JOE DERING – FOUNDER
Joe is the Founder and CEO of EMPOWER Leadership Adventure Center in Middletown CT. EMPOWER is a 30 acre adventure center that uses life changing experiences as the catalyst to “empowering” people and teams to maximize their potential. These adventures include Southern New England’s only treetop zip line canopy tour, team building obstacle course and high ropes team building challenges. EMPOWER’s programming and curriculum are centered around developing leadership, revealing and building character and providing team building programming that is meaningful and valuable. The EMPOWER Leadership Adventure Center has hosted over 400 companies, universities, high schools and middle schools for team building, leadership/character development and corporate outings since 2009. Many of these groups and teams return to EMPOWER year after year.
Additionally, Joe and his EMPOWER team have created a “must see” recreational zip line and canopy tour experience for families, friends and individuals. This guided canopy tour experience is the only one of its kind in Southern New England and has been featured in USA Today, New York Times, CNN and Headline News and other national publications and media outlets. Since 2009, the EMPOWER Leadership Adventure Center guides and staff have led nearly 50,000 people through the treetops as part of our Zip Line Canopy Tour program.
In 2000, Joe graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and was commissioned into the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer with the rank of second lieutenant. As a lieutenant, Joe led light and motorized platoons of up to 60 men in combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). These operations included the attack on Baghdad in March 2003 and the capture of high value targets. For his efforts and the success of his teams throughout OIF from 2003 to 2004, Joe was presented the Bronze Star.
Joe was sent back overseas to support Operation Enduring Freedom in September 2006. He was sent to Afghanistan to help lead a special working group in “Effects Targeting,” and his group was charged with developing, instituting, and publishing a standard operating procedure detailing proper implementation of non-lethal war fighting measures for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) force. Joe led the effort to train all ANA and ANP forces across the country of Afghanistan and beyond and this training program and manual are still used seven years later. For his leadership of the “Effects Working Group,” Joe received the Army’s Meritorious Service Medal.
Joe, now a former Army Captain and Army Ranger, returned home to Middletown, CT in 2007.
Joe is regularly invited to speak to high school and college students regarding his leadership experiences. Joe is a respected member of the CT business community and is currently a member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. In addition, Joe actively serves the veteran population of Middlesex County by volunteering for St. Luke’s VETS4VETS program.
MAUREEN DERING – CO-FOUNDER
Maureen grew up in the south end of Middletown where she enjoyed dancing, horseback riding, and a variety of sports. She attended Mercy High School from 1992 to 1996 where she was a member of three state championship teams; the cross country team, softball team and basketball team.
Maureen went on to attend Lehigh University where she played Division I softball and basketball. While at Lehigh, she was named the women’s basketball team MVP, the school’s Athlete of the Year, and a Scholar Athlete. Maureen finished her basketball career with over 1,000 points and graduated with a 3.5 grade point average, earning a Bachelor of Arts in International Business and Spanish.
Maureen was accepted into the Masters of Business Administration program at Loyola Marymount University in southern California. Maureen excelled in this environment and left Loyola Marymount University not only with a graduate degree in Business Administration but with many lessons she would use in the business world.
Maureen has used her first-class education to gain valuable business experience in manufacturing, corporate administration, operations, and management. This breadth of experience in the business world has given her the expertise and real world knowledge necessary to make sound business decisions. Currently, Maureen is the Chief Operating Officer at Middletown’s NatureMost Laboratories, a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of nutritional supplements and the sole supplier of these goods to distributors in Puerto Rico, Italy, Spain, and Germany.
DAN JASKOT – GENERAL MANAGER
Dan grew up in Middletown, CT., where he attended Xavier High School. Dan enrolled in Springfield College (Springfield, MA) in 1998. While at Springfield College, Dan majored in Physical Education, was a member of the Springfield College football team, and became involved in many on-campus clubs and activities.
At the end of his first year, Dan had the opportunity to take part in a week-long camping class called Outdoor Pursuits at Springfield College’s East Campus. That experience enlightened Dan to the world of Outdoor Adventure and Education. During his second year, Dan’s interest in Outdoor Adventure and Education continued to grow. Dan had the opportunity to work with Dr. Ted France (Springfield College) as an outdoor adventure facilitator. During his many experiences as a teambuilding facilitator, Dan developed a true appreciation for the benefits of teaching teambuilding, interpersonal, and intrapersonal skills through adventure.
After graduating, Dan spent three years as a physical education teacher, two of which were spent working at a behavioral school in Springfield. Dan went back to work under Dr. France for his graduate degree.
Dan taught and co-taught a Physical Education Teaching Methods class for sophomore Physical Education majors. The focus of the class was integrating adventure activities into high school physical education.
Before coming to EMPOWER, Dan spent two years teaching at The Springfield Renaissance School, an expeditionary learning school. During the two years at ’The Renaissance’, Dan was able to integrate adventure units into the school’s physical education curricula.
Dan now happily resides as an EMPOWER Leadership Adventure Center staff member and looks forward to seeing a wide range of people out at the facility.
DAYNA LEWIS – ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER
Dayna grew up in East Haddam where she attended Nathan Hale-Ray High School. Dayna was very active in many extracurricular activities, including Drama Club, the FFA, Green Team, The T-M Honor Society and Girl Scouts.
After Graduating in 2005 she attended Middlesex Community College here in Middletown before transferring to Central Connecticut State University. Dayna received a bachelor’s degree in Business Management in December of 2009.
During the summer of 2009 Dayna spent over a month in Australia volunteering and doing her part for the conservation of a country struggling with years of drought.
There she also got her first taste of outdoor adventure. She rappelled over 90 ft in the beautiful Blue Mountains, dived the Great Barrier Reef and Bungee Jumped 164 ft in Cairns.
Dayna’s love for the outdoors, adventure and meeting new people made her a perfect fit for the EMPOWER Leadership Adventure Center. She was hired as a part time guide in the spring of 2010 and quickly proved herself to be much more. Now you might find Dayna on the other end of the phone when you call to make a reservation or leading your tour when you come out for your adventure.