Several high school students have turned over a new leaf this summer working with The Nature Conservancy. The students are part of the LEAF program, which is Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future.
“Well, so far my experience has been a mixture of exciting, inspiring and completely scary,” says Cynthia Marshall of Linden, New Jersey. “Hiking up mountains, being able to look over and see, like, there was a long drop I think has been the scariest thing for me, but everything else has just been exhilarating. During the trip I think one of the most memorable things for me were the project partners that we worked with. Some of them include DCR and the Virginia Department of Forestry, there’s been so many. I think that I really appreciate how patient they were with me and with all of my roommates, because we’ve never done this before. They’ve just really been so helpful and nice. Not in only just working with us, but actually talking to us, having an actual interest in what I want to be and if it has nothing to do with the environment, they still completely supported me. I think that it just added to my experience.”
The LEAF program is a paid internship. The students spent two weeks in Southwest Virginia and two weeks in the Alleghany Highlands. They have worked on a number of projects including invasive species removal, trail maintenance and water quality monitoring in the Cowpasture River.
“Originally I applied to program because I was a lost junior in high school, like that I did not know what I want to major in in college,” says Charlotte Huang of Brooklyn, New York. “At this period of time I think environmental studies is a very, like a hot topic in college or high school, plus my high school was an environmental theme high school which focused a lot in environmental studies. So I was seeking the opportunity to explore how working in nature would be like and to see if I really want to major in environmental when I grow up or contribute myself to the field work. I am like a nature person, but I have been living in the city forever and the most challenging is the bugs. I don’t know how to share my space with them and I find it very hard when they slip up on top of my head or something like that. So that’s like really challenging for me to like try to get used to sharing space not only with my teammates, but the bugs.”