Western Maryland's 2019 LEAF cohort set a path at Wills Mountain.
Inspiring Tomorrow's Leaders Western Maryland's 2019 LEAF cohort set a path at Wills Mountain. © Bianca Bowman / TNC

Stories in Maryland/DC

High School Internships and Training

Youth advocacy and engagement in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” goes the saying generally attributed to President Abraham Lincoln. At The Nature Conservancy, we couldn’t agree more.

As the world’s leading conservation organization, we believe in addressing the root cause of any problem, including environmental injustice. Good policy is most often the result of an informed, engaged and knowledgeable citizenry, and empowering the next generation of environmental advocates will help create a future where environmental policy is grounded in science.

Leaders for Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF)

LEAF 2019 The 2019 LEAF interns describe their experiences in their own words.

For two weeks in July, 2019, a cohort of six students from western Maryland's Allegany and Garrett Counties took part in hands on field experiences to explore local forest landscapes and learn about careers in conservation. 

The LEAF interns were diverse in gender, aspirations and socioeconomic backgrounds, but the students all shared a common interest: environmental conservation. 

The group helped to install a beaver baffle at Finzel Swamp Preserve; cleared space for larch trees; collected deer ticks for a study being conducted at Frostburg State University; built and installed a new interpretive sign at the Sideling Hill Creek Preserve; and used the iNaturalist app to identify and map mushroom species.

The students were also exposed to the role of policy in conservation. They took the lessons learned from the chapter's vigorous youth advocacy training program and put them into practice during a day spent meeting with local Allegany County elected officials.

Youth Advocacy Training

TNC's Maryland/DC chapter has created a youth advocacy training that teaches teens how to use their civic voices effectively by exploring real, local environmental policy issues with TNC professionals.

Through our access to elected officials, our youth training program often includes experiences where students meet with lawmakers to deliver their own environmental advocacy strategies. In 2019, more than 200 high school students participated in our advocacy training, including two sessions that we led at the United Nations Youth Assembly.

Georgetown Day School Summer Service Program

In 2018, students from the Georgetown Day School’s Summer Service Program spent several weeks focused on issues related to local environmental justice. One of the stops on their rotation was the Rock Creek Park Conservancy, which invited members from our staff to spend two days with the students to deliver our in-demand youth advocacy training program.

The program, led by members of the chapter's Urban Conservation, Government Relations and Science teams, guides students through the process of developing an advocacy strategy, from identifying the problem and defining success to engaging with stakeholders and working with decisionmakers.

We challenged the students to come up with a solution to the problem of plastic waste in the Anacostia River. With our guidance, the students drafted a multi-faceted policy proposal to reduce plastic pollution in the District. We then arranged for these students to pitch their proposal to three members of the Council of the District of Columbia. This meeting intensified the Council’s discussion around the need to act to reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the Anacostia.

During 2019's training and workshop, students presented their advocacy proposals to special guests Jess Sanders, director of technical services and research for Casey Trees; Tommy Wells, director of the Washington, DC Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE); Kate Ireland, TNC's director of youth programs; Maryland/DC chapter board member Elizabeth Lewis.

United Nations Youth Assembly

Because of TNC's stellar reputation at the United Nations, we were invited in 2018, and again in 2019, to deliver our youth advocacy training to students attending the UN Youth Assembly. 

Members of the Maryland/DC chapter staff shared how policy affects the environment. Young men and women representing more than 30 nations were challenged to think about conservation issues in their respective countries, and to develop realistic policy solutions to take home and share with elected officials.

By working with youth, we are building the next generation of environmental leaders. When young people feel connected to nature and to their communities, they are inspired to support both into the future.