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Turning a New LEAF

Rhode Island

LEAF interns have the opportunity to make a difference in both nature and their own lives with a paid, four-week summer internship in conservation work.

Three girls zip over the cool waters of Ninigret Pond in Charlestown. Immersed in a coastal restoration project with the Conservancy, the interns are tasked with building an oyster reef to restore the pond’s natural oyster population. They travel by boat and snorkel through the clear waters, transporting and deploying oyster seed and recycled shell from area oyster bars. The end goal is to conserve the shoreline and improve the health of the pond, restoring a habitat that was once common in Rhode Island but has since all but disappeared.

LEAF helps youth from urban areas make a difference in nature and opens their eyes to exciting career opportunities in conservation and the sciences.

The girls work hard and connect with the work, opening their eyes to careers that, before, may have seemed abstract or out of reach.

At the end of her internship, one of the interns shares “LEAF totally changed my perspective and opened the doors to something that I just didn’t know existed, and I wouldn’t have known existed.” Another says “LEAF has given me a leg up on what I want to do.” With regards to what she wants to do, she explains “I want to go into marine biology; I want to work with mammals – beluga whales, specifically, because I love them.”

That was last year.

This July, we are very excited to give more young people from urban areas the opportunity to explore environmental science and careers in conservation. All rising seniors at the Central Falls High School’s Environmental Academy, eight new Rhode Island LEAF interns are preparing for a summer of conservation work around the Northeast.

These students are motivated to make a difference in both nature and their own lives, and they all have something to say about it:

Sharil Deleon explains “I want to work with others to help the environment and to be satisfied at the end about my work.”

Carlos Granillo tells us that he feels most fulfilled when he “helps people and the community.”

Harryson Quirindongo is looking towards a bright future, explaining “the hands-on experience I will gain from doing this will prepare me for a real job in science in the environment.”

Similarly, Nicole Medina notes that “this internship will give me the opportunity to explore environmental-related career paths.”

Angel Medina wants to spend his time “doing something to help the environment.”

Samantha Castrillon explains that, “through this program, I want to learn how to protect the planet.”

And for Aura Hernandez, it’s all about “restoring nature to the way it was.”

Rhode Island is a leader in implementing the LEAF program.

There are 140 students participating in the LEAF program across the country this year, and Rhode Island accounts for a full 10% of them. That’s not bad for a state that makes up 0.33% of America’s population! The Rhode Island LEAF program has grown by five times in four years and we look forward to sharing this impactful experience with many more students in the future.

To learn more about the LEAF program, contact Scott Comings at scomings@tnc.org or visit and explore nature.org/LEAF.

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