The Wildlife Leadership Academy is now accepting applications for their 2014 summer field schools from youth ages 14-17 and adults. Adults serve as mentors and participate alongside the students. School teachers are encouraged to apply as mentors.
The Wildlife Leadership Academy is year-round program that focuses on wildlife/fisheries conservation and leadership development. The mission of the Academy is to empower youth to become ambassadors for wildlife conservation in order to ensure a sustained wildlife legacy for future generations.
The Academy begins with an intensive, five day residential field school experience that focuses on a fish or wildlife species as a springboard for exploring biology, habitat, and conservation issues. Youth also develop leadership skills engaging in team-building activities, educational presentations, and mock “town hall” meetings on current topics.
Three field schools are available for youth and adults to apply to this summer: Pennsylvania Bucktails, white-tailed deer focus (Stone Valley Recreation Area in Huntingdon County June 17-21), Pennsylvania Brookies, brook trout and coldwater conservation focus (Sieg Conference Center in Clinton County July 8-12), and Pennsylvania Drummers, Ruffed Grouse focus (Powdermill Nature Reserve in Westmoreland County July 22-26).
Following each field school experience and prepared with the knowledge and the skills from the field school, students complete conservation outreach in their home communities that focuses on environmental education, community service, media engagement, and/or participation in the arts.
Student Brook Martin of York County describes his participation in the program as “life changing.”
He shared, “With this field school, I was able to reach my full potential and find a career path that I feel will be very rewarding. It was an experience that I will cherish and remember the rest of my life.”
Led by the Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation, the Wildlife Leadership Academy is a cooperative initiative and brings the experts to the students. Participants are taught by and interact with conservation professionals daily. These professionals represent agencies, conservation organizations and universities from across the state.
Instructor and professional ecologist Lisa Smith commended the program.
“The high caliber and sheer number of conservation professionals who are involved as instructors in this program are beyond impressive, but more than that is the commitment of time, energy and passion that each of these instructors gives to the students,” Smith said.
Students return to their community sharing what they have learned. They also keep a record book of their conservation outreach efforts. Top outreach achievements qualify students for educational field trips, opportunities to return to field school as mentors, and for college scholarships.
Molly Diefenbach of Centre County, a student at Pennsylvania Drummers, said the feeling she got from doing her outreach was not what she expected.
“I was surprised by how accomplished and proud I felt after completing each outreach activity – whether it was speaking to a crowd of 200 or finishing up another entry in my nature journal alone in the woods," she said.
Molly gave an educational presentation to the Conservation Officers of Pennsylvania Association and also wrote an article for their magazine, The Greenline. Bernie Schmader, member of COPA, was impressed by Molly.
“Her article and oral report reassures our members and others that there are intelligent, interested, dedicated and understanding young people who are preparing to step up and carry on in our efforts to promote and safeguard Pennsylvania’s precious fish, wildlife and other natural resources.”
Academy youth have taken the program’s mission to heart. To date, Academy graduates have conducted 745 conservation education, communication, and service projects; engaged in more than 3,300 contact hours with the public; and reached an audience of more than 15,000 Pennsylvania citizens across 52 counties in the state.
With 150 students coming the through the Academy over the last seven years, Institute Director Michele Kittell said the participants are “the next generation to speak for wildlife conservation."
"We believe the leadership of Academy youth in their home communities will inspire others to care more, and therefore act more on behalf of conservation and the environment,” she said.
Applications for the 2014 field schools can be downloaded at the Wildlife Leadership Academy website. The application deadline is April 1 for youth and March 17 for adult mentors.
Expert instructors at the field school include representatives from Kutztown University, Game Commission, Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania State University, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Trout Unlimited, Quality Deer Management Association, and many more.For more information, contact Institute Director, Michele Kittell by sending email to: email@example.com or 570-245-8518. You can also connect with the Academy on Facebook.