“Conservation in the 21st Century will only succeed if we can engage the people who reflect the changing demographics of the world.”
— Brigitte Griswold
Brigitte Griswold: Urban Youth Advocate
Brigitte Griswold is the director of youth programs for The Nature Conservancy's New York program — overseeing for the past seven years the Conservancy's first urban youth initiative, Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF). LEAF is designed to provide opportunities for underserved youth to develop a direct relationship with and appreciation for nature.
The program provides paid summer internships for students in natural areas across the nation and helps educators from environmental high schools share best practices and scientific resources during the academic year. High school students participating in LEAF are divided into groups of three and paired with mentors for a four-week field season in July. They leave New York City to live work, and play on nature preserves.
Brigitte grew up on a farm in rural South Carolina and spent her childhood immersed in the natural world. That connection to nature is what inspired her to protect it when she grew into adulthood.
“When I moved to New York City 12 years ago, I witnessed a whole generation of urban youth who were growing up disconnected from nature,” she says. “That has frightening implications not only for children's health and well being, but also for future conservation support. Access to nature should be the right of every child, regardless of economic or social background — and I am so privileged to get to work every day to help empower urban youth through nature.”
Brigitte has made diversity and nature her life's work:
- She serves on the Diversity Council of the Land Trust Alliance and The North American Association for Environmental Education.
- She leads the Education Advisory Panel of The National Forum on Children & Nature and is a regional leader of the Children and Nature Network.
- In 2009, she was awarded a fellowship with Green For All for her work to create jobs for urban youth in the conservation field. Green For All is a national organization dedicated to building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.
The Important Link Between Diversity and Conservation
The very relevance and continued effectiveness of conservation organizations — including the Conservancy — depends on diversity. Conservation is going global — and those organizations with a diversity of people, ideas, and perspectives will lead the key to innovative solutions and support for effective policy measures.
“Today’s youth are more urban, more diverse, and more technologically advanced than any previous generation in history,” Brigitte said. “What we do today to engage a diverse array of young people in our work will ensure our conservation success in the future.”