Sometimes it takes a different perspective to help you appreciate the nature of Maine.
At The Nature Conservancy, we’re lucky to get a new perspective every summer, with the arrival of young interns through our Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program.
This year’s crew consists of eight students from Rhode Island, some of whom have seldom spent extended time out of their city, let alone one-on-one with blackflies and mosquitoes. They’ll participate in a paid internship program that brings them into the heart of nature in Maine for the next month.
During their internship here, they’ll enhance their classroom education and learn job skills by participating in conservation activities like pulling invasive plants, surveying streams and maintaining trails.
The Nature Conservancy’s LEAF program is nearly 20 years old. We engage young people from city schools in conservation activities today so they’ll become stewards for our planet tomorrow. The program provides paid, residential career-level internships for students.
It also provides a paid mentor – who not only drives them around 6 days a week, but also ensures they visit at least 3 colleges, keep a journal, balance their food and recreation budget, plan, prepare and clean up from meals as well as get them to work on time with lunch, bug spray, sunscreen and help them deal with all the other stuff teenagers go through.
This summer, LEAF students will work for The Nature Conservancy in 27 states. Since 1995, this environmental leadership program for teenagers and their educators has served students attending environmentally-themed high schools in urban areas including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia, Colorado, Rhode Island, California, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The continued expansion of the LEAF program nationwide is due to leading support from the Toyota USA Foundation.
Some years our student crews in Maine have come from Chicago, New York and New Haven, CT. This summer, students are coming from Central Falls, RI (near Providence). One crew consists of four high school young men from: Harrison Quirindonge, Angel Medina, Christian Huertas Hernandez and Carlos Granillo Almirez.
They’ll be working in the largely agricultural communities in the County assessing road stream crossings so those data can be used by the state, municipalities and landowners in those communities to direct funding to road with the highest need and potential benefit for fish passage and climate preparedness..
The other group of students includes four young women: Aura Hernandez, Samantha Castrillon, Sharil Deleon and Nicole Medina. They’ll be splitting their time in Maine and New Hampshire, with several projects in southern Maine, including building a new trail at Mount Tom near Fryeburg and marking boundaries at Bull Ring Preserve in Denmark.
“The main goal of the LEAF program is to expose urban youth 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,” says Brigitte Griswold, Director of Youth Programs for The Nature Conservancy.
“Providing students with the opportunity to engage in actual conservation projects is a great complement to their classroom learning and gives them hands-on experience they may not otherwise get during the school year,” Griswold says.
When these interns wrap up their work here and prepare to head home, I look forward to hearing what they did, what they learned and what they thought of our great state of Maine. Their fresh-eyed perspective often makes me appreciate Maine a little bit more.