Georgia’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program is helping students become interested in conservation both in and out of the classroom. The program target the urban youth of Atlanta who are often underrepresented in the conservation movement.


Throughout the month of July students from Arabia Mountain High School, the environmental magnet in DeKalb County, and Maynard H. Jackson High School in Fulton County participating in a paid internship to prepare them for conservation jobs. The students will work on pollinator plants at Constitution Lakes, the river cane restoration and invasive species removal as well as planting trees with Trees Atlanta.


Both Maynard H. Jackson and Arabia Mountain High School are located on the South River bend which contains a large amount of forest and drains the entire Southeast section of the city. The students are focusing on the “South River Neighborhood Network” which funds and supports “urban forests”.


“I didn’t really care much about the environment before,” Arabia Mountain High School student Naimah Ashford said, “but participating in LEAF has taught me to appreciate it.”


The LEAF program is in its 22nd year of empowering urban youth to become involved in the environment. Reaching to around 28 states and over 1,000 youth participants LEAF continues to train tomorrow’s planet stewards today.


Partnered with the Conservancy Conservation Career Pathway which is comprised of high school and college internships as well as post-grad fellowships LEAF pairs real-world experiences with education in the classroom. LEAF allows students who have never spent extended time in nature to get out and work with the environment.


By partnering with environmental high schools, they have changed the odds for today’s urban youth. Over 30 percent of LEAF alumni pursued environmental careers after school and over 50 percent of alumni volunteer for environmental causes. These statistics are over five times the national average for students becoming involved in the environment.