BY DOYLE DIETZ
While the reality of COVID-19 made it virtually impossible for participants enrolled last year in one of the five Wildlife Leadership Academy field schools to interact and experience the normal hands-on experiences, through virtual reality sessions they did come away from the sessions with a better understanding of the outdoors and more prepared to share their knowledge.
This year, indications are that the WLA can return to the old normal of its format of five-day residential summer field schools, which focus on a particular wildlife species comprised of whitetail deer, bass, brook trout, turkey and bear. Students in each field school will gain extensive knowledge about natural resource conservation, leadership experience and communication skills.
All camps will be held at Krislund Camp and Conference Center in Centre County, and during the week students engage with professionals in the conservation field. These include individuals from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, including Dr. Gary Alt, who is now retired after serving for 22 years running the PGC’s black bear program.
WLA is seeking referrals of motivated students ages 14-17 to become Certified Conservation Ambassadors. Nominations are now being accepted online at www.wildlifeleadershipacademy.org/nominate, and letters will be sent to nominated students with an invitation to apply to the 2021 program.
Nominated students should have demonstrated interest in wildlife and/or fisheries conservation. Accepted nominees will become certified Conservation Ambassadors through attending a five-day course.
Applicants may be nominated by an adult who knows them well, but is not a relative, such as a teacher, school counselor, Envirothon advisor, employer or youth group leader. As Conservation Ambassadors, students can receive a letter of a recommendation for college applications, certification of community service work and a certificate designating them as Conservation Ambassadors.
Students are also eligible to apply for three college credits through Cedar Crest College, return to the WLA tuition free the following year, compete for college scholarships and join an Academy Alumni Network of wildlife, fisheries and conservation professionals. Conservation Ambassadors also receive letters of recommendation from executive director Michele Kittell for college applications.
“I’d like to share with everyone the opportunity to nominate a young adult they know who is interested in wildlife/fisheries and the outdoors,” Kittell said. “The Wildlife Leadership Academy enriches Pennsylvania teens and empowers them to become certified Conservation Ambassadors through attending one of our five-day residential summer field schools.
“We are looking for highly motivated students between the ages of 14 and 17 ready to begin their journey to become Conservation Ambassadors. A full press release is available at www.wildlifeleadershipacademy.org and information is also posted on Facebook at facebook.com/wildlifeleadershipacademy.
“Multiple youth may be nominated, and anyone with questions can reach out to our Youth/Alumni Outreach manager Katie Cassidy at 570-939-5109 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or me at 570-245-8518 or email@example.com.”
Krislund Camp and Conference Center is located on 800 acres outside of Madisonburg in Centre County. Schools are held from Tuesday through Saturday with the following schedule: June 15-19, Pennsylvania Bucktails, which focuses on the white-tailed deer; June 22-26, Pennsylvania Bass, which focuses on bass; July 20-24, Pennsylvania Brookies, which focuses on brook trout; July 27-31, Pennsylvania Gobblers, which focuses on wild turkey; and Aug. 3-7, Pennsylvania Ursids, which focuses on black bear.
Tuition cost is $500, which includes housing and meals. Scholarship support is available at 50 percent, $250, and 80 percent, $400, levels and applicants will receive a scholarship application during the application process. Students are also encouraged to connect with their communities to find tuition support. As a 501©(3) non-profit organization, WLA is a cooperative initiative involving state agencies and conservation organizations.
Dietz is parliamentarian of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org