“Getting out and just going outdoors, you get to see what’s really around you.”
-Aleonya Hunter, Denver School for Science and Technology
A self-proclaimed optimist, 17-year-old Aleonya Hunter is overjoyed to spend a month away from texting and social media this July.
A junior at The Denver School for Science and Technology, she is one of four high school students from urban environments who will be spending their summer outdoors in Colorado as part of the Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for Future program, or LEAF.
This summer—for the first time in LEAF history—all of Colorado’s interns are young women. Their motivation and passion for nature and science shone through in each of their applications.
“Living in Denver you don’t really get to see the stars,” Aleonya remarks, explaining her excitement for her summer internship. “Getting out and just going outdoors, you get to see what’s really around you.”
The four interns will work on preserves across Colorado, learning about conservation in a hands-on, stunning outdoor classroom. For many of LEAF’s interns, this program will be their first outdoor experience.
The independence and freedom that comes from a month spent with LEAF is a new learning opportunity for many of the interns, as well.
“Being away from home is a chance to prepare for college,” Aleonya says. Although she is unsure of what she will study, biology is her favorite subject, and she’s excited to learn more about ecosystem and animal interactions this summer.
“I just hope I don’t get a spider bite,” she laughs. “I’m not great with spiders.”
Women in Science
LEAF is all about empowering the next generation of conservation leaders, and this year seems especially significant with the all-female group.
While the number of women with doctorates in science, technology, engineering and math fields is slowly rising, men still dominate the education and work place.
According to the National Science Foundation, the percentage of women in physical sciences and mathematics continues to lag far behind that of men. The number of women in engineering and computer sciences remains well below 30 percent.
In a field where women are still the minority, it’s encouraging to see the confidence and intelligence that this year’s Colorado interns bring to the table.
Strengthening Science Education
Since 1995, the LEAF program has had a tremendous impact on urban youth—opening their eyes to career possibilities, building self-confidence, work skills and conservation literacy.
The LEAF program works with a select group of environmental high schools, including the Denver School for Science and Technology, and provides paid summer internships for students in natural areas across the nation. It also helps educators from environmental high schools share best practices and resources during the academic year.
This year's program was made possible through a renewed $4 million grant from the Toyota USA Foundation.
This summer, LEAF is serving students and educators from Colorado, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington.
Inspired? You can help our future conservation leaders!