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August 15, 2006 > Giving back to get ahead

Giving back to get ahead

by Kevin Hamilton

The great outdoors has always lured people for a variety of reasons, but more and more young people are heading to places like Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge because it's the right thing to do. They want to give back to the environment while exploring possible careers in conservation.

As needs outpace budgets on America's public lands, the efforts of SCA volunteers have become essential. Some 45,000 young people have volunteered through SCA since 1957, and National Park Service Director Fran Minella recently stated that "we can't do without SCA." The energy and idealism of the volunteers allows federal and state land-management agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, to meet the needs of the public in ways that wouldn't otherwise to be possible.

Jo-el Smith, an intern with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), recently arrived as a volunteer from Amboy, Wash. to learn about visitor services. Smith is serving at Don Edwards in order to make a meaningful contribution to its environment. "From my internship I have learned to work with other volunteers to accomplish different tasks. I am very glad that my professor told me about the program."

SCA members learn a "conservation ethic" through their hands-on service, and it benefits both the land and the individual. The experience leads many of them to become lifelong stewards of the land and 60 percent of SCA interns go on to successful careers in many areas of conservation.

The Student Conservation Association is dedicated to encouraging a new generation of conservation leaders, advancing land ethics, and helping to conserve our nation's natural and cultural resources. The organization places nearly 3000 high school, college and graduate student members in the field each year. They provide more than 1.5 million hours of conservation service in national parks, forests and other public lands.

For more information, contact Kevin Hamilton at (603) 543-1700, ext. 185, or at, or visit

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