Meet the New Faces of Conservation

Immersed in nature for the first time, young women work in stunning outdoor classrooms across Arizona.

LEAF Memories 2013

See the students in action!


“They have been bravely facing down their fears. These girls haven't given anything less than their best since they've been here.”

-Amy Zimmermann, LEAF Mentor

Places They Visited

Four teens from Atlanta traded in summer break for a step toward their future…and into the wilds of Arizona. 

The students are in The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program, a paid internship to empower the next generation of conservationists. 

Wearing work gloves, boots and lots of sunscreen, the urban teens experienced environmental science firsthand, doing trail and fence maintenance, streamside restoration, native plant monitoring, GPS training, and irrigation ditch repairs. 

"They have minimal outdoor experience but have been bravely facing down their fears — of spiders, lizards, snakes, and heights — and conquering them one by one," says Amy Zimmermann, an AmeriCorps volunteer who served as a mentor.

"They haven't loved everything we've had them do, but they do it wholeheartedly. These girls haven't given anything less than their best since they've been here."  

Imani Jordan (third from left in the group photo above)

An aspiring marine or environmental biologist, Imani balances her science-y side with her love of drawing, playing the tuba and cross-country running. During her LEAF interview, Imani waxed poetic about bio sequestration with the same fervor as starting her own clothing line. Well-rounded, for sure. A former camp counselor, Imani is looking forward to her first rafting experience.  

Valeria Lake (second from right)

In the very near future, someone will figure out how to make ‘Valeria Lake’ into an adjective to convey epicness. Let’s say you know someone who has a 3.9 GPA, belongs to the National Honor's Society, FCCLA, JNHS, and is the president of Beta Club. The youngest of six children, Valeria wants to be a lawyer and LEAF has opened her interest in incorporating the environment into her lawyerly pursuits. Valeria cites building a greenhouse from water bottles and bamboo as her favorite EIC project. Oh. And she’s been dirt biking. 

Alexis Smoot (second from left)

They call her Smoot. She is one of those adventurous people you admire from afar and think, “Hm, that could have been me if I were keenly interested in kayaking, camping, fishing, swimming, zip-lining, and playing softball.” Smoot has attended environmentally themed schools since she was in 6th grade. Though she has not made up her mind about her future career, she knows it will be in the medical field. One of her favorite memories is camping in Key West and watching the sun set. When she is not playing the clarinet to relax she is enjoying Mediterranean foods and sushi. 

Brittany Thompson (far right)

Watching British television, playing the violin, devouring a John Green novella, knitting, and participating in Girl Scouts. In her un-spare time, she serves as parliamentarian in 4-H, is a member of the Technology Student Association, Beta Club, and National Honor Society. Brittany has ambitions to be a marine biologist. Her biggest accomplishment so far, she says, is keeping a 3.7 GPA while taking three AP classes. And no one but Brittany can say, “I am a teenager who prefers to email than text,” and make it seem inspired.


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