I was born and raised in the small town of Glenwood, Maryland in the United States with my parents and my older sister Sarah. Throughout my childhood, my family would go on vacation to visit national parks and places of interest all over the world. An appreciation of nature was instilled in me at an early age.
I have always been an outdoors person. I spent most of my summers working at summer camps, including 5 summers at Camp Classen YMCA, an outdoor adventure camp in Davis, Oklahoma and one summer at SeaWorld – Orlando as an Education Intern. I graduated from the University of Tampa in 2007 with a degree in Marine Science and Biology. In September 2007, I joined the Peace Corps as a Volunteer to serve in Mozambique. I volunteered with the Peace Corps for four years and was the first four year volunteer for Peace Corps in Mozambique. My first three years were spent in Tete province, in Vila Ulónguè, teaching at both Ulónguè Secondary School and the Teacher Training Institute of Angónia. I was assigned to the Secondary School to teach Biology, but the reality was they needed English teachers. Outside of teaching, I was a volleyball coach, helped start the annual science fair and occasionally helped at a local pre-school.
In the middle of my third year (and what I thought to be my final year in Mozambique!), I went on safari with my sister, and realized that I wasn’t ready to go home just yet! I wanted to stay in Africa and work with communities to help protect the environment. My friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, Sinead Brien, was serving in Gorongosa. She mentioned that the position was open for the following year, so I came to Gorongosa to learn more about the project and see if it would be something I would be interested in. I thought environmental education would be the perfect fit. Turns out I was right, and I am currently in my 3rd year as one of Gorongosa’s Environmental Educators (year 6 in Mozambique!).
My first year in Gorongosa, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. In 2012 I returned to the Park a full-time employee, as one of the Environmental Educators in the Community Relations Department. In this role, I work with a variety of people teaching them about conservation and the importance of the environment. Every member of our team works with each target audience (teachers, students, leaders, community member, park employees) in different capacities. I specialize in working with local school groups. My background as a camp counselor definitely gets put to the test when we bring groups of 30 children from local schools for 3-4 day seminars at the Community Education Center (CEC)! The children participate in a variety of different activities with the goal of making them understand the importance of conservation, and hopefully making them future advocates for the Park. I really enjoy getting to talk to these children about something I truly care about – Gorongosa. I hope that my passion about the environment and the restoration project reaches them and opens their eyes. One of my favorite things is taking the children on safari and having them see their first animal. They gain a new appreciation and understanding of the park and its wildlife. I strongly believe that our work in the communities is crucial to the preservation and restoration of Gorongosa National Park and will have a lasting impact in the future.