This year, the youth conservation program, Wildlife Leadership Academy awarded five teens their Ralph Abele Excellence in Outreach Award which includes a $500 college scholarship.
Wildlife Leadership Academy is a year-round program for high-school age youth that begins with rigorous summer field schools that focus on wildlife/fisheries biology and conservation as well as leadership skills development. Following the field schools, students are mentored through the following year to serve as Conservation Ambassadors giving back to their communities through education, service, media engagement, creative arts and outdoor mentorship.
The awardees each attended a 2020 virtual Academy field school, taking their role as a Conservation Ambassador to heart going above and beyond to make an impact in their community into the next year. Awardees include Katharine Moyer of Lancaster County (Bucktails field school); Kendal Massey of Franklin County (Bass field school); Joseph Simak of Montgomery County, Maryland (Brookies field school); Grace Miller of Berks County (Gobblers field school), and Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer of Perry County (Ursids Field School). Together the awarded students dedicated 1,193 hours to their community and connected with over 6,600 citizens.
The Academy has been giving these awards since their inception in 2007. In 2017, the award was renamed in honor of Pennsylvania’s conservation leader, Ralph Abele.
Academy Executive Director, Michele Kittell Connolly shares, “Because of Mr. Abele’s dedication to engaging youth in conservation and the outdoors, renaming our Excellence in Outreach Award in his honor seemed like a perfect full circle moment.”
Kendal Massey felt that winning the award was an incredible honor. They shared, “I am honored to have received the Ralph Abele Excellence in Outreach Award because of how important Ralph Abele was to the environmental movement in Pennsylvania. I first learned of Ralph Abele at Wildlife Leadership Academy, since then I have tried my best to follow his motto, ‘Do your duty and fear no one’. I try to do my duty and fear no one when advocating for environmental justice, but also when advocating for social justice. Winning this award reminded me that progress is achievable. Ralph Abele was able to change the world by doing his duty and fearing no one, and I will continue to put all of my efforts into doing the same.”
At each field school, part of the curriculum includes Ralph Abele’s story shared through the WITF documentary Straight Talk. “Sharing his story with young, eager conservation leaders, exemplifies to them that even in difficult times, one can make amazing strides on behalf of our natural resources by working hard and having a belief in something bigger than themselves”, Kittell Connolly says.
The mission of the Wildlife Leadership Academy is to engage and empower high school age youth to become Conservation Ambassadors to ensure a sustained wildlife, fisheries and natural resource legacy for future generations. The Academy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is a cooperative initiative involving state agencies and conservation organizations. In total, the Academy’s Conservation Ambassadors have conducted 7,293 outreach projects; given more than 28,000 hours of work to their communities, and engaged over 130,000 citizens across the state and beyond.
The Wildlife Leadership Academy has opened its exclusive Youth Conservation Ambassador nomination process for 2022 to the public and is currently seeking referrals of motivated students ages 14 to 17 to become Certified Conservation Ambassadors. Nominations are now being accepted online at wildlifeleadershipacademy.org/nominate. Applicants may be nominated by an adult who knows them well but is not a relative (teacher, school counselor, Envirothon advisor, employer, youth group leader, etc.).