It all started with a snappy grandma, a bold little girl, and an intriguing picture of Matthew Bain holding a snake out on the Nature Camp rec field.

Stephanie was born curious and loved learning about science and the natural world. Taking after her gardening grandmother, Ava Conner, Stephanie loved the immersion of the Nature Camp experience – the place, the environment, and most of all, nature. Surrounded by her peers – especially other bright curious young women – they embarked on a singular journey into a new world.

Her first impression was nothing but love. An enveloping appreciation for the mountains, the flow of Big Mary’s Creek, the bunkhouses named after our Virginia regions. The staff was warm, as were Colonel and Mrs. Reeves.

Thanks to Nature Camp, Stephanie found a profound sense of place and purpose. A bold sense of belonging. The only thing she dreaded, she said, was the long “whole year before the next camp session!”

Stephanie credits Nature Camp with bolstering her innate curiosity and enthusiasm. Curiosity is a Camp foundation and it’s that very character trait, along with a respect for the Earth and all living things, that encouraged her to learn and to want to teach. After college, she jumped at the opportunity to join Teach for America and to learn about another culture when she taught middle school science to Dine (Najavo) students. She credits Nature Camp for encouraging a passion for understanding how the health of our planet directly impacts the health of our people. She is reminded of the quote by Senegalese poet and environmentalist Baba Diome: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”

Camp fueled Stephanie’s love of reading. She is especially thankful for the Garden Club’s donation of book awards at the end of session, including works by Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, and the Audubon Society.

Stephanie is grateful for the relationship with the natural world she developed at Nature Camp.  It’s a relationship that continues to grow and evolve: “As a younger person, the outdoors was a place of discovery and wonder. This still holds true. Increasingly I find nature is also a source of solace and refuge. Wendell Berry’s poem ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ comes to mind.”

Stephanie was a camper at Nature Camp from 1991 until 1996.  She then worked as a counselor until 1998 and served as Assistant Director in 1999.  She has a B.A. Echols Scholar Interdisciplinary Degree from University of Virginia, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Western New Mexico University.  She attended Eastern Virginia Medical School to obtain her M.D. and did her Family Medicine Residency at St. Mary’s Medical Center, Grand Junction, CO.  She is currently at the University of New Mexico in a Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship.