Maui Business

LA Teens Begin Summer Adventures in Nature on Maui

July 17, 2017, 1:10 PM HST
* Updated July 17, 1:12 PM
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Eight high school students from the Los Angeles area are spending their summer on a work adventure with the Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future program on Maui and Hawai‘i island.

Maui LEAF Interns left to right: Taishawn Sieza, Darian Garcia, Sade Pullen, Katelyn Valdovinos.
Photo Credit: Nature Conservancy

The LEAF internship provides inner city youth the opportunity to spend extensive time in nature learning about conservation, science, and green jobs. This is the second year the Conservancy has hosted LEAF interns in Hawai‘i.

Two teams of interns from the Los Angeles area will work with the Conservancy and its partners on Maui and Hawai‘i island during the month of July. On Maui, the interns will split their time between weed removal at the Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve, taro lo‘i restoration and snorkel fish surveys with Maui Cultural Lands, weed removal with the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and bird surveys with the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project.

On Hawai‘i Island, the interns will greet the wa‘a (canoes) of the organization Nā Pe‘a as they land at the Conservancy’s Kīholo fish pond and help with intertidal water quality sampling in collaboration with Hui Aloha Kīholo. Then they move mauka to plant native vegetation and restore aquaponics with the Kailapa Community Association in Kohala, and will help with fence maintenance and weed removal at Conservancy preserves in Ka‘ū and south Kona.

“Exposing youth from urban communities to nature and conservation careers helps them understand and value the environment,” said Ulalia Woodside, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Hawai‘i. “Hosting LEAF interns augments our ongoing efforts to engage young people in experiences that connect them with our unique and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources.”


Over the last five years, the Conservancy has hosted or supported more than 2,500 youth across the state to train the next generation of conservation leaders. Some examples have included:


• The Marine Fellowship Program has launched four cohorts of new conservation leaders. This program for recent college graduates is made possible through a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The two-year intensive training has graduated 10 students to date; three more are about halfway through their fellowship.

• The Conservancy has hired more than 22 interns through KUPU, a local nonprofit that provides environmental programs and career opportunities for Hawai‘i’s young adults. KUPU interns have supported strategic communications and have worked in Conservancy preserves doing forest restoration on Maui, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i island, and marine conservation on Hawai‘i island and O‘ahu.

Other internship and volunteer activities with youth in Hawaiʻi have included:


o High school students from Kamehameha Schools, Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy, and Pacific American Foundation in Kāneʻohe Bay on O‘ahu removing invasive algae using the Super Sucker;
o Young adults and kids of all ages visiting Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi on O‘ahu to learn about local agriculture, taro lo‘i, and fish pond restoration;
o High school students visiting Waikamoi Preserve on Maui to learn about native forests, birds, and restoration;
o Students from 4th grade and up on Moloka‘i helping with beach cleanups, preserve and trail maintenance, weed removal, seed collection, and native plant growing;
o Youth of all ages learning about nature and conservation at the annual Earth Day celebration on Moloka‘i;
o High school and college students from Hilo and Kaʻu learning about nature and conservation and helping at Kaʻu and Kona Hema Preserves on Hawaiʻi island; and
o Young adults and high school students participating in Kīholo fish pond restoration.

“We value youth engagement in Hawaiʻi. With continued donor support, we hope to be able to continue, or even expand, these kinds of programs,” said Woodside.

Surveys of conservation interns indicate that many find work as park rangers, environmental engineers, environmental science teachers, and in careers helping to connect future generations to nature at some of the world’s largest environmental organizations. Over 30% of surveyed LEAF alumni go on to pursue environmental careers, and over 50 percent volunteer for environmental causes in their communities.

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