Conservation Education In Action

May 2, 2023

The 2023 cohort of PINES Fellows pictured at Williamson Preserve.

TLC’s Pathways Into Natural Environments and Science (PINES) program was developed to create opportunities for a diverse set of high school students to learn about conservation and natural resources. PINES launched in the spring of 2022 with five students from Knightdale High School (KHS) who enjoyed many hands-on experiences centered on the public benefits of land conservation. After a successful first year, two of the students graduated, and three returned as seniors. During the fall of 2022, staff worked with the returning seniors to expand the curriculum and supported them in their college applications.

Pathways Into Natural Environments and Science (PINES)
“I genuinely think that PINES is amazing. It is run by some cool people, and they helped me figure out what I wanted to do in school,” shared one of the senior fellows.

This spring, TLC welcomed 10 students — both returning and new — to the 2023 cohort.

Through PINES, students will have opportunities to learn about environmental stewardship, climate resiliency, traditional ecological practices, and more — while having fun camping, learning outdoor survival skills, and birdwatching. PINES Fellows get a stipend for their time and commitment. There is also grant funding available for expenses for college applications and standardized testing costs, college tours, and relevant certifications to support their next career steps. Students can also return to the program each year while they are in high school to help build leadership skills.

“I want people to know that PINES is an irreplicable opportunity to discover yourself while discovering the processes of nature,” one senior shared. The PINES program made possible due to generous funding from the Protolabs Foundation, Grifols, Q2, and Great Outdoor Provision Co., is excited to continue growing — helping to provide additional opportunities to more young people in our region.

Careers in Conservation
While the PINES program is currently working with Knightdale High School students, we are committed to providing career growth opportunities for a wide range of young people in our region. With the Triangle rapidly growing in population and development, it is more important than ever to create these strong ties and empower future leaders in conservation.

Recently, TLC began working with UNC-Chapel Hill’s EcoStudio, which helps pair undergraduate students with environmentally focused, client-based research, applied learning projects, and paid internships. TLC’s current EcoStudio intern, Kenaz Flores, works on a variety of education and outreach tasks from managing our Hiking Challenge to developing educational programs from start to finish. She has been working on a program to educate school children on the history and impact of the land at TLC’s Horton Grove Nature Preserve. Kenaz is the third EcoStudio student TLC has hired.

In fall 2022, TLC welcomed Meera Butalia to our team as PINES Assistant. Meera, who is a student at NC State, provides essential services to our PINES Program such as helping to develop curriculum, facilitating meetings, developing evaluation tools, and being a positive role model for students.

Through engagement with many college students, such as those enrolled at NC State’s College of Natural Resources and Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, PINES students build relationships with people who are making strides in environmental careers.

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