Molly is an avid nature lover and has made that part of her career by helping design community spaces for all to enjoy. As a 90s alum of VISIONS BVI, she has great perspective about the importance of experiencing a summer program, in one of our original locations.

Tell us a little about yourself!

Hi!! I’m Molly, VISIONS BVI alum, recently moved to Maine from Washington DC. Apparently I like big changes! I’m a walker, a reader, an observer of weather and birds and flowers and rocks and trees…I work as a landscape architect and design spaces for people to hopefully get closer to those things I love to observe so much. I’m married to a wonderful man and have a delightful dog and two beautiful but standoff-ish cats.

What did your VISIONS experience mean to you?

I mentioned above the most recent big change that I’ve made–moving to a very small town in Maine from bustling Washington DC, where I’d lived since graduating from college (approximately 1 million years ago). When I was a teenager at VISIONS I was not crazy about change. Setting out that first VISIONS summer was a big departure for me–my parents were surprised I wanted to go! Getting on the plane by myself, not really knowing anyone (there was another girl from my school, but we didn’t know each other that well), and finding my way with the group was out of character for me. I was quiet and reserved and so shy. But I found after VISIONS that change and getting out of my comfort zone is a great way for me to examine where I am and what I value. I met people (campers and community members) from different states, from different backgrounds, and the VISIONS experience was the first to pick me up and plop me down in a new world. Turns out I liked it!

What is your advice for students today who are considering a VISIONS experience?

I would of course recommend it highly! Go go go! Even though I was shaking with nerves when I got there, and was super homesick for the first couple days… Go!

I think that experience of being in a new state or a different country as a teen is so important. It’s easy to be focused inward as a young person, and this kind of experience forces you to see new people, different ways of seeing the world, different values, different landscapes/trees/birds. Most of those new experiences are beautiful, some can be hard or sad, but they all leave a mark and help shape who you become. It sounds a bit corny, but it’s true.

So if it feels outside your comfort zone then go! If it feels like it might be hard work or too different from where you grew up, then go! If it feels like the kind of shake up that might be just what you need, then go!

In what ways did VISIONS help you develop life skills?

It was the first step in me feeling confident in what I could do myself and realizing that I liked to be curious. The work we did was physically demanding, and fitting into a group was mentally challenging for me. But the work felt important and so figuring out how to work as a team was essential. Asking questions meant the building wouldn’t fall down! Asking more questions, specifically of a local banana farmer, meant that I learned not only how bananas grow, but also how growing things in different soils and with wet and dry seasons worked. VISIONS was the kick I needed to start exploring those parts of myself and becoming comfortable in my skin. The first of many steps, for sure, but had to start somewhere.

How often do you stay in touch with your VISIONS friends?

When I was still in HS and in college I did keep in touch with a couple people. I even ended up on a study abroad semester in Australia with a VISIONS alum!

Do you actively volunteer? If so, how?

I do! Another lesson I got from VISIONS is that I love volunteering and being enmeshed in my community. I’m still looking for places here in Maine (there are many), but during my 20+ years in DC I volunteered with dog rescues, tutored kids, and most importantly and most impactful to me was 16 years working with the Crispus Attucks Development Corporation, a tiny non-profit that maintained a “secret” park in a DC neighborhood. Totally volunteer driven and community funded. We developed annual events in the park like movie nights, ice cream socials, spring and fall community days…it was a wonderful space and made a big difference to our neighborhood. I met so many friends through volunteering there and in other places.

What’s on your playlist?

Oh jeez–I’m so behind on music! Been listening to a lot of Michael Kiwanuka, Luna, David Bowie is my fave of all time…

Owen Clarke is a writer for VISIONS. A career outdoor journalist, his work appears in 30+ international magazines, including Iron & Air, Climbing, Outside, Rock and Ice, SKI, Trail Runner and The Outdoor Journal. He is also the executive editor of Skydiving Source and Indoor Skydiving Source.

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