Eight women in blue tee shirts pose in a kiosk.
LEAF 2018 Interns with The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania. © Gates Rhodes

Stories in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Welcomes LEAF

Each summer, high school students dedicate a month to advancing The Nature Conservancy's mission.

Each July, The Nature Conservancy’s Pennsylvania Chapter hosts students participating in the nationally-acclaimed Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program, which deploys interns attending urban, environmentally-themed high schools to TNC nature preserves around the country. 

“Some of these students have never spent an extended time out in nature, and so this is an opportunity of a lifetime,” says Molly Anderson, TNC’s Volunteer Coordinator in Pennsylvania.

In 2018, the following students—Marlayah Savage, Clara Chaplin-Loebell, Alannah McCall, Kole Morton, Vanessa Garzon, Sara Larkin and Julia Famiglietti—helped TNC advance its mission as LEAF interns. They were joined by mentors are Juanita Falice and Anna Davis.

According to Anderson, the Pennsylvania LEAF interns maintained trails, removed invasive weeds and restored fragile habitat at the Conservancy’s nature preserves. They also assisted with building a picnic area, a firepit and installing interpretive signage at TNC’s Hauser Nature Center in the Pocono mountains.

“One of many special things about our 2018 team is that one of their mentors, Juanita, served as a LEAF intern in Pennsylvania back when she was in high school,” adds Anderson.

Coming back as a mentor has felt like paying it forward. As someone who received so much support and guidance as an intern, now that I am in a position to give back. It’s important that I do.

Co-Mentor

In addition to completing on-the-ground conservation work, TNC’s Pennsylvania LEAF interns visited colleges and interacted with conservation professionals to explore a path to environmental careers.

“You can’t aspire to what you don’t know. A summer job in nature can help shape a student’s future career,” says Alexis Vaughn, Director of Strategic Initiatives for TNC’s Global Cities program. “LEAF gives young people an opportunity to explore, to learn about nature and about themselves.”

Surveys indicate that many former LEAF interns have continued with their passion for conservation, and are now working in the field as national park rangers, environmental engineers and environmental science teachers. They also volunteer for environmental causes in their communities.

Vaughn adds, “Engaging students to take direct action in support of nature through conservation projects in Pennsylvania and around the country is a great complement to classroom learning, and brings science to life in ways they may not experience during the school year,” Vaughn said.

National conservation activities created by LEAF and TNC’s Youth Engagement Programs are made possible through support from Lowe's. The company has supported the Conservancy’s work for more than a decade, contributing more than $14 million to protect important freshwater and forest lands across North America, to help communities become more resilient, and to advance environmental youth programs and help build the next generation of conservationists.