LEAF Alumni

Cynthia Maldonado

Cynthia Maldonado is a native New Yorker who is currently an Environmental Studies major on a Social Science track at Davidson College in North Carolina. At the age of 21, she took advantage of a student exchange program offered by her university and spent a few months in the Brazilian Amazon.

Cynthia wanted to learn about the forest, but what she soon discovered is that conservation in the region goes beyond protecting trees and animals. It’s also about making people’s lives better.

Cynthia’s interest in the natural world bloomed in 2009, when she interned for the Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in the Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF). LEAF engages urban youth in conservation activities now so that they will become stewards for our planet tomorrow.

The program provides paid jobs for students on nature preserves around the country and enriches these experiences in the classroom by providing professional development opportunities to educators from green partner high schools. For many students, it is their first time away from their homes. Over 30 percent of surveyed LEAF alumni went on to pursue environmental career paths, more than five times higher than the national average.

Cynthia spent four weeks in Vermont, where she found that even a “city person,” as she defines herself, could fall in love with conservation.

Four years later, during her Amazon student exchange, Cynthia had the opportunity to confirm her passion for nature and she also got to experience what life is like in the rural and the urban communities of the region. These eye opening events have forever changed her perspective on conservation.