Tuesday July 10, 2012

SHEFFIELD -- Berkshire County is a haven for out-of-area young people spending their summer months connecting with nature, typically doing so at the many camps dotting the local landscape. But few teens will be doing it like this.

Three Boston-based youths arrived in town on Monday as part of The Nature Con servancy's month-long paid internship program geared for urban students interested in nature stewardship.

The program, Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future, or LEAF, is a nationwide effort. In Massachusetts, participants will be split between the Berkshires and Martha's Vineyard to train for "green" jobs, visit colleges and participate in a variety of conservation efforts, including trail maintenance and removal of invasive species. Three students, recent graduates from Boston Green Academy, an urban charter school, will spend the next month sharing a house in Sheffield, away from their friends families and favorite electronics.

This is the second year LEAF interns have come to the Berkshires and the first time the youths have come from Boston, thanks to a partnership with the academy, which opened last September. Last year, the interns were from New York City.

The LEAF program is in its 18th year and serves approximately 20,000 students attending environmental schools in urban settings, according to The Nature Conservancy.


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Many of the LEAF interns have little to no experience with nature, so organizers see this as a way to not only teach them skills that will be helpful in future careers, but to give them a better connection with the environment by putting their "boots in the mud" and doing work that "truly makes a difference," according to Meg Connerton, director of operations for the Massachusetts chapter of The Nature Con servancy

"We're hoping that they're just going to learn a sense of place, a conservation ethic," said Connerton.

To reach Trevor Jones:
tjones@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_TrevorJones.