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President's Letter: Internships Cultivate Conservation

Most of us think of the Forest Preserves as a place for discovery, exercise and rejuvenation. But the Forest Preserves provides many other resources to Cook County residents. Some are not obvious to the general public, yet provide direct and long-lasting community benefits. Our paid internship program is a prime example.

The Forest Preserves funds more than 30 paid internships each year, both directly and through partners. Through our diverse programs, Cook County residents—students, young professionals and career changers—can develop critical professional and life skills.

Several intern positions are now open, many with applications due in early to mid-April, and more to come.

Thanks to partnerships with conservation organizations, young people from throughout the county will be working with our staff this summer to help restore our ecosystems, learning habitat restoration, controlled burning and ecological monitoring.

In our general office and many departments, interns can learn communications, planning, mapping, project direction, research and administrative skills—all through a unique green lens.

But just as important as providing experience and an impressive line in one’s resume, these internships create long-lasting connections to the forest preserves and the wider natural world.

Some interns haven’t yet spent much time in the preserves, despite having lived near them for their entire lives. But after several months of hands-on work, workshops and trainings, and regular exposure to all that the preserves offer, many become our most inspiring ambassadors. With direct access to staff and enrichment opportunities, these young people come to a deeper understanding of complex ecological issues, one we wish every resident possessed.

Some of our interns go on to careers in conservation. Others apply their skills in different arenas. In either case, the Forest Preserves sends professionals into the world with a solid understanding of conservation and nature, ultimately creating better citizens who take nature into account when making big decisions. Additionally, our interns come from diverse backgrounds and all parts of the county, which will further help strengthen and diversify the environmental field.

I’d like to extend a hearty thank you to all of the interns who have served the Forest Preserves over the years. You allow us to accomplish bigger and better things and expose us to fresh ideas about what can be done.

Toni Preckwinkle, President
Forest Preserves of Cook County