Gaviota, Teshawna, Lily and Maggie weren’t quite sure what to expect when they started their four-week internship in Wisconsin, but they knew it would be different from home in New York.
“The first day in Wisconsin felt so weird because it was just so different. The quietness, the abundance of kind people and the vast stretches of farmland took me by surprise” said Maggie.
The young women, who attend environmental high schools in New York City, are part of The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program. LEAF is an ambitious effort, supported by the Toyota USA Foundation, to empower the next generation of conservation leaders and equip them with the skills and knowledge to address our world’s most pressing environmental challenges.
Together with their mentor Marissa Maggio, a high school teacher in New York City, the LEAF interns joined Wisconsin high school interns Frank, Lexi, Sarah and Kristi to help the Conservancy manage its lands and waters at Lulu Lake, Crooked Creek and other preserves in the Mukwonago River watershed.
The Wisconsin high school students are part of the Conservancy’s local summer internship program, which has been providing hands-on conservation skills and experience for the past 14 years. View our slideshow to meet all eight interns.
For four weeks, the interns helped monitor bluebird boxes, repaired a boat dock at Lulu Lake and removed non-native invasive plants like sweet clover, hedge parsley and thistles that threaten native plants and wildlife.
Along the way, they learned a lot about nature and themselves.
“My second day at work was a little challenging because it was my first time in a lake and I wanted to be brave and face my fears,” said Teshawna. “So I walked in the water through lily pads covered with bees. I made it through, and I felt proud to know I had conquered one of my challenges.”
“When I first got here and started working, I didn’t really like to sweat,” said Lily. “What’s changed is now I’m really appreciating the work we’re doing like monitoring bluebird boxes. It’s very satisfying, after the long, hot walk through the prairie to find the nests with bluebird eggs.”
“Back in New York, plants were just anything that was green and had leaves,” said Maggie. “At the end of the four weeks, the other interns and I were able to identify plants on our own outside the work environment.”
“The difference between the LEAF program and any other internship available is the amount of different things going on,” said Gaviota. “Not only did I experience everything I wanted to when it came to work and college visits, but I also learned so much about myself and what I am able to handle.”