Lilly Thomey '15

Nicole Sheldon

When Lilly went to Pomona College in Southern California, she planned to study economics. At Minnehaha Academy, she loved Mr. Hoffner’s econ classes. He was one of her favorite teachers, and very engaging. But as she took college classes, she realized how much of an affinity she had for being outdoors and being connected with the natural world. "I wanted to be outside, do research, get my hands dirty!" Her college years and classes led her to the realization that she wanted to do ‘hard’ science and also communicate her findings to a broad audience, so she majored in biology. "I’d like to be an intermediary between scientists and the common world: I want to help people understand what is going on around them." 

Fond Memories of MA

Lilly’s fondest memories of Minnehaha include robust, healthy mentorship and opportunities to create community. These two things resonated through her classes, her basketball team, and seeped into her personal life. “I loved being a part of the girls’ basketball team with coaches Josh Thurow, Scott Scholl, and Greg Gilreath my freshman through senior year. It was so great to have a group of girls who were going up the ranks with me. There were tough parts of the sport that we worked through together, and the shenanigans we did to each other and as a team were so fun and brought relief to everyday pressures. It was a community and a support system that I still try to emulate and build in my life today.” She was supported to try many different activities at Minnehaha. She loved being a part of the Singers and Madrigals and remembers the community that she found in her classes. “MA offers so many different pockets of community. I look back, reflect on and appreciate the community so much as I remember those experiences.”  

Studying Snail Species in Hawaii

During her senior year of college, Lilly spent a summer on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, studying native land snail species in the collection of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Her end goal was to re-describe the species, its anatomy and its geographical range, give it a current assessment and put it into a book. She loved her time there and said it was an amazing place to study, “a biodiversity hotspot! There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.”

After college, Lilly was hoping to continue with the same vein of study and learned about AmeriCorps, a voluntary program that engages adults in public service work to help others and meet critical needs in the community. She applied for a Kupu internship (‘Kupu’ means to sprout or grow) with AmeriCorps, was accepted, and is now a year-long service member, assigned to the Snail Extinction Prevention Program on the island of Oahu.

Lilly wants to bring attention to species that are often overlooked and do not get a lot of attention. Her desire is to protect land snails and learn from them--to be a steward for them in the invasive species capital of the world. “I want to communicate the plight of invertebrates, study them, and try to gain knowledge about things that are not yet known. Invertebrate species outweigh mammals by six times over: there are so many species that have never been studied, are incredibly complicated, and have physiology that we can gain knowledge from. It’s like a book that has been left unopened. I want to open it, read it, and study it.”

“I’m still learning who I am,” says Lilly.  “My community and relationships at MA inspired me to keep mentorship in my life, and I want to be a mentor and a ‘teacher’ as part of whatever I do in the long-term.”

  • Alumni
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