Though everything we do at Shepherds Hill Academy is designed for therapeutic value, our therapeutic team is dedicated specifically to reaching your teen’s individual goals in order to contribute to the transformation of his or her life. Our team works with your family from your child’s enrollment to his or her graduation and aftercare plan.
Always working under the umbrella of scriptural authority, our team works hand-in-hand in developing a strategic therapeutic plan that serves not only your teen’s needs, but your family’s needs as well. In addition, they facilitate individual and family therapy sessions designed to promote healing, while building your teen’s relationship with both your family and Christ.
Kevin Kurtz, LPC, CCC, CAMS-ll
Kevin holds a Bachelor degree in Counseling and a minor in Pastoral Ministries from Toccoa Falls College, in Toccoa Falls, Georgia. He has a Master of Arts degree from Liberty University in Professional Counseling. He is an ordained Minister of the Gospel. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Christian Counselor and a Certified Anger Management Specialist.
Kevin has worked in counseling related fields for thirty years with ten years in a hospital for the mentally challenged. He most recently serves as a Chaplain in the corporate setting, as well as developing and directing a Northeast Georgia Outreach Ministry. He also has a private counseling practice in Toccoa, Georgia where he sees a variety of clients specializing in mood disorders, addictions (both behavioral and substance), anger, and other mental health issues.
Kevin grew up experiencing the divorce of his parents in a culture when it was uncommon. He knows the effects that adversity can have on a young person. Today, he desires to help those who struggle with the multitude of adversity that we now see in the world every day. Kevin understands that teen’s brains are still developing; and in the meantime, they are faced with making many choices. Kevin believes teens have so much to offer as they become young adults. God has a plan for each of them and the Lord laid it on Kevin’s heart to see their lives changed to live a life that is equipped to work through the adversity and become holistically balanced individuals.
As of 2017, Kevin has been married to his wife for 38 years. Together they raised two children. He has five grandchildren, two of which are teens and he is very active in their up bringing. He interacts with youth by speaking to groups and ministering to teens through his counseling ministry. He is a cancer survivor. Kevin and his wife enjoy their home environment they call “The Sanctuary,” but when he is not helping others, he also enjoys going camping and traveling.
Elise Thrift, LAPC, NCC
Girls Therapeutic Counselor
Elise obtained her Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master of Art degree from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia.
Elise has worked with teens for the past seven years (2009) in various capacities, including non-profit mental health organizations. While in college, she helped as a youth leader to provide guidance and discipleship. While pursuing her career in psychology and counseling, she became a practicum student at Shepherds Hill Academy.
Elise strongly believes that God has placed a calling on her life to help restore the lives of both children and teens. As she submits to this calling, she has seen God use her by equipping her with the necessary tools to begin the process of healing. She enjoys using her creativity through art therapy and traditional talk therapy to allow teens to express themselves in a cathartic way. This encourages them to explore some of the issues they face in a non-threatening environment.
She has helped many teens navigate the issues of parental divorce, anxiety, depression, self harm, and poor self image. She loves to see the process unfold as teens begin to trade old habits, behaviors, and coping skills for new healthy ones. She is honored that God has allowed her to be a part of this process.
Elise is happily married to her college sweetheart, Zach. They are blessed with a daughter, Zoe Grace, who was born in 2014. She enjoys reading, exercising, outdoor activities; and when time allows, painting. Her greatest joy is her family, whom she loves to spend time with.
Victoria Nolen, LAPC, RYT, R-TSYF
Girls Therapeutic Counselor & YogaFaith Instructor
Victoria received her Master of Arts degree in Professional Counseling from Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta, Georgia. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Georgia. She is a certified yoga instructor and Trauma-Sensitive YogaFaith instructor.
Victoria worked with children and teens as a therapist in a holistic wellness center for two years, led a high school flag and dance line for two years, and served as a counseling intern at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia. She carries a huge passion for working with teens through the tremendous and often life-changing transitions of adolescence. Being able to help teen girls navigate through the trials, triumphs, choices, and challenges of this time is part of her purpose. Learning to live well, love well, heal, restore, and connect through the power of the Holy Spirit and grace of God are what she desires to share with the girls at Shepherds Hill Academy.
Victoria met her husband through the marching band at UGA and now has the joy of being the “dancer to his music” due to her background in dance and his career in music education. More than anything, she values connection and loves spending quality time with her family and friends. Victoria’s interests include: waterfall hikes, yoga, dancing, Disney World, art festivals, and having deep, authentic conversations over tea or coffee.
Buddy Prow, LAPC
Boys Therapeutic Counselor
Buddy has a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. He received his Master of Art degree in Professional Counseling from Liberty University. Currently (2016), he is pursuing a Master of Art degree in Theology at Liberty University. At the same time, he is pursuing his Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) certifications.
Buddy has many years of experience working with children and families. For six years he served as a Youth Pastor at Lexington Baptist Church in Lexington, Georgia. For ten years, he was a foster parent. He also served as a placement case manager for the Division of Family and Children Services (DFACS) in Barrow County, Georgia.
His previous positions of working with adults with addictions have led him to proactively reach the teens of our culture to teach them preventive methods on addictive behaviors. It is Buddy’s desire to share his personal parenting point of view as a hurting parent of a once troubled teen himself. He wants to help families reunite in a healthy manner for love and support, and to show them there is always hope in the unknown times of parenting a teen.
Buddy is married. He has ten children he calls “mine.” Of these ten children, he has five biological daughters, two adoptive sons, two step-sons, and one foster daughter. When he is not occupied helping others, or being a husband and a father, or studying, Buddy enjoys hunting and golfing.
Vikki Paese, MS, LAPC
Equine Program Director
Vikki holds a Masters degree in Christian Counseling from Philadelphia Biblical University. She also has obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in English Professional Writing. Vikki has been certified by Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) and O.K. Corral Series for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. She is Natural Lifemanship Certified, has her Associates Professional Counseling (APC) license, and will soon achieve her Licensed Professional Counseling (LPC) status.
She spent seven years working in various corporate, educational, and training positions. At the same time, she became involved with youth outreach programs. She feels God has given her a passion and boldness to develop relationships with the youth of our wayward culture. Throughout her years of working with youth and horses she has observed that the horse will give the teen an honest reaction to how they are being treated. This gives the teen the chance to be on the receiving end of his/her own behavior and realize how it affects others. She is a great mentor and role model and is a secondary therapist for the Girls Next Step Program.
Vikki and her husband have two kids, and she enjoys working, training, riding and learning from horses.
Equine Program Manager
Dawn, originally from Newfane, New York, moved to Northeast Georgia as a young child and calls Georgia her home. She was fortunate to be introduced to horsemanship at the age of 15, and it has been a part of her life ever since. She ventured out into other industries, but found herself constantly being drawn back into working with horses. Dawn will say she finally took all the hints God was showing her and knew working with horses was His calling for her life.
Dawn’s 30+ years of professional horsemanship is a blend of all the wonderful teachers (horses and humans) that she has had over the years, along with the natural abilities and gifts God has instilled in her. Relationship-based horsemanship is as the name implies about the relationship between the horses and the people. Dawn’s diverse expertise is in various areas from training young horses to teaching people safe enjoyable horse handling skills. All which led her to expand her knowledge into the therapeutic side of how horses can help us overcome many of our own personal issues.
Dawn throughly enjoys helping both horses and people overcome challenges together as friends rather than as a servant and master relationship. Understanding the interaction between equine and humans, Dawn also serves as a professional equine riding instructor and therapy horse trainer. She doesn’t just “whisper, she listens.”