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.”

Katy Alexandria de la Fuente

Equine Manager

Katy is originally from the lowest part of South Texas.  She attended Texas A&M University – Kingsville and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Animal Science and a minor in Agribusiness.  During her years at TAMUK, she had the privilege of working for the King Ranch in the Quarter Horse division. While working for the King Ranch and attending TAMUK, she was able to obtain her Ranch Management and Artificial Insemination certificate. She was also given the opportunity to intern at Equatics Fitness Center, which focused on using water exercises, treatments, and therapy on equine athletes.  In her free time she enjoys working and riding her horse, as well as spending time with her family.    “I knew Shepherd Youth Ranch was the place I wanted and needed to be after seeing the job opening and talking with Ashley. I am very fortunate, and very well aware, of the amount of equine knowledge that I will be able to learn from so many horse specialists and fellow equestrians. I am even more blessed to be surrounded by women and men of God that have welcomed me with open arms, provided a home away from home, and provided a family.”

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.