Stewarding Our Future in Massachusetts:

Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future

By the time LEAF interns leave, they've learned about new careers, checked out colleges, built self-confidence, learned work skills and gained new respect for conservation and the outdoors.

This will be a summer to long remember for six students and recent graduates of Boston Green Academy, this year’s crop of interns in The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program.

The interns—most of whom have never spent extended time out of the city, let alone one-on-one with frogs and deer and mosquitoes—will participate in a paid internship program from July 9 through August 3.

While The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts has hosted LEAF interns from New York City and other cities in past summers, this is the Conservancy’s first summer of hosting students from Boston Green Academy in the Bay State.

One team of three interns and their adult mentor will work an array of outdoor conservation activities in Martha’s Vineyard, while another team goes to the Berkshires. During their internships, they’ll remove invasive species, build and maintain trails, raise native plants and care for shorebird nesting areas. They’ll also train for green jobs, visit college campuses and enhance their classroom education with conservation work.

“We’re excited to offer these students a total immersion in nature, to change the way they see the world and their place in it, and open their eyes to the idea of working in conservation someday,” said Wayne Klockner, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.

“Boston Green Academy's partnership with the Nature Conservancy's LEAF Program is core to our mission. This powerful experience will transform our students and serve as a catalyst for their environmental activism,” said Ariel Martinez, development director at Boston Green Academy, a Horace Mann Charter School that was founded in fall 2011 to prepare high school students to be leaders in environmental stewardship and activism, with a focus on preparing them for jobs in the growing green economy.

Meet this year’s LEAF interns:

Erikka Blackstone wants to be a businesswoman, and she sees the connection between Boston’s environment and its economic success. Excited to be away from home for the first time, she’s looking forward to developing a new view on the world.

Alexandrine Vilson is interested in a career in medicine, and is intrigued by the connections between nature the development of new treatments for cancer and other diseases. She looks forward to learning how to ride a bike and going camping.

Daniel Felix sees her future in engineering, and is interested in developing new solutions to air pollution and other urban challenges. She looks forward to the quiet that she’ll experience away from the city and having her first real job. She’ll study at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the fall.

Michael Dottin-Godbold loves nature, but never has the time he’d like to spend outside. He’s considering a career as a therapist, and will be headed to Bay State College in the fall.

Bless Amedoadzi loves chemistry and wants to study nursing. He volunteers to keep his neighborhood green and beautiful, and is excited to bring that energy to a new environment.

Gerardo Reyes wants to help develop clean engines someday. He’s never been out in nature for more than a day, and is excited to get out of the city and try ziplining. “This world deserves people who can take care of it,” Reyes said. “We can be those people, we just need to take action and learn from our mistakes.”

Nationally, this is the 18th 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. 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 for teenagers and their educators now serves approximately 20,000 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, Washington, and Illinois this summer.

“The 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 in places like the Vineyard is a great complement to their classroom learning and gives them hands-on experience they may not otherwise get during the school year,” Griswold said.

Learn more about the students that LEAF serves, the Toyota USA Foundation and about this unique partnership model at

Recent articles about LEAF in Massachusetts:

See a 2011 summary of LEAF alumni impacts

Connecting America's Youth to Nature: A national survey of youth and the outdoors.   




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