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Pathways Newsletter

[Image Description: Two MCC members are walking away on a rocky trail, carrying their packs, surrounded by burnt orange bushes. Through the haze in the background, there are a multitude of mountains, overlapping one another.]

Free to Be

The women's+ crew smiles in a selfie on a mountain ridgeline.

One of my crew members carried a 35mm film camera with them all summer. They’re some of my favorite photos from the season: gritty, sun-bleached, dynamic, and candid. In one of my favorites, my assistant leader sits on a rock, her legs resting in Meadow Creek. It’s late afternoon and the sun is floating peacefully on the water. Looking back at those photos, I can feel the heat hanging in the air and remember game nights and group dinners, long days on the road, and evenings around the fire where I laughed so hard I woke up sore the next day. Those photos, to me, hold our little family living in memory in our cabin on the creek under the cedars. That’s part of why these memories are so special. We were free to be our true selves in a non-male space.

In December of 2021, after a member season on a vast majority-male crew, I jumped at the chance to lead the Women’s+ crew. In May, a crew of fierce, funny, and extraordinarily capable folks landed on my metaphorical doorstep and we never looked back. Every single one of them saw the non-male space as an opportunity to grow into themselves, their strength, and their passions in a space that allowed and encouraged that. It was a gift and a privilege to watch them grow throughout the season. Even as I watched them grow, they pushed me to own my leadership ability, to be confident in my decisions, and explore the joy of a shared identity space with them. 

The field of conservation is overwhelmingly male. This is no secret. Affinity Crews like our Women’s+ crew provide a place for anyone comfortable in a shared-identity space to learn and grow in an environment that supports and accepts them for exactly who they are. These crews demonstrate an organization-level commitment to the equity work that Montana Conservation Corps has been committed to since the beginning. This work is vital to the empowerment of young people and a healthier future for them and for our world. Leading the Women’s+ crew did more than I ever could have anticipated for my confidence, clarity, and sense of place in this world. That experience is thanks to the support of everyone at MCC, who believe in the purpose of these crews and the spaces that they create; I could not be more grateful.