The Nature Conservancy Taps 10 Environmental Charter High School Students for Unique Summer Internships

First time month-long internships awarded to a California school: 7 girls going to Santa Cruz Island and 3 boys traveling to Montana 

Los Angeles California, | June 05, 2012

The Nature Conservancy, the world’s leading conservation organization, today announced that 10 students from Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) in Lawndale, California, have earned coveted spots in its Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program. The students, many of whom have never left the Los Angeles metropolitan area let alone spent time in the wilderness, will participate in a paid internship program engaging in conservation activities July 9—August 6.

During the course of the internship, they will work alongside Conservancy scientists to protect and restore habitat, save endangered species and remove non-native plants while learning about careers in conservation. In addition to completing four paid work weeks, the interns will also visit three colleges and enjoy recreational activities such as camping, kayaking and swimming. The ECHS juniors are destined for great summer adventures at two nature preserves.

Seven girls—Keira Adams, Alejandra Bautista, Stephanie Echeverria, Ashley Rios, Glenda Sanchez, Sharon Tam and Lenie Ventura—are heading to Santa Cruz Island to help restore the largest of California’s eight Channel Islands, 25 miles off the Ventura County coast. Their work will include stream sampling and studying rare species like the island fox and scrub-jay. More than 1,000 species of plants and animals inhabit the island’s high peaks, deep canyons, pastoral valleys and 77 miles of dramatic coastline. The island’s priceless environment supports hundreds of plant species, seabirds, seals, sea lions and many more marine species found nowhere else in the world.

Three boys—Justice Davis, Alfonso Macias and Patrick Valenzuela—are going to Centennial Sandhills Preserve to learn how natural landscapes can be places for both people and nature. Their work will include fence improvements to allow easier passage for large wildlife like elk, deer and antelope, while maintaining the integrity of the fences for ranching. The 1,400-acre preserve is a unique landscape in southwestern Montana and home to several rare plant species.

“We couldn’t be prouder of these students,” said Alison Suffet, founder and executive director of Environmental Charter Schools (ECS). The Nature Conservancy internships are incredible chance-of-a-lifetime opportunities for them to learn the importance of environmental preservation in such remarkable real-life settings. Undoubtedly, their experiences in Montana and on Santa Cruz Island will positively influence the course of the rest of their lives. Getting paid to do it is icing on the cake,” Suffet added.

With the assistance of a $3.1 million grant from the Toyota USA Foundation, this comprehensive environmental-leadership program for teenagers and their educators now serves approximately 20 environmental high schools across the country. This year’s LEAF students will be headed to nature preserves in Ariz., Calif., Colo., Conn., Fla., Ga., Ill., Maine, Md., Mass., Mont., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.D., R.I., Texas, Vt., Va., Wash., W. Va. and Wis.

The main goal of our LEAF program is to engage urban youth with environmental learning at a young age in hopes of fostering a passion for our planet that will stick with them both personally and professionally for the rest of their lives,” said Mike Sweeney, executive director, The Nature Conservancy in California, “Providing students with the opportunity to participate in actual conservation projects in ecologically sensitive places like Santa Cruz Island and Centennial Sandhills Preserve is a great complement to their classroom learning and gives them hands-on experience they may not otherwise get during the school year.”

Learn more about the LEAF program and get to know the California interns at

Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) is a network of free public K-12 schools that prepares students for four-year colleges through experiential learning and by exploring the environment as a learning tool both inside and outside the classroom. 

Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) was awarded U.S. News & World Report’s “Best High Schools” gold medals in its national, state and charter school rankings for 2012. The honors place ECHS in the top half of one percent of schools in the nation. In recent months, ECHS also won two prestigious “green” awards—a national Green Ribbon Schools Award presented for the first time ever by the U.S. Department of Education and a Los Angeles County Green Leadership Award. 

Contact Barbara Bishop, BBPR, Inc., at (310) 656-4668, go to or come take a student-led tour of one of our living campuses today to find out how ECS can help create a more ideal tomorrow.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Lisa Park
Sr. Media Relations Manager
601 S. Figueroa St., Ste. 1425
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Barbara Bishop

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