Every summer, high school students from across Pennsylvania make their way to the beautiful wildlands of central PA. They have a common goal: ensure that the commonwealth’s natural resources are preserved so they can be enjoyed by generations to come.

The students come to participate in field schools offered by the Wildlife Leadership Academy, based in Lewisburg, Union County. Each field school focuses on a specific species, including turkey, whitetailed deer, ruffed grouse, trout and bass.

For five days and four nights, they are immersed in the habitat of their selected species. They learn about the animal’s biology and ecosystem. They work side-by-side with experts to understand habitat management and conservation techniques. And when their week is done, their work is only beginning.

“We’re training our students to become conservation ambassadors,” said Michele Kittell, executive director of the Wildlife Leadership Academy. “Once they leave camp, they’re asked to bring what they’ve learned to their communities, volunteer their time and spread the word about the importance of conservation.”

Since the academy was formed in 2007, conservation ambassadors who attended field schools have made a significant impact throughout Pennsylvania. To date, they’ve conducted more than 5,000 conservation projects, including education and outreach initiatives, mentorships and creative art projects.

“It’s truly a privilege to work with these amazing students,” said Kittell. “They’re bonded by their love of the outdoors and passionate about protecting our natural resources.”

The Wildlife Leadership Academy recently received a $10,000 sustaining grant from the PPL Foundation to support its PA Bucktails Field School, money Kittell said will have an immediate impact.

“This grant really makes a difference as we work to expand our outreach, enhance our offerings and ensure our program’s sustainability well into the future.”

Recently, more than 80 non-profit organizations received $450,000 in grants from the PPL Foundation.