A few weeks ago, MNN brought you a story about a new internship program from The Nature Conservancy that gives urban kids the opportunity to get out of the city and in to nature. Students that participate in The Nature Conservancy's LEAF (Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future) program work at nature preserves along the east coast in fields ranging from wildlife conservation to invasive species management.
The program is unique for a number of reasons, most notably because it offers kids (many of whom have never left the city) the opportunity to form their own connections with nature. For four weeks, these city kids are immersed in the natural world and paid for their efforts. I was curious to hear about the program from a student that actually experienced it.
Prior to his internship in the LEAF program, Josh Carerra spent his whole life in Queens and Brooklyn, New York. He had never been camping or hiking and had virtually no experience with the natural world.
Jenn: Why did you decide to apply for the LEAF program?
Josh: I was in high school and looking for a summer job. The LEAF program was popular in my school so I had heard good things about it through friends and classmates. It looked like a great opportunity to get outdoors, get out of New York City, and get a job.
Jenn: What was this internship like for you?
Josh: I went to southern Vermont to work with invasives and the whole four weeks were so exciting. A lot of people thought I would experience culture shock to be away from the city and out in nature. But it was really just extremely peaceful. Exciting and peaceful.
I am currently at the University of Vermont working towards a major in Natural Resources and a minor in Wildlife Biology. Spending that one month in Vermont with the LEAF program really opened up a whole new world for me.
Growing up in New York City, I never embraced my heritage. But going away and experiencing the world made me want to know more about my background. I want to focus my environmental efforts in Latin America working in sustainability or possibly environmental economics. My dream job would be working as a field guide on the Galapagos.
Jenn: What advice do you have for teenagers that might want to pursue a similar environmental path as yours?
Josh: Always keep an open mind and don't be afraid to try something new. Taking a leap and working for LEAF allowed me to see things differently. You never know what you're going to like until you try it.