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How the Student Conservation Association Works

The Student Conservation Association at Work

Student Conservation Association (SCA) volunteers spend more than 1.5 million hours per year restoring public lands and protecting endangered species through four main divisions: national crews, community programs, conservation corps and internships.

During month-long summer projects, national crews of six to eight high school students from around the country help build trails and restore habitats in U.S. national parks and public lands. They camp at the sites, spending their days clearing trees and rocks, building lean-tos and removing invasive plants [source: SCA].

As for community programs, high school students from certain cities can join the Conservation Leadership Corps or become a community crew member. The cities include: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Manchester, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, San Francisco, Stamford, Washington, D.C. and towns throughout New Jersey [source: SCA].

As part of the Conservation Leadership Corps, high school students volunteer on weekends during the school year to build trails, restore rivers and lakes and conserve local habitats. As community crew members, students spend six to seven weeks during the summer commuting to nearby parks to maintain trails, learn outdoor skills and receive training about the local environment [source: SCA].

In the Conservation Leadership Corps, college and graduate students who are 18 and older spend three to 10 months working on a specific environmental issue such as preserving the Hudson Valley, restoring California desert lands eroded by off-road vehicles or monitoring wildfires in Washington state.

The Conservation Leadership Corps also includes four residential programs where 10 or more interns share a communal residence on state land teaching kids at local schools about the environment and restoring hiking trails in areas like the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

The SCA also offers classes, such as a tutorial aimed to educate unfamiliar participants on the proper trail skills, including handling and restoration techniques [source: National Trails Training Partnership].

Through internships, students 18 years and older can participate in more technically advanced projects like backcountry patrol, conducting ecological surveys or monitoring soil and water.

Read on to find out how to become an intern.