A girl from Yonkers ﬁnds herself on a mountain peak in Yellowstone National Park. She hopes to take those wilderness lessons and connect kids in her home city to nature.
Growing up in Yonkers, I never thought I’d be pursuing a career in wildlife sciences and seeing the relevance of them to my hometown. As a child, “nature” to me meant a cluster of trees in a corner of the playground that I avoided, because the swings and sprinklers were in another section. I never imagined that a view from a peak in the White Mountains or a summer spent at Yellowstone National Park could hold lessons for our local commitment to conservation.
I didn’t even think I could make it to the top of that mountain peak. I thought I was going to die.
My passion for the natural world began by accident. I was an indifferent student in high school and often skipped class. One day I decided to stick around, and it happened to be the day that an environmental organization came to pitch summer jobs. The money appealed to me, so I applied and was hired.
Step by step
During my ﬁrst week, I went on my ﬁrst hike ever – a 3-mile trek in White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. I wasn’t an active kid. Activities like hiking and camping had always been foreign to me, and the potential for violence in my neighborhood had frightened me so much that I never considered exploring much of it.
So that ﬁrst hike was excruciating. It wasn’t long before every step became a challenge. I was feeling faint; I was crying. I wanted to turn back, but even back was too far to go.
Eventually my group reached the top, and the summit was life-changing. The view was spectacular all the way to the horizon; the air tasted pure. My accomplishment left me exhilarated, determined to explore our nation’s natural beauty further.
Everyone I hiked with was so proud of me, despite my constant griping on the way up. Growing up, it had just been my mother and me – I didn’t understand community. But I made a family bond with that group that continues today.
After that, I went camping for the ﬁrst time; I learned how to start a ﬁre and build a trail. I once went a week without showering and no one minded. Being outdoors cleared my head and let me forget any troubles I had back home.