Eight inner city high school students from The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program are participating in a summer work adventure on Maui and throughout Hawaii.
The LEAF internship program was designed to give inner city youth the opportunity to spend extensive time in nature learning about conservation, science, and green jobs; this is the second year the Conservancy has hosted LEAF interns in Hawaii.
Two teams of interns from the Los Angeles area are working with the Conservancy and its partners on Maui and the Big Island during the month of July. On Maui, the interns will split their time between weed removal at the Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve, taro lo‘i restoration and snorkel fish surveys with Maui Cultural Lands, weed removal with the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and bird surveys with the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project.
“Exposing youth from urban communities to nature and conservation careers helps them understand and value the environment,” said Ulalia Woodside, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii. “Hosting LEAF interns augments our ongoing efforts to engage young people in experiences that connect them with our unique and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources.”
Over the last five years, the Conservancy has hosted or supported more than 2,500 youth across the state to train the next generation of conservation leaders. During that time, the youth have participated in The Marine Fellowship Program which has launched four cohorts of new conservation leaders; that program is made possible through a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The two-year intensive training has graduated 10 students to date; 3 more are about halfway through their fellowship.
In addition, the Conservancy has hired more than 22 interns through KUPU, a local nonprofit that provides environmental programs and career opportunities for Hawaii’s young adults. KUPU interns have supported strategic communications and have worked in Conservancy preserves doing forest restoration on Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island, and marine conservation on Hawaii Island and Oahu.
Other internship and volunteer activities with youth in Hawaii have included high school students from Kamehameha Schools, Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy, and Pacific American Foundation in Kāneʻohe Bay on O‘ahu removing invasive algae using the Super Sucker; and high school students visiting Waikamoi Preserve on Maui to learn about native forests, birds, and restoration.
“We value youth engagement in Hawaii,” said Woodside. “With continued donor support, we hope to be able to continue, or even expand, these kinds of programs.”
Surveys of conservation interns indicate that many find work as 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. More than 30 percent of surveyed LEAF alumni go on to pursue environmental careers, and over 50 percent volunteer for environmental causes in their communities.
Photo of Maui LEAF Interns (L to R): Taishawn Sieza, Darian Garcia, Sade Pullen, Katelyn Valdovinos
Photo courtesy The Nature Conservancy