Put down the iPhone.
Could you turn down a month-long, paid internship, helping protect a beautiful forest? But there’s a catch: you have to give up your computer. And TV. And iPod.
Now imagine you are a teenager. Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).*
“We can’t assume that kids today are chasing fireflies or playing in the snow,” said Brigitte Griswold, director of youth programs for The Nature Conservancy. “If we value clean air and water, parks and wild places for recreation and the many benefits we get from protecting our natural resources, we have to actively cultivate the next generation of people who will care for our world.”
The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program tackles this challenge. For 20 years, the program has pulled kids from environmental high schools away from laptops and video games and sent them outside.
Thanks to generous support from the Toyota USA Foundation, 24 students from Arabia Mountain High, an environmentally-focused public school in suburban DeKalb County, Georgia, were part of this year’s LEAF class.
Packing plenty of bug spray and sturdy boots, these lucky kids set off in July for a grand adventure:
- Six young women went to Wyoming to help with invasive species removal, trail maintenance and more.
- Delaware was the destination for six young women, where they are conducting water quality health assessments and learning about urban agriculture.
- Six young women worked in Kentucky, experiencing the region's cave ecosystems and helping staff with restoration and research projects.
- Six young men stayed here in Georgia. They helped with trail maintenance at Moody Forest near Baxley and learned about oyster reef restoration on the Georgia coast.
About the LEAF Program
The LEAF program is designed to engage urban youth in conservation activities now so that they will become leaders and stewards for our planet tomorrow. The program also supports teachers at partner environmental high schools by providing professional development.
Students apply and compete for this life-changing work and educational experience, which is designed to enhance classroom knowledge while exposing students to careers in the emerging green economy. Participating schools have been recognized by the Department of Education as schools that save energy, reduce costs and exemplify environmentally sustainable learning spaces and educational programs to boost academic achievement and community engagement.
The LEAF experience has influenced its alumni to go from the comfortable life of their city block to pursue projects in the Amazon rainforest, hike the world’s highest peaks and find careers in sustainable urban planning—all things that would never have been thought possible without their eye-opening internship with this program.
More than 34 percent of LEAF alumni go on to pursue professional paths in environmental fields, and more than 50 percent go on to volunteer for environmental causes in their communities.
This comprehensive environmental leadership program for teenagers and their educators now serves approximately 25 environmental high schools in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Connecticut and Georgia.
Learn more about the students that LEAF serves, the Toyota USA Foundation—the program’s lead supporter—and this unique partnership model.