Patricia Pineda, Toyota Motor North America, Group Vice President, National Philanthropy and the Toyota USA Foundation, recently shared her thoughts about the Toyota USA Foundation’s role in the initiative.
Why has the Toyota USA Foundation decided to support LEAF?
When we developed the Toyota USA Foundation’s philanthropy focus on K-12 education, we wanted to emphasize mathematics, science and environmental science programs — areas where American students fall short relative to other countries. LEAF provides opportunities for youth to engage in environmental science at a critical time in their lives. We believe urban teens, in particular, are underserved by existing environmental education programs. LEAF’s mission to empower the next generation of diverse conservation leaders fits squarely within the Foundation’s giving priorities.
What do you expect to be the outcome of this gift?
We are hoping to help marry The Nature Conservancy’s scientific expertise and access to natural areas with lessons learned in environmental high schools to provide students with the web of mentors, alumni, and peers that is fundamental to successful youth development programs. Supplementing classroom lessons on ecology and conservation with the real-world experience of applying those lessons in the field has been proven to have 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.
This year Toyota has helped to double the number of participating environmental high schools and the number of students served through the program. Our hope is that, over the long term, this program will reach many other high schools and urban youth across the country.
Why did you choose The Nature Conservancy as a grantee for your education initiative?
The Nature Conservancy has a strong reputation as a leader in the conservation community. The Conservancy’s work over the past 60 years has produced a world-class educational resource. The land and water you have helped to protect represents a living laboratory for students to learn about ecosystems and, more importantly, to develop a passion for the wild world of nature that sustains us all. Plus, your scientists, naturalists and stewardship staff possess a wealth of knowledge and expertise to instill in curious young minds.