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Collage of Interns and Rotaracts together during job shadow week

I wanted to share with you the insights of a young woman who joined the Conservancy’s Intern Leadership program this summer. Imani is a sophomore at The Howard School this year.

As part of our work to use conservation as a tool to change lives, up on Lookout Mountain, we work to provide opportunities for these students to envision different futures than they otherwise might. You are making that possible. Thank you.




(In Imani's words)

I joined LMC this past summer because my sister told me that I would have a lot of opportunities and would learn a lot about myself.

So I took a risk, went through the process, and was accepted into the program.  Since then, I’ve gotten to meet a lot of different people and do different things that I wouldn’t have been able to do if it wasn’t for the program.

It’s funny because when I talk to my friends outside of the program about goals that I have, like working to be on the Intern leadership team (the red shirts).  They don’t get it, they don’t get why I want to work so hard for a shirt.  But to me, it’s about knowing that I’m pushing myself out there.

The positivity and support that I get from being in the program is a huge help to me.  When I’m working on the Mountain, I can just let the other stuff go, I don’t have to think about it.  I’m guessing that if I wasn’t part of LMC, then I would have a really different perspective about everything.

Imani and Honesty at T.U. Parks construction site

Imani and Honesty at T.U. Parks Construction

It’s not a cake walk

The only thing about working with the Conservancy that sometimes brings me down is the weather.

It’s just so hot in the summer and even this fall, and I know it’s going to get cold. I get pushed to my limit and I want to quit.

But then there is someone there to pick you up and tell you that you can do it, and then when you make it through you realize you can.  It just keeps me coming back, knowing that Ms. Robyn and Ashley are here and the other Interns too, that they’ll keep supporting me.

A few weeks ago, over fall break at school, we got to job shadow with the Rotaracts. The Rotaracts are young professionals who volunteer their time with the Conservancy.

I have a dream too, but not that

At first when I heard about “job-shadowing”, I just thought it’s probably going to be boring, especially since the options weren’t what I want to do in the future.

I think that the other Interns felt that way too.

I want to be a Zoologist. But I didn’t get to shadow someone like that; I job-shadowed Judge McVeagh in court, and then Robert Parks at his construction company.

I didn’t know what to expect, I mean what would we do all day? But I was surprised at the things that stood out; like how real stuff is--it brought me back to reality, reminding me that I need to take care of myself and stay on track.

It also showed me how much other people want to support us.  The Rotaracts were willing to pick us up and drop us off every day. They had to slow down to teach us about the jobs, what it took to get there, and talk us through what was happening.  Being with the Rotaracts really showed me how much effort and time I need to put into school, because it takes work to get to where you want to be, and I want to be able to do that too.

I think other interns felt that way too. When we got together after our “job-shadowing” and told each other about what we did, a lot of us were surprised by our experiences.

Judge McVeagh and Imani at the General Sessions Circuit Court

Judge McVeagh and Imani at the General Sessions Circuit Court

Don’t write things off

It helped me remember not to judge a book by its cover and also not to just look for jobs that I think would be fun, because you know there’s always another side to them, and you’ll miss out on others that you thought would be boring.

When I got back to school, after our break, and told my friends who aren’t in the program about what we did they said, “You went where, you did what?”  They, like I did before I went, were expecting it to be boring, I mean it’s called ‘job-shadowing.” But once I explained what we did, they thought it was pretty cool that we got to do that.

I’m really grateful that we had this opportunity, and, I’m grateful that I listened to my sister and decided to join the program.  The thing that I look forward to the most about working for the Conservancy is what I will learn about myself, and the options that I have for my future, by the time I graduate high school.

– Imani R.



The Howard Leadership Program Interns, a partnership with The Howard School, work hundreds of hours up on the Mountain, focusing on habitat restoration, trail building, creating new gardens, and building the Bouldering Park…but they also experience leadership work and self-awareness. For many this self-work is a critical part of their experience in nature; for many it has created a path for success.

The Rotaracts are a group of young professionals in Chattanooga, with a leadership ethic that combines professional development with service in their community.  They volunteer their time and talent to mentor and inspire the Conservancy’s Interns.

We want to offer a special thank you to the Rotaracts and their places of employment that allowed the Interns to have this eye-opening experience:

Ramsey Brock, Brock Insurance ◊ Thomas Connolly, Real Estate Development/ Investments ◊ Joel DeFoor, Millennium Bank ◊ Jacob Hawk, Southern Community Bank ◊ Honor Hosteler, Chamber of Commerce ◊ Judge Alex McVeagh, General Sessions Court ◊ Robert Parks, T.U. Parks Construction ◊ Transportation help to and from jobs: Andrew Anderson, Jonathan Armstrong, Charles Sanford, Meredith Trautschold, Caroline Walker, Joey Greer