Alumni Profile – Molly D. Billings

Wavus 2008-09; KW West 2011; Wavus Council 2013-17; College of Wooster; B.S. Class of 2017 Chemistry and Environmental Studies

Molly Billings, known as Mo Bills around Wavus, grew up in Bangor, Maine. Her mother met Henry Kennedy through the Leadership Maine program and the Billings family began a lifelong relationship with a place that impacted the course of Molly’s life. She attended Wavus as a camper for two years, participated in Kieve-West in 2011, and went on to spend five more years with us on staff at Wavus leading cabins from Junior Wavus to Maine Trails. What follows are Molly’s reflections on her time at Wavus and how these experiences impacted her life:

Ten years ago, I first set foot on the Appalachian Trail as a camper in the Wavus AT-Sea cabin. It rained every day for 11 days straight and I promised myself I would never do anything like that again. This past spring, before taking my first full time job as a high school chemistry teacher, I hiked the southernmost 800 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Not only did I hike in rain, I hiked in freezing rain, snow, extreme heat, and everything in between. This time, I loved every minute.
This change didn’t just happen overnight. Each of the eight summers I spent at Wavus between AT-Sea and my own AT adventure changed my perspective. Canoeing the Allagash showed me that trip could be enjoyable, and Kieve-West taught me that not only was backpacking bearable, it was actually really fun. Once I became a part of the staff and got to lead trips such as Maine Trails, I became completely hooked.

KW campers go on awesome wilderness adventures, make lifelong friends, and grow in their confidence and leadership. Counselors get to enjoy the same awesome adventures as campers, but we have more responsibility and a greater need to be self-reliant. One of my favorite things was watching campers come back year after year and, eventually, join the staff as counselors. That first year as a counselor is filled with so much growth—it certainly was for me. I had never felt as confident as I did at the end of my first summer, and it makes me proud to think that my old campers are experiencing this same growth.

My Wavus experience didn’t just change the way I think about the outdoors. Although I learned everything from how to tie knots to how to be the best leader that I can, my biggest takeaway from my time working at Wavus is that I love working with kids. In this way, Wavus completely changed the direction of my life—working at Wavus is the very reason that I went into education.

I attended the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, where I majored in chemistry and minored in environmental studies. After two summers working at Wavus, I started taking education classes. I wrote my senior thesis on getting high school chemistry students outside and engaged in experiential, place-based learning—an interest that I can trace back to my time at Wavus. After graduation, I spent the fall working as a teaching fellow at the Alzar School in Cascade, Idaho. There, I was lucky enough to be teaching chemistry and leading backpacking and whitewater kayaking trips in both Idaho and Chile.

I have too many fond memories to choose just one. However, they all have one thing in common: they all involve the people that I’ve met and the community we were able to build. I have met some truly incredible people at Wavus who have inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and strive to be the best possible version of myself. Going forward, I hope that I can be that person for my students.

If I had never gone to Wavus, I never would have become a teacher, nor would I have the same passion for protecting environment. I wouldn’t have the perspective to see how my actions impact the world around us, and I definitely wouldn’t be sharing that perspective with teenagers. I wouldn’t have hiked 800 miles of the AT, led a backpacking trip in Patagonia National Park, navigated a gear raft down the Rio Baker in Chile, or spent weekends exploring the Sawtooths and other parts of Idaho. I may have never even climbed Katahdin, a mountain that has been in my backyard for my entire life. It’s because of Wavus that I have the knowledge, confidence, and passion to go out and seek these kinds of adventures, and for that I am forever grateful.

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