Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future

This year, The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky joins 25 states in hosting Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future, or LEAF, interns. During their month in the Bluegrass State, LEAF interns will supplement classroom education with real world conservation and job skills training by working on maintaining trails, controlling invasive species and restoring critical habitat around the state.

“The main goal of the LEAF program is to engage urban youth in 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,” says Brigitte Griswold, the Conservancy’s Director of Youth Programs.

In its 19th year, the LEAF program provides paid, residential career internships for students on nature preserves around the country. The program also provides professional development opportunities to educators from partner high schools so that the learning can continue in the classroom.

Adds Griswold, “In today’s increasingly urban and digital world, many young people are growing up without meaningful experiences in nature – a trend which poses a serious threat to the future of our world. The more dis¬connected today’s youth are from natural landscapes, the less likely they are to care about nature later in life.”

While in Kentucky, LEAF interns will work on a variety of projects, including: 

  • Installing a kiosk and maintaining a trail to prepare a nature preserve opening;
  • Visiting the University of Kentucky, including its Research and Demonstration Farm;
  • Learning to identify non-native invasive species in the Kentucky River Palisades;
  • Touring the state capitol to learn about how the legislative process influences species and habitat conservation;
  • Planting native prairie and building bluebird houses at the Davis Bend Nature Preserve;
  • Studying mussels and stream ecology from canoes on the Green River;

“We are so pleased to be hosting for the first time a team of LEAF interns and their mentor,” says Laura Cook, the Conservancy’s Volunteer Coordinator in Kentucky. “The staff in Kentucky has worked hard to create a remarkably diverse and interesting itinerary for the LEAF interns. As a result, we expect we will learn much from them and hope they will leave here with a deep appreciation of the natural diversity of Kentucky and a better understanding of what it means to be a good steward of this planet.”


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