Meet Our Team
JESSICA & KAYLA WEISSBUCH
Co-Founders & Executive Directors
She/Her Pronouns for Both
The idea of Brave Trails was born from a late night conversation between Jessica and Kayla while on their way home from the movies. Kayla received a scholarship to attend a summer camp when she was 8 years old and quickly fell in love with the supportive, warm, and transformational environment. She returned to camp every year until she became a staff member and always dreamed of one day becoming a camp director. Jessica is a licensed marriage and family therapist and focused her academic life on studying LGBTQ+ youth affirmative therapy practices. Her passion for LGBTQ+ youth leadership led her to found COLORS LGBTQ Youth Counseling Center and become the Program Manager at the LA LGBT Center, where she discovered how vital mentorship and community are to a young LGBTQ+ persons wellbeing.
The combination of Kayla’s love of summer camp and Jessica’s passion for LGBTQ+ youth leadership are the corner stones of why Brave Trails exists today. Most importantly, they dreamed of a space where LGBTQ+ campers and staff could always call a home away from home. Thankfully other’s felt the same way and the first ever Brave Trails summer camp session was fully funded by small, individual donations from Kayla and Jessica’s community. Jessica and Kayla, along with friends Coby Pfaff and Matt Marr, created the camp on a 100% volunteer basis for the first three operating years after they came home from working their full time jobs at the time. Kayla and Jessica say, “Brave Trails was born out of a labor of love and passion for something that desperately needed to exist when we were growing up and is even more needed for this next generation of LGBTQ+ youth.”
Today, Jessica and Kayla reside in Los Angeles with their beautiful child, Ari. Alongside directing Brave Trails, the two are actively involved in the American Camp Association and Western Association of Independent Camps, as volunteers and frequent consultants on the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion and support on the local and national level.
Coby has been a part of Brave Trails since the early days of it’s inception and worked alongside Jessica and Kayla to create the foundation of the organization. We describe Coby as our anchor or the “calm in the storm.” At camp, Coby can be found in the office ensuring camp logistics are running smoothly, teaching archery to campers, or rocking the BEST costumes for our infamous theme nights! He also likes to surprise campers by busting out his hidden talents like his incredible singing voice and professional clown skills!
As a child, Coby attended camp each summer and loved every minute of it. Camp was a powerful force in shaping his self-confidence, social skills, and love of nature. As a young man, he was a counselor for underserved youth at Camp Max Strauss in Los Angeles. He graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in Psychology and went on to become an After school Care and Summer Program Director for the YMCA. He started an ecommerce website in 1999 where he learned the skills needed to run a successful business organization. He also volunteered for three years as a helpline counselor for the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ Suicide helpline. Coby is so excited to continue to provide a safe and affirming space at camp for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans youth.
Jake started with Brave Trails as a volunteer cabin counselor in our first operating summer and to say we all fell in love with them would be an understantment. It’s no coincidence that Jake’s camp name is “Mama Bear” as they have a huge heart and endless passion for our mission. Jake can be found at camp giving support to staff members, documenting camp on our incredible social media accounts, or in full drag MCing the camp variety show. On long camp days, there is nothing better than a Mama Bear hug and pep-talk to fill up your glitter cup!
Jake Young was born and raised in sunny San Diego, CA. After coming out in high school, Jake made it their personal mission to always be themself and help others understand that being different isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually a really magical thing. Jake carried this message with them throughout college as they became more active in the San Diego LGBTQ+ community. They volunteered for local youth empowerment summits and joined a queer fraternity. In 2014, they graduated from SDSU with a BA in Communication, and during this time, they cultivated and mastered his ability to communicate and effectively lead groups of people. Some might call Jake a communications wizard as they have single handedly taken the Brave Trails Instagram account from 3000 followers to well over 18,000+ follower in just two years, designed all of the merch in our camp store, creates those gorgeous newsletter emails you get every month, and SO MUCH MORE!
From the moment we met Sophia, we knew she was a natural born camp professional. In just one summer at camp, she quickly became invaluable to the directors and a favorite staff member amongst the campers. Sophia can be found at camp supporting programs leads, managing the administrative staff, or leading her famous “Fun Games with Sophia” program. Additionally, Sophia managed to make Crocs cool at camp and is always happy to share fun facts about her wild sweater collection.
Sophia has been going to and working at camps since she was nine years old. She has seen firsthand how much camp can impact a person because of how all of her summer camp experience made such a positive difference in her life. It was able to teach her the importance of leadership, friendship, and confidence in herself. Summer camp actually inspired Sophia to pursue her undergraduate degree in social work from Widener University, where she also graduated with a degree in gender and women’s studies in 2018. In 2019, Sophia graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with her master’s degree in social work. She focused most of her studies on queer and women’s issues, especially focusing on disenfranchised populations within those areas. Sophia has also had the opportunity to work in elementary school settings both as a social worker and in after school programs. During her time in graduate school, Sophia was able to work at the Chicago Juvenile Temporary Detention Center teaching health and leadership to girls in the center. Sophia strives to create fun, educational, and inclusive programming for youth in her work.
Brave Trails is governed by an independent, volunteer Board of Directors, comprised of passionate and talented individuals who believe in our mission. Our Board is committed to ensuring Brave Trails fiscal sustainability and mission impact.
Our dedicated Board members attend four board meetings each year, serve on committees, make fiscal governance decisions, support Brave Trails financially, and are proactive ambassadors of Brave Trails. Most of all, they live and breathe the mission of creating a better future for LGBTQ+ youth.
Steven Jaworski, Board President
Vice President of Production at A&E Studios and Assistant Director of the critically acclaimed film Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver. Steven’s heart is as big as his smile and his passion for summer camp as a healing tool knows no bounds. We can’t wait to get Steven behind the camera at camp to document all of the lifechainging moments.
Laura Newman, Board Vice President
A licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed general contractor, farmer, and social justice advocate. Laura is our resident jack of all trades! Laura has been with Brave Trails since day 1 and in many ways is a pillar of our foundation. At camp, Laura can be found supporting the directors, cheering on performers during the talent show and having deep, thoughtful conversations with campers and staff.
Omar Torres, Board Secretary
A licensed clinical social worker primarily working with LGBTQ+ people, those affected by HIV, and those struggling with addition. At camp, Omar supports campers as our onsite mental health professional. He is also known to have the best theme day outfits and has a spirit that can brighten anyones day!
Cathy Kaiser, Board Treasurer
A certified public accountant with over four decades of experience in accounting and finance. Cathy learned about Brave Trails when she was matched as our consultant through Executive Service Corps in 2019. We quickly fell in mutual admiration of one another’s work and now we are lucky to have her on our board! Cathy is looking forward to her first in-person camp experience, soon!
One of the film industry’s most respected executives who spent 15 years as Executive Vice President of Production at Fox 2000 Pictures. Carla has received an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and The Producer’s Guild nominations for Best Picture for her latest work. Carla is the mom of our board and always makes sure we everyone is taken care of.
An actor and talent supervisor with two decades of experience in the entertainment business. At camp, Michael is our resident photographer, videographer, and as the campers like to say, memory catcher! He is also a legend at camp for being the ultimate prankster.