The summer is a welcomed break for high school students around the country and while some decide to take on a summer job, others may seek out the opportunity to volunteer. The Student Conservation Association (SCA) provides all students, including those who are not US citizens, with the unique opportunity to volunteer and to travel to conservation projects across the country. As a former participant of the program, many years ago, I know first-hand the memorable experience that awaits future participants.
National Conservation Crews
The SCA program that is designated for high school students is called the National Conservation Crew program. Each crew has six to eight students and two adult leaders. Together, the crew will work and live together on a project that can last up to five weeks in their designated location.
Projects range from improving miles of hiking trails in remote areas to projects in urban locations. The specific assignments change with the needs of each location. The SCA’s overall goal is to provide students with meaningful and satisfying volunteer work in the field of conservation.
Students and Leaders
The high school students that make up each crew come from diverse backgrounds and from across the country. Their past experience with the outdoors will vary greatly as well. Some students may have backpacked many times before participating in SCA, while others have never had the chance to go camping. The conservation crews allow all students to participate and learn important outdoor skills.
Crew leaders will teach students about responsible camping and backpacking techniques also known as Leave no Trace ethics. They are a great support system and will help students while they experience living and working with new people.
SCA Application and Fees
To apply students must pay a one-time application fee. During the application process students are able to give their preference on location, but it’s important to remember that there are no guarantees as to where a student will be placed. For example, I applied to work in Alaska but was placed in a crew at Olympic National Park in Washington.
If accepted students are responsible for paying round trip transportation to the site. The student will have to provide any equipment such as backpack and sleeping bag, more site specific details are provided if you are accepted. The SCA does offer some financial aid and suggestions for acquiring necessary equipment.
The SCA application is accepted throughout the year.
Other Opportunities with SCA
If a high school student would like the opportunity to volunteer locally than the Community Programs of SCA may be an ideal fit.
College students and graduates are also welcomed to explore SCA’s various internship and leadership programs.