The Wildlife Leadership Academy is connecting Pennsylvania high schoolers of all backgrounds with the outdoors, with support from a DCNR Partnerships grant.
The Academy engages and empowers high schoolers to become Conservation Ambassadors. The program starts with summer field schools, then continues through the year with community service, creative arts, and outdoor mentorship.
Conservation experts from Pennsylvania agencies and non-profits donate their time and expertise during the summer field schools. DCNR also supports the Academy with funding from the Environmental Stewardship Fund.
In recent years the Academy has made significant advancements in equity and inclusion. For example, they added an all-gender cabin option for the summer field school, alongside traditional male and female-only cabins.
The Academy also worked with Latino Connections to translate online forms into Spanish and to better engage parents whose first language is not English.
Finally, the Academy has featured inclusive learning opportunities such as an Indigenous Natural Perspectives lesson and American Sign Language interpreters for deaf students.
“With our equity and inclusion efforts, the Academy is aiming for our students, including those from underrepresented communities in the conservation field, to see themselves and their interests reflected as they engage in our Conservation Ambassador Training,” said Sara Mueller, the Academy’s Executive Director. “We want our students to feel welcomed, safe, and that they belong.”