Meet The Team Behind Challenge Island

Renee M.H. Allen


I am the Owner and Director of Challenge Island Northwest Michigan. However, at home, I am a mom to one great son, Harrison, and wife to my very patient, funny, and keeps-me-grounded husband, Reid.  I grew up in Traverse City and beautiful Northern Michigan, enjoying all our wonderful outdoor resources.  The outdoors are such a strong part of my memories growing up; winter skiing, forests, lakes, dunes, beaches, river floats.  I love spending time with friends and family both indoors playing games & baking as well as outdoors; camping, hiking, biking, and around the campfire.  I enthusiastically bring 19 years experience in youth development and event programming to Challenge Island from time working at two separate Michigan Girl Scout Councils creating STEAM programming as a Program Director, Resident Camp Director, and Membership Director.

I am SO excited to bring Challenge Island programming to the Northwest Michigan area!

The truth is, I’m pursuing my passion of bringing skill building opportunities to kids and opening their eyes to career possibilities.  I started Challenge Island Northwest Michigan to help equip kids with skills to brighten their futures and open new doors they may not have seen before. I love helping kids shine and have their own AHA moments in life.

There are kids who have not felt that true sense of accomplishment which comes from doing something you didn’t realize you could do.   And many more don’t know there are careers that are both interesting and exciting every day.  That’s why this is so important.  Kids need spaces where they can attack challenges, make mistakes, try again, goof up, and feel a sense of accomplishment for completing a challenge they never thought they could!  This is what I want to provide for each and every child that takes on a Challenge Island challenge!

I want you to know that I am here for the kids.  And more importantly, I want you to know that they CAN do this!


Sharon Duke Estroff M.A.T.

Founder & CEO

Sharon is founder and creator of the Challenge Island™ program, She is an award-winning elementary school teacher with two decades of experience in Atlanta public and private schools. She started Challenge Island in her second grade classroom and began running it as an enrichment business using the current model in 2003. It has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since.

Sharon is a nationally recognized parenting and education expert and a freelance writer for numerous national publications including Scholastic Parent and Child, Parents, Woman’s Day and Good Housekeeping magazines. She is the author of the popular parenting book, Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? (Random House) and co-author of the upcoming Challenge Island book series that turns the Challenge Island curriculum into an exciting and educational story. She is sought-after speaker who has presented to scores of communities nationwide about the trials and tribulations of raising kids in the digital age.
Sharon received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Emory University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude.

She continues to run her local Challenge Island business in Atlanta, Georgia where she lives with her husband and four children.

Leslie Thibodaux

Chief of Operational Support

Leslie received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education 1st-8th grade and her Master of Education, Reading Specialist, and Academically Gifted Certification from Nicholls State University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She is a veteran educator with 20 years of teaching experience, 17 of which she taught mathematics to academically gifted children.

Leslie incorporates strong analytical problem-solving skills, her love for mathematics, and organizational skills into operating her own successful Challenge Island franchise in Louisiana, where she serves as co-owner. She lives in Louisiana with her husband and three children.

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