"[Working with LEAF interns is] just a constant burst of new perspectives."
By Ann-Marie Alcántara
Covered in mud, Matt Levy thought the nesting platform for ospreys on the Otter Creek Preserve was hopeless. After an afternoon of building and two unsuccessful attempts of trying to raise the platform, he was ready to tell his team of four high-school interns, working with him for the summer as part of the LEAF program, that the project was finished. But LEAF interns aren’t known for giving up on projects. So before Matt could deem the project a failure, his team brainstormed and thought of a new way of putting the platform in place. As they raised it for a third time, it finally slid into the correct position. Amid the cheers of happiness Matt remembered why he had LEAF interns: “The initiative and innovative these girls have – it’s just a constant burst of new perspectives,” he says.
Matt Levy is no city kid. Growing up near forests, fields and streams, Matt loved nature and saw why it needed the protection The Nature Conservancy offers. Housing developments, overgrazing, mining and clear-cutting were destroying the lands he loved. For these exact reasons, Matt started to volunteer at a Westchester County preserve during his summers off from high school. Later, he returned to the preserve during his college breaks to work as the seasonal stewardship assistant. After receiving his environmental studies degree, he came back. Now, 15 years since his first stint as a volunteer, Matt is the Stewardship Operations Coordinator for the Eastern New York chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
In this position Matt single-handedly oversees the stewardship work at the nearly 40 preserves in this area. So when the LEAF interns return every summer, he welcomes the help and company. “I embrace the extra hands and help in getting an assortment of stewardship projects done,” Matt says. “I’ve come to see and appreciate the really positive impact the program always has on the kids.” The arrival of the LEAF interns ready to tackle any stewardship work is refreshing and allows Matt to get a lot of work done. In addition to the extra support he receives in his projects, Matt is even happier of the positive impact the LEAF program has on the interns. After all, it’s not every day you’re standing next to teenagers who view you as a role model and see their lives changed from the work you do every day. In Matt Levy’s eyes, it’s all a win-win for nature.