On-the-Ground Training Where Students and Graduates Go to Get Their Hands Dirty

When the Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) closed shop last April after accusations that it had misused government funds, students trying to get real-world experience were left wondering where to turn. Over 35 years, ECO had placed 11,000 young people in professional environmental fields, many of them paid internships within government agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service. As the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston investigated the nonprofit for keeping $1.8 million in surplus funds over eight or nine years, ECO was forced into a legal battle it couldn’t afford and declared bankruptcy. Some 200 ECO interns scheduled to begin work last summer had to find other employment. With all the student interest in environmental issues and careers, the timing couldn’t have been worse. But other organizations are filling ECO’s pioneering role, providing students and recent graduates with the experience needed to become environmental leaders.

Environmental Leadership Program (Washington, D.C., 202-332-3320, ELP): A nonprofit organization offering training, mentoring and fellowships to environmental activists and professionals. Each year, the ELP Fellowship is awarded to 20-25 individuals engaged in environmental and social change.

Green Corps (Boston, Massachusetts, 617-426-8506, Green Corps): Training young people in the skills and strategies of grassroots environmental organizing. Offers a one-year, full-time paid Environmental Leadership Training Program that includes classroom training, field experience with environmental and public health campaigns and career placement.

The National Council for Science and the Environment (Washington, D.C., 202-530-5810, NCSE): Offers three- to six-month internships for students and recent graduates with a $1,400 per month stipend assisting in outreach to the academic, governmental, business and civil society communities. Interns are encouraged to attend events and meetings in Washington, some on Capitol Hill. In addition, NCSE’s Campus-to-Careers program draws on a network of affiliated universities and communities to connect young environment professionals with field, lab and office work.

Student Conservation Association (Charlestown, New Hampshire, 603-543-1700, SCA): A nonprofit offering conservation internships to more than 3,000 people each year, including high school and college students. SCA’s mission is protecting and preserving America’s public lands. Conservation internships for those 18 and older are available in all 50 states. Students in the Conservation Corps spend three to 10 months living and working with others on environmentally themed projects. In both cases, expenses are paid.