Youth Leadership in Environmental Program (YLEAP)
Recognizing that part of our future rests on our youth, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy launched the Youth Leadership in Environmental Action Program (YLEAP) in 2012 through a Crystal Awards grant from the Employees Community Fund (ECF) of the Boeing Company. During our pilot year, nine young leaders went through the program beginning with four full days of training including Bolsa Chica’s natural and human history, as well as life skills such as team building and public speaking. Since their training, this group of students has collectively worked over 100 hours for the Conservancy’s programs. Throughout the year, the students have also been involved in special training and mentoring sessions and field trips, such as a trip to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and docent workshops in order to continue their training.
YLEAP is designed to engage students in middle school (13-14 years old) and high school (14-17 years old) to become active participants and stewards in the community and environment in which they live. The principal goal of YLEAP is to cultivate youth leaders by providing them with knowledge and skills that help motivate and inspire others to protect and preserve coastal resources like the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. It is also aimed at creating a network of young environmental advocates who will continue efforts to educate and restore urban ecological reserves like Bolsa Chica. Through a focused year-long long program of hands-on training and job shadowing sessions supported by Adult Mentors and Conservancy staff, participants will gain knowledge in wetland science, watershed biology, marine habitats, environmental conservation and community involvement, while they develop skills in leadership, critical thinking, public speaking and teamwork. Participants will be able to choose one or two teams in which to specialize. Teams centered on Guided Tours, Restoration Work, Research, Public Outreach/Event Management, and Interpretive Center Hosting will be formed. Each team will be paired with Adult Mentors and Conservancy staff to provide them guidance in these different fields, and upon completion of training and job shadowing requirements, students will be scheduled over a twelve-month period to lead or assist in specific education, research and/or habitat restoration projects. Adult Mentors will be comprised of a combination of the Conservancy’s staff and seasoned volunteer naturalists who are retired seniors, professors from local universities, business and community leaders, researchers and scientists.
The team focused on guided tours will gain knowledge and experience on how to teach young students about the science behind wetlands. They will learn to conduct our various labs including water testing, soil analysis; plankton collection; identification and classification; and many more. Center on Restoration Work, our youth leaders will participate in hands-on restoration, learn about native plants versus invasive species, restoration techniques and how to run service days. Our Research team will focus on effective data collection, record keeping, analyzing and synthesizing scientific data along with learning how to present such data and their findings. And our Outreach/Event Management and Interpretive Center Hosting teams will learn how to run events, interact with the public and become the front line representatives of the Bolsa Chica Conservancy.