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Student Interns Headed for Adventure in Nature

The Nature Conservancy announced today that local students are departing for a summer adventure via its Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program. Three teenagers from New Haven’s Common Ground High School were selected for the competitive program.

NEW HAVEN, CT | July 07, 2011

The Nature Conservancy announced today that local students are heading departing for a summer adventure via its Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program.

Nationwide, about 70 students − many of whom have never spent time out of their city − will participate in the paid internship program from July 11 through August 5. Three teenagers from New Haven’s Common Ground High School were selected for the competitive program: Lanissa Gardner, Rheji Lamar Freeman and Alejandro Meran.

Freeman, a 17-year New Haven resident, will get his first taste of the Maine woods next week, where he’s hoping to learn about tree identification and other skills that will help him in his future goal of becoming a landscaper and horticulturist.

“I’ve always wanted to learn more about the environment,” said Freeman, who has attended Common Ground since he was a freshman. “I want to take that LEAF knowledge and bring it back to my school.”

During the course of their internships in Maine and Massachusetts, they will train for green jobs and enhance their classroom education by participating in conservation activities like trail building, environmental monitoring or invasive species management.

This is the 17th year of the LEAF program, whose mission is to engage urban youth in conservation activities now so that they will become stewards for our planet tomorrow. A recent survey of LEAF alumni found that the students are far more likely than their peers to engage in environmental issues as adults.

The program provides paid, residential career internships for students on nature preserves around the country and enriches these experiences in the classroom by providing professional development opportunities to educators from partner high schools.

This comprehensive, environmental leadership program serves students attending multicultural environmental high schools in urban areas including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Georgia. With the assistance of a $3.1 million grant from the Toyota USA Foundation, the program will also add new schools in California, Illinois and Massachusetts by 2012.

“Our main goal of the 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 Brigitte Griswold, director of Youth Programs for The Nature Conservancy.

“Providing students with the opportunity to participate in actual conservation projects is a great complement to their classroom learning and gives them hands-on experience they may not otherwise get during the school year,” she said.

Learn more about the students that LEAF serves and the Toyota USA Foundation that has provided funding for the program at

LEAF Alumni at a Glance:

• 93% reported increased interest in environmental issues
• 96% went straight to college after high school
• 49% reported that LEAF influenced their academic study
• 70% changed the environmental behavior of others
• 79% identify themselves as environmentalists
• 34% majored in life sciences vs. 6% of national average
• 52 % volunteer for environmental causes vs. 3% of national average
• 26% are employed full time vs. 15% of national average
• 72% go hiking vs. 12% of national average
• 33% have worked for an environmental organization vs. .06% of national average
• 67% believe that loss of natural areas is “extremely serious” vs. 22% of national average
• 73% believe that climate change is “extremely serious” vs. 37% of national average

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

Contact information

Misty Edgecomb
Senior Media Relations Manager

Related Links

  • Learn more about LEAF via our interactive map.

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