Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future

The LEAF program works to grow the next generation of conservation leaders by providing paid summer internships for students in nature across the nation each July. The program has had a tremendous impact on youth—opening their eyes to career possibilities, building self-confidence, work skills and conservation literacy.

This is the 22nd year of the LEAF program working to engage youth from urban communities in conservation activities today, so that they will become stewards for our planet tomorrow. Since 1995, LEAF has expanded from one to 28 participating states, and over 1,000 young people have participated.

As part of the Conservancy's Conservation Career Pathway – comprised of high school internships, college internships and post-graduation two-year fellowships – the LEAF model supplements environmental education in the classroom with real-world experiences for youth from urban communities, and increases student awareness of higher education and career paths in conservation.

National conservation activities created by LEAF and The Nature Conservancy's Youth Engagement Programs is made possible through support from Lowe's. 

Partnership in Action

Combining The Nature Conservancy’s scientific expertise and access to nature preserves with lessons learned in environmental high schools provides students with a web of mentors, alumni and peers fundamental to successful youth development programs. Supplementing classroom lessons on ecology and conservation with the real world application of those lessons in the field has a tremendous impact on students’ lives — opening their eyes to career possibilities, building self-confidence, independence, work skills, conservation literacy and a love of the outdoors.

Empowering Future Conservation Leaders

Global conservation consistent with the Conservancy’s mission requires the type of diverse constituency of support that the LEAF program – aimed at youth from cities and urban communities – is designed to provide. Urbanization is a growing national and international trend. More than half the world’s population already resides in cities. In the United States, that number is now more than 80 percent. 

The Conservancy’s LEAF program offers urban youth both career development and a hands-on environmental stewardship experience. Working with mentors and scientists, LEAF interns are well-supported and guided to gain work and life skills within a context of connecting with nature. These types of mentored experiences in nature are the key component to producing life-long conservation supporters.

Many former LEAF interns have continued with their passion for conservation, and are now working in the field as national park rangers, environmental engineers, environmental science teachers, and in careers helping to connect future generations to nature at some of the world’s largest environmental organizations. Over 30 percent of surveyed LEAF alumni go on to pursue environmental careers, and over 50 percent volunteer for environmental causes in their communities.

For more information on LEAF, or to sponsor a student, please contact leaf@tnc.org.


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