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Summer Stewardship Begins for Urban Youth

New York City High School Students Head Into the Wilderness to Grow and Connect with Nature

NEW YORK, NY | July 08, 2010

Sixty nine urban high school students and mentors will leave Manhattan on Monday, July 12th, to participate in The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) Program. LEAF works to connect urban youth with nature by providing students from environmental high schools with paid residential summer internships on nature preserves. 

The students' departure to Conservancy preserves - from the rocky coasts of Maine to the longleaf pine forests of Georgia - comes at a time of increasing national debate over the growing disconnect between young people and their ability and desire to experience the outdoors.

In April, President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors. “Children, especially, are spending less time outside running and playing, fishing and hunting, and connecting to the outdoors”, Obama said. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson agrees: “Too many of our cities have limited access to parks for children, low-income residents and communities of color. Improving access to open areas and green space in our urban communities should be a focus of a 21st century conservation strategy,”

For many of the students, LEAF offers their first in-depth experience of natural environments. Launched in 1995, the program is a partnership with seven environmentally themed high schools in the New York metro area. 

Josh Carrera, an alumnus from the 2007 program, says “LEAF gave me the opportunity to leave New York City, be outdoors and live on my own. I went camping for the first time, saw the night sky like never before and felt empowered as I worked to pull invasive weeds and plant trees” Josh’s experiences in 2007 set him on a career path in conservation and helped him to pursue a full scholarship from The University of Vermont’s School of Natural Resources.

The program sends students in groups of three with trained mentors on a four-week field season, where they live and work on Conservancy preserves in eleven states throughout the Eastern US. Conservancy staff teach the students basic land management, public outreach and scientific research skills in a safe and supervised environment. The interns also enjoy other first time activities such as camping, kayaking, and swimming.

They learn about career opportunities in conservation, complete four 35-hour paid work weeks, and visit three colleges. Students also develop critical life and workplace skills while living independently, away from their friends and families.

Brigitte Griswold, the program’s Director, states “LEAF allows students to take what they’ve learned inside the classroom and literally apply it outside through a paid summer job with The Nature Conservancy. Many of these teenagers rarely get the opportunity to spend extended time in nature and explore colleges outside of the City. As a result, the program has profound impacts on the students’ awareness of higher education and professional paths in conservation fields.”

LEAF is made possible by The Nature Conservancy and leading support from the Toyota USA Foundation. The 2010 summer internship program runs from July 12 until August 6.

For more information, visit LEAF.

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

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Abbey Berman

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