As in nature, the more diverse an ecosystem is the more resilient it is. We honor these values in the diversity of our programmatic culture through gender, race, sexual orientation and/or religion – understanding and knowing our engagement with young conservation leaders better equips them to face the natural resource challenges ahead.
Actions speak louder than words.
In the last five years:
Our summer field school recruitment and acceptance of female students has ranged from 40-60%. In the coming years, we aim to maintain this 50/50 ratio of male to female.
We focus on reaching out to underserved communities for both youth and adult opportunities.
Academy staff actively build relationships year-round with other organizations and community leaders with the focus on identification of interested youth and mentoring them through the application process.
We are committed to making our staff reflect the population we want to serve.
We are committed to ensuring equity in education for all students. No one should ever be prevented from engaging with the Academy because of barriers. We aim to ensure that if a student is accepted into the program because of their passion to become a Conservation Ambassador, we will work to reduce any barriers that may prevent them from attending.
Two ways we are currently taking action are:
(1) Hoping to reduce any financial barrier to entry, 50-80% tuition scholarships (tuition is $500) are offered for the program. Students are notified of this opportunity in their invitation to apply to the program.
(2) Academy staff work to address other barriers such as coordinating transportation and being prepared with a Spanish language interpreter to communicate program details to students’ parents whose native language is Spanish.
The summer experience of the Wildlife Leadership Academy brings youth together of different identities and cultural backgrounds. Honoring each student’s uniqueness, we aim to show them that we welcome the value their experience brings to the program, whether it be through conversation or through a reflection of their individual and/or team projects during their time with us.
The leadership of the Academy values fostering respectful listening and conversing, open and authentic learning, and non-judgmental discussions between our students, mentors, volunteers, staff and instructors.
As we took the field schools virtual in 2020, through the lens of a young woman named Lorelei, we learned much about inclusion. Lorelei, who attended four of our virtual field schools, has only half of her heart among other health issues and would not have been able to attend an in-person field school. She thrived in the virtual program, sharing her passion for conservation and bringing her Cherokee heritage into our conversations. Lorelei not only opened our eyes to the importance of accessibility for young conservationists like her but also brought an awareness about the importance of cultural heritage in conservation discussions. In the future we aim to create programs that serve youth like Lorelei and expand on cultural discussions in our conservation curriculum.
We understand there is always work to do and we do not shy away from challenging conversations. We hope that our current efforts move the needle in the right direction. We are dedicated to making even more of an impact though additional programming and deeper discussions with our students.