Above: Laura Phillips. Photographed by Alex Cenci.
There are few people on the ranch with as much passion for Philmont’s ecology as Laura Phillips.
Phillips has been working in Philmont’s conservation department for two years teaching Scouts about the ecology of the Backcountry. She performs a wide range of jobs as an environmental educator, from running the Roving Outdoor Conservation School and other STEM-oriented treks to taking out crews and helping at the Philmont Training Center when needed. Being able to perform such a wide range of duties is one of her favorite parts of the job.
“People ask me ‘What department are you?’ and I say ‘All of them right now,’” Phillips said. “I’m a Conservationist, I’m an EE, I’m a Ranger, I’m PTC, I do a bit of everything!”
Phillips first made it out to Philmont in 2015 through the Philmont Training Center. Just one year before Phillips had fractured both of her feet right before her trek, so she was ecstatic to finally make it into the Backcountry.
Immediately after her 2015 trek, Phillips decided to stay at the ranch to do the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience course at Rayado Ridge. She went on to complete a Rayado trek in 2016 and ROCS trek in 2017.
With so much Philmont experience under her belt, it’s hard to believe that Phillips was once discouraged from going on trek because of her small build. She was told she had to be stronger to survive in the Backcountry.
What she found, however, is that what she might lack in height or build she makes up for in spirit.
“Philmont was a place where I felt very empowered,” she said. “It gave me the confidence I think I lacked.”
The confidence she found at Philmont helped change her life. When Phillips attended an all-female ROCS trek, she decided to pursue science, a field she had been discouraged from previously.
“I was very much at a place where I thought that I wasn’t going to do science, not because I didn’t like it, but because I didn’t feel like I had a place there,” Phillips said. “I had done science camps when I was a kid and there was a lot of misogyny at some of them, so I always felt like it wasn’t where I belonged.”
When surrounded by young women all interested in science and the environment, however, Phillips realized that she did have a place in STEM fields. Now, she hopes that she can inspire other girls who may feel discouraged or lack confidence in themselves.
“You’re so much stronger than you think you are,” she said. “Philmont can easily prove that to you in just a few days.”
Phillips will be working projects all over the ranch and finishing leading an all-female ROCS trek later this summer.