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Growing and Learning with the Forest

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My name is Luca Malde, and I’m a part of the Leadership In Training Program! This is my first year as an Expeditioner, and I was previously a Base Camper for 5 years. My relationship with this Preserve has evolved and changed over the past 17 years; I view it similarly to a staff member now, with memories as a base camper running through the fields, growing and learning with the forest.

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Some of my earliest memories I have are of this place. My dad, a professor of photography at the University of the South, would bring classes to this land, and my 3 or 4-year-old self was happy to tag along. Those trips to The Preserve sparked my love for the land, as well as the greater natural world around all of us. I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced the magic this place radiates, and am compelled to further it for generations of campers to come.

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Throughout my time as a camper I would look towards my counselors and mentors, hoping to follow in their footprints. When I realized I could be a part of the LIT program, I went for it! The transition between camper and expeditioner was strange at first, but over the past few weeks, my fellow expeditioners and I have begun to utilize tools and experiences we have from being base campers, to more fully understand all of those around us. While my time as a camper may be coming to a close, I’m incredibly excited to see the rest of our relationships with this magical Preserve as they unfold.

Story by Luca Malde with photos by Brandon S. Marshall & Samantha Keebler