Youth Conservation Leadership Institute

YCLI Applications are now closed- Next year’s applications will open in late August 2024.

What is Youth Conservation Leadership Institute and how does it work?

Youth Conservation Leadership Institute (YCLI) is a recognition program for students in 9th- 12th grade that focuses on volunteer service and environmental stewardship.  YCLI began as an expansion of Youth Conservation Camp in an effort to keep students engaged in the environmental topics introduced at camp. YCLI offers self-motivated and enthusiastic high school students interested in environmental conservation and stewardship an opportunity to build leadership skills and connect with local mentors involved with environmental issues. 

Students in 9th-12th grade may apply to be a part of this program.  Program participants are required to complete a minimum of 20 hours of community service with a conservation focus as well as participate in a book discussion and submit required progress reports throughout the year. The hours may be done as part of a single project or a series of projects but all projects must be approved by the YCLI Program Coordinator.   YCLI participants work with the YCLI Program Coordinator to come up with a project that the YCLI Participant wants to focus on. Participants must be self-driven individuals able to set their own goals, evaluate their set milestones, and be motivated to move their projects forward. The YCLI Participants are paired with a mentor to help them with their project.  Mentors can be Soil & Water Conservation Staff, Natural Resource professionals, 4-H agents, etc.   

Statewide group meetings will occur virtually. There will be a Zoom meeting at the beginning of the program to allow all participants a chance to meet and brainstorm for their projects.

The program will conclude with an in-person award and recognition ceremony to be held in June 202f.  The recognition program agenda will include time for participants to share their work and hear from key speakers in the conservation field.

YCLI is a unique opportunity for 9th-12th graders to receive experience and engage in networking opportunities to prepare them for future education and career paths.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

Students in 9th-12th grade with a strong interest in natural resource conservation and related fields are encouraged to apply.  YCLI is open to homeschool, private, and public school students. Annual programs will run from October – June. Applications open in late August each year. Scouts are eligible to use YCLI as a part of their Eagle Scout or Gold Award projects.

TO APPLY: submit this application to by October 2nd. Applicants will be notified in mid-late October, with the first Kick-Off meeting to be held in late October 2023.

Past YCLI Projects Include: 

  • Building birdhouses for Warblers
  • Living Shoreline installation project
  • Water quality testing and monitoring at local stream
  • Classroom lesson for elementary students about watersheds
  • Developing and Installing Signage for trails, stream crossings, tree identification
  • Litter Clean-Up Events
  • Clothing Drive 
  • Education Outreach Event about wildlife conservation
  • Conservation Education Outreach to Elementary Students
  • Stormwater Education Outreach 
  • Native Plant and Pollinator Garden Installation
  • Soil Compaction Education & Outreach to Homeowners 

What past participants have said about YCLI:

  • “My favorite part was teaching others and sharing my message.”- 2019-2020 YCLI Participant
  • “Being able to help my community while having support.”-2019-2020 YCLI Participant
  • “My favorite part was feeling like I was helping my community.”- 2019-2020 YCLI Participant
  • “Being able to present about my project to my peers from across the state and compare similarities and differences.”-2017-2018 YCLI Participant
  • “I liked being able to come up with my own project about something that was important to me, as well as the sense of accomplishment at the end.”-2017-2018 YCLI Participant 
  • “My favorite part of the program was implementing the project I helped plan and organize. I loved being able to see my ideas become a reality and I loved seeing how my project beneficially impacted students and adults in my community.”- 2016-2017 YCLI Participant
  • “Getting to make a change in the community for the better.”-2017-2018 YCLI Participant
  • “This is one of the only programs in our area that allows students a one-on-one experience with people working in conservation.”-  2016-2017 YCLI Participant
  • “My favorite part of the program was meeting a mentor from the SWCD. This gave me insight into the filed of conservation and a way to stay involved. ” – 2016-2017 YCLI Participant

Slide show of past YCLI Projects 

About YCLI Alumni: (More alumni profiles in development)                                                                           

Seth Hatfield Prince William SWCD
Seth Hatfield
Prince William SWCD                             

The Youth Conservation Leadership Program started with support from the Virginia Environmental Endowment.

The Youth Conservation Leadership Program is made possible with support by The Lions of Virginia Foundation.