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Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future

The LEAF program provides paid summer internships for students in nature preserves across the nation and helped educators from environmental high schools share best practices and scientific resources during the academic year. The program has had a tremendous impact on urban youth—opening their eyes to career possibilities, building self-confidence, work skills and conservation literacy.

This is the 20th year of the LEAF Program, whose mission is to engage urban youth in conservation activities now so that they will become stewards for our planet tomorrow. Since 1995, LEAF has expanded from one to 27 participating states and over 700 interns have participated.

The LEAF Model:

  • Supplements environmental education in the classroom with real-world experiences for urban youth;
  • Supports a network of environmentally-themed high schools sharing best practices in urban environmental education;
  • Increases student awareness of higher education and career paths in conservation.

Thanks to support from the Toyota USA Foundation, LEAF continues to work with environmental high schools across the nation to combine classroom lessons with real-world conservation work experience for urban youth. For the 2014 season LEAF is serving students and educators from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington.

The long-term goal of LEAF is to support more than 30 environmental high schools across the country.

Partnership in Action

Combining The Nature Conservancy’s scientific expertise and access to nature preserves with lessons learned in environmental high schools provides students with a web of mentors, alumni and peers fundamental to successful youth development programs. Supplementing classroom lessons on ecology and conservation with the real world application of those lessons in the field has a tremendous impact on students’ lives — opening their eyes to career possibilities, building self-confidence, independence, work skills, conservation literacy and a love of the outdoors.

Empowering Future Conservation Leaders

Global conservation consistent with the Conservancy’s mission requires the type of diverse constituency of support that the LEAF program – aimed at urban youth – is designed to provide. Urbanization is a growing national and international trend. More than half the world’s population already resides in cities. In the United States, that number is now more than 80 percent. By targeting urban youth from populations largely underrepresented in the conservation movement, the LEAF program is training and developing the next generation of conservation leaders.

The Conservancy’s LEAF program offers urban youth both career development and a hands-on environmental stewardship experience. Working with mentors and scientists, LEAF interns are well-supported and guided to gain work and life skills within a context of connecting with nature. These types of mentored experiences in nature are the key component to producing life-long conservation supporters.

For more information on LEAF, or to sponsor a student, please contact

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