From LA to the Adirondacks: Lily Esposito ’20
Lily Esposito ’20 grew up in Toluca Lake, California, 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Her parents are both in the entertainment business.
Now, she’s living off the grid, 2,900 miles away in North Creek, New York, and works as volunteer stewardship coordinator at Wilton Wildlife Park and Preserve. In her role, she teaches environmental education programs at the preserve and in local elementary schools.
“I have a job I love and I’m living in the Adirondacks,” says Lily. “Life is pretty good!”
Lily chose Skidmore because life in LA was “too busy and the landscape was too dry.” She decided to go east for adventure and access to snow, mountains, and forests.
She recalls not knowing who she was yet and being "a tad insecure” when she first arrived in Saratoga Springs. Like many 18-year-olds, she was still finding her way. But true to form, she jumped feet first into campus life, joining the crew team and the Outing Club.
The Outing Club
“The Outing Club gave me something to latch onto and led to my majoring in environmental studies,” says Lily, who also minored in sociology with environmental justice as a focus. “Ultimately, the Outing Club was at the heart of my Skidmore experience.”
“Almost every weekend, I was swimming in the Hudson River, skiing at Gore Mountain, hiking Sleeping Beauty and Buck Mountain. There’s just so much to do in the Adirondacks. I have such awe and appreciation for the natural world.”
Early on, Lily noticed the club was missing a big chunk of Skidmore students because it didn’t have any social media accounts. She became its social media manager, and the mailing list grew close to 1,500 students. She served as Outing Club president for parts of her sophomore, junior, and senior years. She also led the Sustainability Office’s compost program and earned the unofficial title of “Compost Queen.”
A highlight for Lily was leading a winter break trip to Joshua Tree National Park back on her home turf in southern California. “Getting people into nature and making it accessible became important to me,” she says. “I wanted to get them out there.”
Internships and capstone work
Lily also demonstrated her commitment and concern for community and environmental protection during her internships with organizations like 9 Miles East Farm and her capstone research experience that, in tandem with Saratoga PLAN and the Open Space Institute, investigated the economic feasibility of creating the Palmertown Trail, to connect three outdoor recreation locations in Saratoga County: Moreau Lake State Park, Daniels Road State Forest, and the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail.
Off-Campus Study in New Zealand
Lily topped off her Skidmore journey by studying abroad in New Zealand. While there, she learned some new things about herself and brought some resolutions back home with her to the United States:
- Wear more baggy clothes: They just feel better.
- Use more spices in my cooking: Why have I been eating such bland food? Spices exist!
- Make things myself: From shampoos and cleaning products to feta cheese and pickled cabbage, I don’t need to buy as much as I do when I can make them economically and sustainably in my own home.
- Walk everywhere I can: In New Zealand, I was racking up 7–10 miles a day just by walking to the grocery store and on errands. Walking feels great physically, and it helps the environment!
- Walking around barefoot: In all the places I traveled, it was common to be barefoot. That connection of skin to ground is so special. In Oceania, it was regular to go to class or even grocery stores barefoot. In Southeast Asia, many hostels and sacred spaces were barefoot zones.
Lily Esposito ’20 teaches children about environmental issues during a program at Wilton Wildlife Park and Preserve.
In the two years following graduation, Lily and her boyfriend (now fiancé) lived in their camper van and worked seasonal jobs as organic veggie pickers, snowboard instructors, and whitewater rafting guides in Vermont, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Montana.
But they began feeling the pull of establishing roots, so they sold the camper and used the proceeds to purchase 21 acres of land in North Creek, where they plan to build a homestead and live off the land as much as possible. They’ve built a well and several driveways, and even mapped out their wedding space.
Her work as the Wilton Wildlife Park and Preserve volunteer and stewardship coordinator involves organizing volunteers, maintaining Preserve property, coordinating trail stewards, and planning and teaching educational events, including themed woods walks, campfire chats about endangered species, nature themed arts and crafts, and other activities. On a weekly basis, she leads five or public programs, school field trips, and traveling programs to retirement centers, schools, and camps.
“Lily's passion for the outdoors is contagious,” says Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences and Studies Karen Kellogg, “She is a gifted explorer and naturalist who cares deeply about instilling this passion in others, especially amongst youth and within budding environmental educators.”
It’s fair to say that Lily found herself at Skidmore, and now she’s helping others do the same.