Keeping the Wilderness Wild

Reese Borlin

Scholar, Eagle Scout, Volunteer, Athlete—Reese D. Borlin hopes to eventually add “Park Ranger” to the list of titles he has earned so far. As a forestry major at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Reese focuses his studies on forest recreation and park management, often venturing outside the classroom. In the past few years, Reese has visited 20 national parks and numerous state and national forests and recreational areas. He is pictured here near a frozen alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“The time I’ve spent backpacking, hiking, and trail running through our public lands has shaped who I am and what I value,” Reese says of his passion for protecting nature. Reese is excited by the “prospect of working to help others safely and sustainably enjoy our natural areas,” and he hopes that a career as a park ranger will allow him to “help others to see the value in keeping public lands public and wilderness wild.”

Given his love for the outdoors, Reese’s participation in extracurricular activities such as Boy Scouts of America is unsurprising. In high school, Reese took on an Eagle Scout project at a local park, where he explored the “many different ways a natural area can have a positive effect on the community.” He also became a member of the Order of the Arrow, and was named Outstanding Senior Patrol Leader in his troop. An avid runner since the sixth grade, Reese served as co-captain of his high school varsity cross country team. He qualified for the 2019 Boston Marathon, and discovered an interest in ultramarathons. “An ‘ultra’ is any race longer than the traditional marathon,” Reese explains. He is fascinated by “the idea of looking at perceived limits of human ability and determination and then pushing past them.”

Reese recalls one ultramarathon where he and other contestants were challenged to complete as many circuits of a 2.5 mile loop as possible within six hours. In pursuit of his 45-mile goal, Reese says that he finished the race because of willpower alone. “When life is simplified into a black and white choice to continue or to turn back, to succeed or fail,” he says, “limits become increasingly obvious. I know my limit lies somewhere beyond those 45 miles, and I intend to find it.”

This “deeply rooted drive” to put forth his best effort is what led Reese to succeed academically in high school. As in his marathon running, Reese tried to not merely go through the motions but to focus on his goals and be mindful of the value his hard work held. The high standards Reese set for himself led to his National Merit Scholarship Program recognition. “I am honored to have won this award,” he says, “and I have found that the ‘National Merit Scholar’ title is incredibly recognizable. I have had people I barely know find me at school to offer congratulations.” He adds that “donating to NMSC is a way to make sure the leaders of the future have access to the education they need.” With his commitment to “protecting the land for future generations,” and his endless pursuit of excellence both in and outside of the classroom, Reese is well on his way to becoming the kind of leader NMSC is proud to honor.

Via National Merit Corporation