Claire Catlett ’08 protects New Mexico’s last free-flowing river

Profiles of Service: Claire Catlett '08 - Silver City, New Mexico; Program Associate, Gila Conservation Coalition and Gila Resources Information Project

Claire works for two small non-profits in rural New Mexico - the Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP) and the Gila Conservation Coalition (GCC). Together, the organizations work to protect the environment that serves the communities of southwest New Mexico, including the water, air, land and wildlife. Working first as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, and now hired as a program associate, Claire's role is to expand the organizations' outreach and education efforts within the local community and statewide, with particular interest in protection of the Gila River, New Mexico's last free-flowing river. Claire - who holds an M.A. in International Development from the University of Denver, with a concentration in Sustainable Development and the Environment - also serves as business associate with Stream Dynamics, a Silver City-based company that provides stream and wetland restoration services.

"While at Roanoke College, I was taught by my peers and professors to take an active role in the local community to make a difference. I can say now, stronger than ever, that all change begins at home, in your own backyard, and within your own community. I call my line of work "grassroots to grasstops" organizing, because by working to mobilize communities and empower local politics, there is huge opportunity for change to have a ripple effect and succeed in influencing state and national politics as well." 

"My work with Gila Resources Information Project and Gila Conservation Coalition requires great passion and sincere commitment to goals, because in being an environmentalist, there are a lot of lost battles - including the ongoing one to protect the Gila River. Many people ask me how I can stay so optimistic or so energetic in my work. My mantra that keeps me moving forward is: 'There are no lost battles, but just more battles to fight in the end.'  Communities now, more than ever, across America need strong, smart and young leadership. I don't pretend that I am someone who can change the world overnight, but I do plan on helping empower my community to be a better place in the end, and I will not give up 'fighting the good fight' until I see those changes become real."

About the Author

This story originally appeared in the Roanoke College Magazine. It's produced twice each year with news and features about Roanoke alumni, students and faculty. View more magazine stories.

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