What's New

Black female pulling vine from the ground

My journey with Lookout Mountain Conservancy began when I was in high school. You see, I moved here in 2018 from Uganda. I started school at Orchard Knob Middle School and then continued at The Howard School. Before moving here, I didn't know much about this country. School was just school, nothing more. But as I got older, I realized I needed something more than just classes and homework. I wanted connection and purpose beyond the classroom.

It wasn't until my sophomore year, during my time on the Leadership Team at Howard, that I heard about Lookout Mountain Conservancy. One of the interns, Amy, mentioned a volunteer job, and I thought, "Why not?" I had never done anything like it before, but I wanted to see what it was all about. Little did I know, it would change everything.

Reminders of Home

An African American teenaged female in an orange cap and a white teenaged female in a beanie pot plants in a greenhouse.

My first day at LMC was a wake-up call. I showed up in shorts, totally unprepared for the work ahead. But as I learned the ropes—figuring out how to use tools and exploring the land—I realized something. This place felt like home. It reminded me of my home in Uganda, where hard work outside was just a way of life.

At home, we used to cut wood and take care of land the same way we do at LMC, with a few differences. The really hard stuff, like carrying big trees, wasn't the women's job; it was the men's job. Each time I looked at the logs we had to carry, I remembered how the men would cut and carry the trees used to make chapels. Being at LMC brought back all these memories from when I would go into the mountains to collect firewood, and our community would work together to help one another.

There was one time when we had to move a bigger log, and one of the other male interns wanted to move it by himself and couldn’t. I wanted to try too, just to see if I could, and I managed to get it up and onto this platform. It was so rewarding to see my own strength in that moment, especially knowing that I might not have found that in myself back home.


Learning to Work Together

Two black female teenagers build a rock wall at the base of a boulder

Working at LMC isn't easy. We face challenges like building walls on steep slopes and moving heavy logs. But with each challenge, I grow stronger. I have learned to rely on my team, to trust in their abilities, and to believe in my own strength.

Everything we do here is connected, and it’s almost never a one-person job. We have times when we cut wood and we use the log-splitting machine, which you can’t use on your own, pairs have to work together to split the wood.

We had this project that really pushed us. We had to build a wall and pad for a boulder, but the spot was small and the ground was all slanted. We were building on the side of a hill and there was no room to move. At first, we were like, "Yeah, let's do it! We always build boulder pads." But when we got up there, that turned into, "Whoa, how are we gonna do this?" The soil kept shifting, forcing us to restart multiple times and brainstorm new solutions. It was frustrating, to say the least.

We didn't give up, though. Each of us came up with different ideas, and we tried them all until something worked. It was tough, but seeing our ideas come together was amazing. In the end, we finished the wall and boulder pad, and we were really proud of ourselves.

Lessons Learned

The turning point came when I realized the impact I was making—not just on the land, but on myself. I discovered a passion for leadership, for guiding others and showing them what's possible. At that moment, I knew I was capable of more than I ever imagined.

A teenaged African American female wearing a beanie pots plants in a greenhouse

As my graduation nears, I'm filled with gratitude for the experiences and friendships I've gained. I look forward to taking what I've learned and applying it to new challenges ahead, knowing that I'm capable of anything I set my mind to. I've realized the importance of being true to myself and embracing my i

dentity. It's okay to ask for help and to rely on others, for it's through working together and support that we succeed the most.

Looking Forward

Lookout Mountain Conservancy has not only given me valuable skills and experiences, but it has also taught me the importance of self-acceptance and the beauty of being who you are. As I move forward, I carry with me the lessons learned in nature and the connections I’ve made with my friends. I know that I am capable of anything I set my mind to and that I am already somebody, continuously getting to know and discovering new parts of myself.

So what's next for me? Well, I plan to attend college and maybe pursue a career in law. But whatever path I choose, I'll carry the lessons of LMC with me—lessons of inner strength, teamwork, and the power of faith. Because here at Lookout Mountain Conservancy, I found not just a job, but a family—a family that taught me that no matter where you come from, there's always a place for you in this world. And for that, I'll be forever grateful.

-Eniyela "Joy"

Black female teenager poses in front of a forested background