Shelby: More than three-quarters of the world’s population lives in cities now. And while many, like New York City, have abundant green spaces, those parks are not exactly the same as mountains or woods. That is why some city teens said goodbye to skyscrapers and headed for the great outdoors over the summer.
Teens: One, two, three!
Shelby: These are city kids.
“Just grab the whole handful.”
Shelby: And this is the Mashomack Preserve.
“I would describe it as one of the world’s natural wonders.”
Shelby: It is also home to Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future, also known as LEAF.
With eighty percent of the world’s population living in cities, most young people can identify over a thousand corporate logos but fewer than ten plants and animals.
“So, we just flip it over here like this.”
Teen: I never really loved the environment. I was more of a city girl.
Shelby: That is why the nature conservancy invites urban students from environmental high schools to apply for the LEAF Program, a month-long paid internship on one of nineteen nature preserves across the country.
Teen: Come on fishy fishy fishy fishy!
Shelby: Interns track salmon in Washington State; plant nurseries in Hayden, Colorado; build rainwater gardens in New Jersey; and the list goes on.
“Ok. So, I’m set to give you another set of measurements.”
Teen: I always wanted to be a cop, which would protect people, I guess, but it would be better to be outdoors all the time protecting nature.
“It is a pretty simple concept: people protect the things that they love.”
“So, when we pull this lead line, we try to keep it low, otherwise, if it’s not at the bottom, the fish are going to go under it.”
Shelby: A simple concept that has led to some big results. One-third of all LEAF graduates go on to pursue environmental careers.
Teen: And I got what I think is a flounder fish.”
“Flat one. Let’s see. Yep, that’s a starry flounder.”
Shelby: And the experience stays with LEAF alums long past high school.
Teen: If it wasn’t for the initial program back when I was a junior in high school, I’m not sure if I would have progressed to where I am today.
“So, we’re going to recommend a drainage study.”
Shelby: Orlando Reyes is an urban planner in Florida, specializing in green transportation solutions.
Orlando Reyes: I knew that was what I wanted to pursue as a career because it bridged my environmental interests with my pursuit to improve the quality of life in cities.
Shelby: The government is banking on more teens choosing to pursue careers protecting the environment.
“What we have to do is make the connection between high-tech careers and caring for the planet. You can have a really thriving economy, but it is going to require engineers and scientists and mathematicians who think of solutions to environmental problems before they even start.”
Shelby: Professionals who work in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM, earn an average of 25% more than their non-STEM counterparts. And the fields themselves are growing at a rate of three times that of non-STEM fields.
“When the LEAF interns go back home, they’re going to look at the trees different. If they did trail maintenance they’re going to look for more trails to walk in Central Park. They’re going to try to bring what they found back home to the city, and just looking at the world in a new whole light.
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.