Meet the SVSA Staff

Four people in ski gear on a snowy mountain

SVSA Staff

Tracey Caraluzzi, Residence Hall Chef

Tracey Caraluzzi’s official role is Residence Hall Chef, but her maternal nature (she has five grown children) has led her to another, unofficial, role as boarding students’ “other mom.” In the kitchen, Tracey’s goal is to debunk notions of institutional food by providing students with healthy, delicious, locally-sourced food that fuels body, mind, and soul. With 30 years of restaurant and catering experience behind her, she strives to offer nutritionally balanced and tasty meals that are thoughtfully planned to appeal to a wide variety of taste preferences and cultural backgrounds and to offer a warm, welcoming meal-time experience to unite the Residence Hall family.

Chris Martella, Academic Coordinator

As SVSA’s Academic Coordinator, Chris Martella oversees the academic progress of all SVSA student-athletes throughout the competitive season. When a high number of student-athletes are on the road, Chris will travel with them to provide one-on-one tutoring, study halls, and guidance. As a student-athlete at Dartmouth College, Chris rowed for the Division 1 varsity heavyweight crew team and skied for the alpine club team—and earned a B.A. in neuroscience. In 2013, Chris, an avid outdoorsman, joined a six-man canoe expedition team and paddled for 58 days to the Arctic Ocean. He has worked with children of all ages in multiple settings, most notably the outdoors, as an outdoor educator with Calleva Outdoor Education, where he guided and supervised students in rafting, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, climbing, and environmental education. He most recently worked as a wilderness therapy field instructor with Second Nature Wilderness Programs in Utah. In his free time Chris loves to play his bright green ukulele, shred sick lines on the slopes, and, occasionally, juggle.

Jonna Mendes, Program Director

In her sixth year as the director of the Sun Valley Ski Academy, Jonna Mendes has an impressive background as an athlete and coach. A two-time Olympian—at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games and 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games—Jonna was also a four-time National Champion (twice in downhill, twice in giant slalom) and earned a bronze medal in super-G at the 2003 Alpine World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Following her 2006 retirement from the U.S. Ski Team, Jonna honed her coaching skills as a U.S. Ski Team development coach from 2006-10, working with athletes at national and regional projects and competitions. In addition to her role as SVSA Program Director, Jonna coaches the U16s with Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Jonna’s unique perspective and experience as an elite athlete and coach is an asset to the development of our SVSA student-athletes. In her free time, Jonna loves chasing her son, Declan, down the mountain and camping with Declan and her husband, Will.

Johnie Michael, High Performance Specialist

Johnie Michael joined Sun Valley Community School in 2017 and serves as High Performance Specialist. Johnie manages the school's Julia Argyros Training Center at Rufus M. Brown Hall and coordinates strength, conditioning, and sport science services for high school athletes participating in a wide variety of Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and Community School sports. In addition, Johnie designs, implements, and monitors all aspects of athletes' yearly plans for athletic development.

Prior to joining the school, Johnie most recently worked at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard's Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah providing strength and conditioning training for all disciplines with a focus on freestyle. His experience with Olympic athletes included all aspects of athletic development, including strength, power, speed, agility, and more. Prior to his time with U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Johnie served as a strength and conditioning graduate assistant for Oklahoma State University Department of Athletics.

Johnie holds a MS in health and human performance and a BS in health and education and promotion from Oklahoma State University. He is also an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. In his free time, he enjoys camping, fishing, skiing, and the outdoors.

Clay Wawner, Director of Residential Life

Clay Wawner succeeded Nancy Parsons-Brown as Director of Residential Life in 2018. Clay joined Community School from Miller School of Albemarle in Charlottesville, Virginia, where, since 2013, he served as Dean of Students, history teacher, Community Service Coordinator, Head Varsity Lacrosse Coach, Residential Duty Team Chief, Student Advisor, and Senior Administrative Team member.

In addition to his extensive academic, residential, and coaching experience, Clay has over ten years’ experience as an outdoor education instructor, having led wilderness experiences around the U.S. and globally, including two summers employed as a fishing and river guide for The River Company in Stanley. 

Clay, along with his wife Maggie, bring warmth, a familial approach, clear expectations, and great residential experience to the dorm, while also working to expand programmatic offerings for all Sun Valley Community School students.

Clay is a graduate of Denison University, where he captained the men’s lacrosse team for two years and graduated with a degree in history. In his reflection of his visit to Community School, Clay shared, “Through a strong set of guiding values, I believe that I can help define a culture that successfully integrates the residential life program into the greater community, bridges the gap between day and boarding students and faculty, and creates a fun and safe environment for our students.” 

From every angle, the SVSA program is one that I wish I had access to as a young ski racer. While I did get the opportunity to play soccer and ski, I feel like I missed out on being a ‘normal’ high school student. For SVSA student-athletes, the sky’s the limit: from dances, to drama, to music, our kids have endless opportunities at their fingertips. While most come here to ski, they are able to do so much more.

-Jonna Mendes, SVSA Program Director