Our Staff

Ashley Boswell

Founder & Executive Director

Ashley holds a B.A. in Communications from UNC-Chapel Hill, a Masters degree in Counseling from Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and is currently pursuing her PhD in Christian Counseling. She has counseled youth and families in traditional settings and taught children with autism in public school. In 2004, Ashley founded Shepherd Youth Ranch, accomplishing her life-long dream of pairing horses with youth in need. She is certified in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning through EAGALA. Her background in riding is jumping, dressage, liberty and natural horsemanship. She is an official Level 4 graduate of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program and serves as the Youth Programs Coordinator for the Parelli Foundation. In 2013, Mrs. Boswell received the Soroptimist Ruby Award at the Triangle Women of Distinction awards banquet for women helping women and girls in the community. Ashley’s compassion, servant heart and energizing spirit are evident in her relationships with children, parents and horses.


Debbie Lewis

Trail to Success Program Manager

Debbie holds a BS in Health Science Education from Ohio University and a Masters in Counseling from Colorado Christian University. She has counseled middle school, high school, and college students. Debbie has worked in a residential treatment facility with people coming out of abusive and crisis situations. Debbie grew up riding horses in a variety of settings and has always seen the value of the relationship between horse and human. She is an official level 3 graduate of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Program. Debbie is excited to join the team at Shepherd Youth Ranch.




Geri Bickers

Community Outreach Coordinator

Geri is thrilled to officially join the Shepherd Youth Ranch team! Geri’s welcoming smile helps those new to SYR find their “sweet spot” in volunteering at the ranch. Geri comes to SYR with 14 years experience coordinating volunteers and events as the Children’s Minister at North Raleigh Church of Christ. Now she joins our staff to help YOU find your place at the ranch that restores dreams as the Community Outreach Coordinator.


Ragan Raupach 

Equine Specialist

Ragan is our Equine Specialist for Trails to Success and Ring Leader for Distinguished Riders.  She absolutely adores the children at the Ranch and especially has a heart for the DR kids.


Paul Esslinger

Facility Manager

Paul is originally from upstate NY where he graduated with an Engineering and Management degree from Clarkson University.  He then moved to North Carolina in 1996 and completed an MBA from Elon University in 2003. Paul spend 20+ years as a Quality Engineer and Engineering Manager primarily in the medical device industry. After losing his job due to a factory relocation, Paul used the opportunity to focus on community service.  Paul started with Shepherd Youth Ranch in 2019 as a weekly reoccurring volunteer and then accepted the Facilities Manager position in June of 2020.  Paul firmly believes that the continued and future success of our communities depends deeply on local participation and engagement in any activity that is focused on the well being of the community at large.  “It doesn’t matter what it is you do for your community, what is important is that you do something.  We all have unique skills and experiences that can be leveraged to make a positive impact on those around us, and by doing so we make a positive impact upon ourselves, our local community, our state, nation, and world.”


Jessica Lucas

Equine Manager

Jessica is a North Carolina native from Sampson County. The passion for equine was sparked at an early age while Jessica, followed her father around when he traveled for his Farrier services. Throughout the years the passion grew and Jessica strived to learn as much about horses as possible. Jessica is a graduate from North Carolina State University with degrees in both Animal and Poultry Science, as well as minors in nutrition and agribusiness. During her time at NC State, Jessica assisted in several equine research projects and participated in classes focused on equine training and breeding.  In her spare time, Jessica enjoys canning, wood working, golf, gardening and spending time with her fiance, John and their three dogs. Jessica feels at home at Shepherd Youth Ranch and loves caring for the horses, working with the volunteers, and teaching the interns.  “I felt at home the first time I rode down the driveway and I know that I am here to care for the horses, but I feel like the horses are helping me strengthen my relationship with the Lord.”

Sullivan Short

Equine Manager

Sullivan is from Oxford, North Carolina.
She has always loved horses and knew that she wanted to work with them in some way when she became older. She became aware of EAP work with horses and knew that this was the field for her! She went to Averett University and graduated in May of 2021. She double-majored in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Management. During her time at Averett, she had a lot of hands-on horse-related classes learning about the care and management of horses in various topics. During the summer of 2020, she interned for SYR and loved the environment, people, and horses! “I am very excited to be able to join the team at SYR and am so excited to grow and connect with the staff, interns, volunteers, and anyone who drives through our gate”

Betsy Balas

Operation’s Manager

Betsy grew up in NC where she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. She then enjoyed living in Arizona, San Francisco, Atlanta, and NYC.  In NY she met her husband and started their family, which brought them back to NC in 2007.   She has spent 20+ years in sales, account management, team management and project management. Betsy fell in love with the ranch when she and her then 4 year old son took riding lessons and from there started doing behind the scenes volunteer work.  Betsy’s attention to detail and get it done attitude, has made her a great addition to our team.  Betsy officially joined the team in July of 2020 as our Operations Manager.  She loves being able to take the operational to-do’s off of the team’s plate so that they can spend their time caring for our horses and touching the lives of our youth.