Green/Marshall Field Gardens. In 2014 he launched a Young Life area in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood focusing on the Howard Community. While fostering two teen boys, he developed a deeper passion for youth to have a safe place to live and mature. With his duel experiences in fundraising, event planning, and mentoring he desires to continue to offer youth a brighter future here on the ranch.
Dr. Danial Zak - Psychiatrist
Dr. Tamara Pepper - Education Coordinator
Dr. Tamara Pepper is a graduate of Michigan State University and has a Master’s Degree in both Teaching and Counseling in addition to a Doctorate Degree in Psychology.
Dr. Pepper has worked with children, teenagers, and young adults for over 26 years as a public school teacher, school counselor, psychologist, and college professor. Her passion is working with teenagers in helping them to overcome obstacles that prohibit healthy emotional, social and academic growth. She is very dedicated in preparing teens to be confident, self-reliant, productive young adults.
Laken Colby B.A. – Animal Programs Coordinator
Laken has a B.A. in Sociology from Western Michigan University. During that time she also showed horses on the WMU Equestrian Team and since then has continued to show at a variety of open shows. She first started teaching riding lessons and assisting with Horsemanship Day Camps during college and during this time also volunteered at the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center.
Her previous experience includes working with children who have Autism through Ionia County Intermediate School District as a healthcare aide and working with Adults with Developmental Disabilities and Mental Illness as a Case Manager through Hope Network Behavioral Health. She also owns a business in Clarksville, Michigan where she continues to give riding lessons and provide horsemanship camps.
Sherry Koewers – Executive Assistant
My heart goes out to these young men who have been dealt neglect and abuse
in their lives. I want to help make a difference in their lives.