Categories: Inspiring People

Developing the next generation of conservation leaders

The Conservancy’s Urban Conservation program in New York City hosted a large-scale tree-planting event at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. During the 5-day event, student, corporate and general public volunteers, along with TNC staff, planted nearly 10,000 trees. On Wednesday, October 26, 40 student volunteers from a LEAF (Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future) partner school, along with 30 corporate volunteers from Lowe’s, planted over 2,500 trees.

Fazena Bacchus was among hundreds of volunteers who joined Lowe’s and The Nature Conservancy last fall to transform and restore habitat damaged by Hurricane Sandy. A total of 10,000 trees were planted in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in New York City to help build up the coastal parklands and natural area’s resilience to climate change.

What may not be as obvious as 10,000 trees, however, is how The Nature Conservancy is also transforming people. Bacchus is one of them.

Bacchus grew up in Queens, New York, and showed a love for math and science at an early age. She learned about The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) internship program and participated her junior year in high school.

“I always knew I wanted to explore a career in the environmental field, but since I was only in high school, I didn’t know what that could even look like,” Bacchus said. “I really credit my experience with LEAF in helping me discover a deeper connection to nature and people. I realized environmental engineering was my calling.”

“I really credit my experience with LEAF in helping me discover a deeper connection to nature and people. I realized environmental engineering was my calling.”
—Fazena Bacchus, former LEAF intern
After her summer of frontline conservation work and several more internships at The Nature Conservancy, she completed her final semester at Columbia University last spring, majoring in earth and environmental engineering. Her early professional development opportunities with the Conservancy, along with her academic success, positioned her for a job offer before she even graduated from college. She now works as a water resources engineer at a design consulting firm in New York City, where she helps plan for and design flood protection, interior drainage and storm water management systems that strengthen buildings and ultimately communities.

“You don’t have to go far to work on natural issues and there are so many opportunities within environmental engineering alone – renewables, air pollution control, waste management … the sky is the limit,” she said.

Bacchus has advice for other young people who are considering a career in conservation.

“I would encourage students to take advantage of youth internships like LEAF,” she said. “It can be an experience that shapes your life and inspires you to help create a positive change in society.”

Lowe’s has supported The Nature Conservancy’s LEAF program since 2015 to help develop the next generation of conservation leaders by giving students the knowledge, skills and resources to pursue environmental careers through paid internships in the conservation field. More than 1,200 total students have benefited from the program since its start in 1995.

“I appreciate Lowe’s support of The Nature Conservancy’s LEAF program,” Bacchus said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have found my passion for nature and a career path in environmental engineering.”

To learn more about the LEAF program, click here.