NEC Team

neskonlith team

Ali Alghazo

NEC Lead/Adult Instructor

Melissa Manuel

Administrative Assistant

Larissa Lutjen

High School Instructor

neskonlith team (1)

Brianna VanderMeulen

Teacher Assistant

Leona Hammerton


Tara Willard

Cultural Coordinator/Resource Developer

David Paul

Nutrition Specialist

Dorene August

Cooperative Coordinator

Dr. Natalie Clark,

Counsellor and Girls Group Facilitator

Ali Alghazo ~ NEC Lead/Adult Instructor

Weyt-kp xwexweytep
Ali Alghazo ren skwest

I am delighted and honored to be part of the Neskonlith Education Center (NEC). Originally from Jordan, Dr. Ali M. Alghazo completed his Ph.D majoring in Workforce Education and Development from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 2008. He also holds two Masters degrees. His first Master's Degree was completed in 2002 majoring in Instructional Technology & Instructional Design. His second Master's degree was completed in 2004 majoring in Workforce Education and Development. His Bachelor was earned from Mu'tah University majoring in English Language and literature. Since his arrival in B.C he has completed a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (GDBA) from TRU.

Melissa Manuel ~ Administrative Assistan

Melissa joined the NEC team as Administrative Assistant and front desk September 2022.  Melissa is a Neskonlith community member and Mother.  As administrative assistant, NEC, Melissa is the first point of contact to our school.  General inquiries can be forwarded by phone and email to Melissa at our front desk.

Larissa Lutjen ~ High School Instructor

Weytk! I received my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University College of the Cariboo in 1998, a Master of Arts degree from the University of Victoria in 2001, and later a Bachelor of Education degree in 2019. I have two kids, aged 15 and 17, and while they were I volunteered extensively in the North Shuswap community, including coordinating the One to One Reading program at North Shuswap Elementary for 6 years and organizing the Celista Hall Farmers’ Market for 11 years. I enjoy spending time with my family, working in my garden, and playing Slow-pitch. This year I am teaching the High School class at the Neskonlith Education Centre. I am happy to be back with this great group of kids and excited for a fun and full year ahead. Kukstemc!

Brianna VanderMeulen ~ Teacher Assistant

Weyt-kp xwexweytep! Brianna ren skwest. Te Chase re st7e7kwen. Hello, my name is Brianna VanderMeulen and I am the teacher's assistant at Neskonlith High School. I have my Red Seal in cooking and am currently teaching the foods program for grades 8-12. I believe everyone should know how to cook basic food and plan a balanced diet, which is what I hope to teach the students who participate in the foods class. When not at work I like to bake, sew, garden and read when I'm not busy taking care of all my pets (I have 5 leopard geckos, 2 bearded dragons, 1 crested gecko, and 3 cats). I grew up in Salmon Arm and am enjoying getting to know Chase and the people that live here better after moving to Chase in September of 2021.

Leona Hammerton ~ Teacher


Weyt-kp xwexweytep! I am a member of the Adams Lake Indian Band. My husband Andy and I have six children and twenty three grandchildren and now nine great grandchildren. My mother was Julienne Dennis and my step father was Clarence Fink. I have ten siblings.

I earned a Bachelor of Education from UBC and a Certificate in Creative Writing from University of Victoria. I taught Kindergarten to grade 12  in the Kamloops School District for 17 years. I started my career teaching at an Alternate School. Adults and Students from grades 7 to 12. I discovered my passion of teaching Literacy. It is wonderful to meet my former students and to be introduced to their children.

I value and respect time in a deeper and more respectful manner as each day passes. Education is vital to help our students to succeed in the days and times they individually face.

I look forward to meeting with students, parents and instructors to individually support anyone that enrols.


Leona Hammerton

Tara Willard ~ Cultural Coordinator/Resource Developer

Weyt-kp xwexweytep. Tara Willard is from the Secwepemc Nation ~ Neskonlith community.  

Tara has a BA from the University of British Columbia, with a major in English.  She comes to us from the Office of Indigenous Education at Thompson Rivers University, as well as recent experience in K-12 public school, in her role as Indigenous Education Support for students and families.  Her educational and working journey have brought her to many Indigenous organizations, departments, First Nation governments, and training environments.  Most of the work that Tara has been doing is within the Health and/or Education field.  Her experience within Secwepemc Nation, as well as the community level, has given her a broad knowledge of Indigenous history, health, education and politics.  

The past 18 years have also been learning & healing through music, ceremony and parenting.  Tara has appreciation and love for the diversity of Indigenous cultures, languages, and ways of being.  She is excited to be back home at Neskonlith in her roles of Cultural Resource Developer & Cultural Coordinator for NEC and Communications Coordinator for NIB.

David Paul ~ Nutrition Specialist 

David joined the NEC team in the latter half of the 2021/22 academic year.  NEC is very grateful for David who provides his expertise in the kitchen including:  nutritional and meal recommendations / planning, preparation of morning and afternoon meals, shopping, coordination and storage of ingredients.  

For more information please contact the NEC:  250-679-2963

Dorene August ~ Cooperative Coordinator



My name is Dorene August. I am a Neskonlith Indian Band Member on my Father’s side of the Family. I have three beautiful children, one of which is still at home.

I was born and raised in Chase, attending Chase Secondary and then working within our Secwepemc communities.  I have held various positions at Neskonlith and Little Shuswap, including:

Receptionist, Men’s Group coordinator, and Administrative Assistant.  I was encouraged by Joan Arnouse to take Home Support training, and became the home support worker at LSIB until the birth of my second child (2004).  I returned to work in the role of Community Health Representative at Neskonlith and fulfilled that role until 2011.

What I learned from all of this is always work hard and do a good job and work will always find you! 

My newest role is Cooperative Education Coordinator with Neskonlith Education Center. I look forward to getting to know the students and learning about their dreams and educational goals.  I also aspire to help them move in the direction of their dreams and goals by assisting them with study opportunities and work experience. My objectives are to help them overcome barriers to employment by acquiring skills needed for work placement/experience, as well as provide opportunities to attend career planning and counselling activities.

I will be looking for local indigenous people to share their educational and work/business experiences with the students. If you are willing or know of someone who is willing to participate, please contact me.

Dr. Natalie Clark, PhD, MSW, BSW, RSW ~ Counsellor and Girls Group Facilitator  Cell: 250-377-1736

Weytk, I am the counsellor and girls group facilitator for NEC, in addition to being a First Nations Health Authority counsellor and a Professor at TRU.  I am part of the Secwepemc community through my kinship ties, as Ky7e, Ki7ce, auntie, and family.  My children are Neskonlith Band members and I am honoured to be part of the wellness and healing journey for those who I walk alongside. I am also a board member for the Wumec Society to support healing and language learning. I have over 25 years of experience in the area of trauma and violence with a focus on healing, wellness and the coping and survival responses to trauma/violence including self-harming, substance use, disordered eating and other survival responses.  I also consider the impact of intergenerational trauma, and colonial and gendered policies on Indigenous children, youth, families and communities. 

Education and Specializations: 

  • Bachelor of Social Work UBC (1990)
  • Masters of Social Work focus on healing from abuse and trauma (1992)
  • PhD with specialization in Secwepemc and Indigenous approaches to healing children and youth from trauma (2018)
  • Specialization in sexualized violence, intergenerational trauma, art and play therapy, EMDR, and other approaches
  • Professor, School of Social Work, Thompson Rivers University teaching courses on Indigenous trauma and violence informed practices; groups and practice
  • Registered First Nations Health Authority Therapist
  • Registered Social Worker 
  • Registered BC Play Therapy Association Member