Three high school students from The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC)Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program are working at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island this summer.
The interns are three of about 150 students from across the country, many of whom have never spent extended time out in nature — let alone one-on-one with worms and toads — who are participating in a paid conservation internship program at TNC properties from July 5 through August 1.
During their internship, the students will train for green jobs and enhance their classroom education by participating in conservation activities like removing invasive plant species, surveying protected lands and monitoring tree health. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy already sustains more than three million green jobs, and many of these fields are growing.
This comprehensive environmental leadership program serves students attending environmentally-themed high schools in urban areas across the country. Andy Llerena, Aaron Ross and Hildeberto Sierra, as well as mentor Manny Ramirez, all hail from the New York City area. Andy and Aaron both attend the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, while Hildeberto studies at the New York Harbor School.
Mashomack has been hosting urban youth interns since the mid-1990s.
“These students work hard and really help us out during our busy summer season,” said land steward Dan Ritzler, who is their site supervisor at Mashomack. “Living in the woods and seeing so many different aspects of conservation work really opens their eyes to the variety of career options in the natural world.”
“The goal of the LEAF program is to expose youth from urban communities to nature and conservation careers at a young age to ensure a passion for the environment that will stick with them both personally and professionally for the rest of their lives,” said Angela Brisson, Acting Director of Youth Engagement Programs for TNC. “Providing students with the opportunity to engage in actual conservation projects in areas such as Mashomack is a great complement to their classroom learning, and gives them hands-on experience they may not otherwise get during the school year.”
For 23 years, the LEAF program has engaged young people from urban communities in conservation activities today in the hope they will become stewards for the planet tomorrow. The program provides paid internships for students on conservation projects across the United States and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and enriches these experiences in the classroom by partnering with environmental high schools across the country.
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, 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.