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The Spectacular Heart of Caroline Hoy

By Sarah Hajkowski

Part essay, part interview: Charleston, SC native and dear friend of the author Caroline Hoy shares her field expert perspectives on environmental studies, Girl Scouts, and more.

Photo: Caroline Hoy at Keowee-Toxaway State Park

With a sweet smile for anyone and a supremely dirty joke for the select few, Caroline Hoy has an energy-evoking pixie mischief that rolls out surprise after surprise with time.

“I love attention,” she gleefully solicits librarians and friends and new people alike.

What she means is: “I love connecting with you,” but it’s a secret preserved with a careful heart. She’s been a personal friend ever since I had the good fortune to notice her attempts at reaching out in freshman year at our undergrad institution. 

There is lightning in the bottle here; she dyes her hair a new color perhaps three times a year and is refreshingly fired up about the world around her. This could mean anything from a new musical theatre album to an instance of injustice in the world. Caroline does not hide her enthusiasm under a bushel. 

Parts of herself that Caroline leads with in addition to a brassy sense of humor include a passion for the environment and a sustainable relationship with the physical world, as well as investment in uplift for young girls. In 2024, she remains a proud Girl Scout.

“Until 6th grade we lived at Palmetto Islands County Park,” she offers as context for her contagious zeal for the environment. ‘We’ means herself, mom, dad, and an older sister. Palmetto Islands County Park is firmly established as one of the beautiful nature parks clustered near the large South Carolina municipality of Mount Pleasant. 

From the time she was born until middle school, Palmetto Islands (P.I. to natives) afforded tropical trails, tidal creeks, and family play places as Caroline’s first crawling and then stomping grounds. Her dad Jim – a minor legend in the County Parks system of today – was park ranger until she went on to high school.

She shares that, “My dad and I did many things together,” offering anecdotes including golf cart tours and bike races through the park. “So it was the memories about my father that I treasure. They taught me about the environment and made me want to help preserve it for future generations to love the outdoors on their own.”

When she walked me through P.I. in Fall 2022, it was as though every square acre of Lowcountry marsh and the park’s namesake palmettoes were old friends. She makes sure her walking buddy notices periwinkles clinging to the floating dock. She watches patiently for bumpy alligator heads to surface at Nature Island. 

It’s a morbid joke in her vocabulary how fiddler crabs too foolhardy in crossing lanes of asphalt end up invariably squished by auto tires into the landscape.

Thus Caroline is certainly aware of the interplay between human recreation and nature-oriented places like parks. “Unfortunately, I do know about the pros and cons of recreation.” She is the only person I’ve met who will argue seriously and convincingly about the hazard of stacking rocks to the organisms of a water system. 

She offers incisively, “Grass fields are basically dead spaces,” and there is a personal edge to her voice in denouncing the creation of parks that are glorified parking lots, prioritizing the human element and ignoring the needs of the living things and abiotic factors that call a site home. 

She mentions meandering streams and wooded areas as potential improvements off the top of her head. The reflex nature of it reminds one that Caroline spent so much of her education at our undergrad pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Studies, with a concentration on sustainability. As if they could ever forget.

“I thought the classes sounded easier than the science track,” she adds wryly. But her ardor and dedication to the voiceless in ecosystems everywhere speaks volumes. It has been a habit of Caroline’s since long before I met her to nab friends in her vehicle on quick notice and whisk them off to this or that state park, vista, or waterfall. Showing others the natural world she’s communed with: in seeing, climbing, inhaling, and exhaling, is part of how she shows her love.

How hard is it to stay true to deep convictions about sustainability in today’s workforce? In a way, Caroline is cracking that code. For nine years now she has worked with the Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission (CCPRC). From working in the Mount Pleasant Pier souvenir shop to laboring on regenerative farmland at Chucktown Acres, she has seen a variety of terrain in the scope of South Carolina’s County Parks and Rec areas.

Most recently, Caroline assumed a position as Call Center Representative for the CCPRC. Here she answers “probably anywhere from 50 to 300 calls a day, about the same amount of emails” from prospective visitors with questions about the park system’s campgrounds, shelters, and public events like festivals. Feeling like this role truly connects with her passion for the environment is a growth area.

But “I do feel like I am helping others,” she silver-lines, “since I help so many go out to the parks.” And indeed the proverbial ‘butts in seats,’ in this case, park-goers in bench and bicycle seats is a massive contributor to keeping said system alive and growing. 

Much of the time she is not urging others to get out in nature, or checking off a bucket list of state park visits herself, Caroline can be found in another leadership role that inspires. 

“Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting can be the magic thread which links the girls of the world together.” — Juliette Gordon Low

As a group leader, coordinator of special programming, and finalist for the prestigious Gold Award, she is frightfully close to being the magical Girl Scout described in the 1910s by Girl Scouts founder Juliette Low. “Girls Scouts is such an important organization and supports so many young girls,” Caroline emphasizes. 

A slide from Caroline's presentation for her Girl Scout troop.

Her passion for the physical environment has shaped her journey here, too. Very recently, Caroline executed a badge-earning activity based all around the Girl Scouts initiative known as the Climate Change Challenge. This fresh step in the Girl Scouts century-plus journey ”encourages girls to learn about climate change and take action in their communities.” 

For herself, Caroline espouses the mission of “wanting to preserve the world for future generations,” and she too-humbly admits, “I still don’t know how I am going to get there.”

While the specific action path may still be taking form, Caroline has the earmarks and strengths to make this happen in a variety of ways. She designed her badge-earning lesson plan to suit the needs of two different Girl Scout age groups and bring in a guest expert from among her out-of-state connections in the environmental field. Five years prior, she earned the highest award in the organization, the Gold Award, for 100-plus hours dedicated to guiding and advising an original literary magazine with the students of Belle Hall Elementary School in Mount Pleasant. Like many humble and incredible forces for change in the world, Caroline is farther along than she may think.

Photo: Caroline on receipt of her Gold Award in 2019.

When asked why organizations like the Girl Scouts are relevant in 2024, Caroline prefaces by saying, “I know that Girl Scouts is not for everyone. Some girls will thrive and achieve so much in scouts but that is not every girl. It just doesn’t work out like that.” Indeed, the girls of the modern-day South, of the United States, of the world are more individual than ever and no program will ever quite hit the mythical mark of being “one-size fits all.” Still though, seasoned members like Caroline continue to vouch for how the ten million Girl Scouts worldwide still benefit from the movement’s promotion of learning new skills, pursuing one’s passion, and cultivating a work ethic.

“Time isn’t something we have,” Caroline urges, returning to reflections on how Girl Scouts tackle climate change and other contemporary conversations about social justice. She sees climate education as a growth area that Girl Scouts are still working on, but she is hopeful that that growth comes sooner rather than later. I had to know also, from a personal standpoint, how Caroline feels about Girl Scouts of America accurately reflecting the changes seen in America’s girls. 

Self-exploration, including explorations of gender, Caroline admits, are some of the “hardest questions yet” that I’ve asked. “They are trying to modernize,” she begins. Like so many organizations and institutions that have moved forward across generations, the successes and struggles are side by side. 

She insightfully reminds me that not every seventh-grade girl is interested in STEM, from an individual perspective rather than a gendered one. “Currently the Cadettes (middle schoolers ages 11-14) have nine badges on cyber security, coding, and robotics. This is good…but it does take out a big chunk of badges.” Conversely, getting rid of home economics badges could be a hasty step in another direction. “One of my favorite badges when I was a girl was the sewing badge.”

I remember being a Brownie asking my mother if she would help me craft a sit-upon, seventies style, and ultimately begging her to take over the project. Individual perspectives indeed. 

Is it a safe space to question whether you’re a “girl” in the Girl Scouts, I asked. Are Girls and leadership investigating how gender impacts the expectations our youth are up against? 

Caroline takes a breath and offers that “Girl Scouts really promotes diversity,” to the extent that leadership can keep up with the times. Social media posts include support for LGBTQ+ Girl Scouts and leaders. But a “straight answer” still feels elusive for both Caroline and I, because many of these conversations are just beginning. “I do think there is room for differentiating opinions in Scouts,” she concludes. 

After some toothy intellectual conversation, Caroline and I finally reward ourselves with the fun stuff. I invite her to think about her experience as a girl with an advocate’s heart, about the girls that will follow us believing in sustainable climate and civic action. What do we say to the girls who feel they don’t have the power to change their world?

Your brain is your biggest weapon. Learn your facts and grow. Look and see where you can make your impact. A small jump is still a jump in the right direction. Believe in yourself.”

Something I’ve wondered countless times throughout our friendship is the wellspring behind Caroline’s energy. She’s a woman-in-progress as far as taking much needed breaks goes. She certainly practices what she talks about in wielding her brain as a weapon and making an impact.

“It’s hard,” Caroline readily acknowledges, a relief laugh puffing out of us both for the understatement of the year. “But if I want a better world for future generations I have to make a change. So I do what I can. I am overloaded but sadly most of my generation is. 

"We have a lot of weight on our shoulders, we just have to hope we can carry it.”


Interviewee + Parks

Caroline Hoy (linkedin)


About the Writer

Sarah Hajkowski is a poet, playwright, and journalist based on the East Coast, USA. In addition to Erato, she is a writer on, publishes plays to NPX: New Play Exchange, and freelances as a theatre artist. If not writing, she will be listening to music, watching horror movies, and connecting with likeminded humans.

Find out more at and reach out on social media.


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