We are excited about the launch of a new Youth Conservation Leadership Program at Audubon Vermont. Supported in part by a generous Maggie Walker Incentive Fund Grant, the program will train the next generation of conservation leaders with the tools to tackle environmental challenges. The program has three strategies: (1) structured, paid internship program; (2) student-led campus Audubon chapters; and (3) Vermont Youth Conservation Corps environmental literacy training module.
Across all three strategies, Audubon Vermont’s conservation leadership program is engaging with young adults during a time in their lives when they are making important decisions about their educational and career paths.
Audubon Vermont is working to engage and inspire young adults at a time when our communities are increasingly divided over how we can create a sustainable path for living on the planet. While technology is distracting and disconnecting our youth from establishing a relationship with the natural world, we can combat this distraction by providing another option for their time and passion. When we give young people the skills to directly address the increasingly complex and imminent challenges facing natural systems and human communities, they will feel engaged and empowered. We hear from youth that they are not sure how to make a difference when faced with issues such as climate change, ecosystem collapse, and pollution. We are making a difference in Vermont by providing young conservation leaders with the knowledge and experience to confront the causes and impacts of these pressing problems on our wildlife and human communities.
Audubon Vermont has long had a robust internship program, but as a result of this grant for the first time, our interns will be paid, making our internship program more accessible to students from all economic backgrounds. We will hire nine college-level students each year to work as interns alongside professional Audubon staff for a semester. They will receive hands-on experience in environmental education, conservation, or policy work. All of our interns will be encouraged to remain connected to the program through Audubon Vermont’s new Intern Alumni Group. After they complete their internships, students can assist with future trainings and will be a part of Audubon’s national network of conservation leaders.
Audubon Vermont helped to establish the first student-led Audubon Campus Chapter in the state at the University of Vermont (UVM). Additional chapters will be established at other Vermont colleges and universities in the near future. We are assisting the UVM chapter in organizing meaningful conservation projects that combine learning with active engagement with a diversity of people. The UVM campus chapter is helping us with native Plants for Birds installations on campus and in the city of Burlington that will be beneficial for birds and other wildlife.
We are also collaborating with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) to integrate our work in bird and habitat conservation into training programs for VYCC crew leaders and work crews. We are in the process of exploring ways to share our work with the hundreds of young adults the VYCC engages each year as well as looking at ways Audubon and the VYCC can offer shared career development opportunities between the two organizations.
We will continue to share updates about this program as it develops. Be on the lookout for personal stories from our interns coming soon!