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Where Youth Learn to Love Nature

Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps crew members work on constructing a boardwalk

When Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps (CCLC) students finish their six-week summer job in the Forest Preserves, they sound proud, inspired and ready for their next challenge.

“I like working here because I feel like I am making a difference in my community,” explained Ben Wolowitz, a senior who joined 50 other high school students last summer on crews that removed invasive brush and maintained trails near nature centers in forest preserves across Cook County.

The CCLC job program balances important service work with nature-based educational experiences, focused on inspiring a life-long appreciation for nature.

“I’m passionate about animals, and I think it’s important to learn about and protect where they live,” said senior Niana Smith, who also valued the team building and basic job skills training incorporated into each day. “Something I learned that will stick with me is how to work as a team and the importance of cooperation.”

During the CCLC season, participants work and learn 28 hours per week, with transportation and work clothing provided. All high school students or recent graduates aged 15 to 19 years old are eligible to earn $10 per hour to start—and up to $18 per hour if they return to the program in subsequent summers to take on a leadership position.

More than 700 students across Cook County have completed the CCLC program since 2009, gaining both critical experience for a career in conservation and the basic communication and cooperation skills needed to succeed in any job.

Next time you visit a Forest Preserves nature center, ask a staff member how CCLC students have made a difference at the site, from a bird garden at Sand Ridge to enhancing wildlife habitat removing invasive plants at Crabtree.

Positions go fast. Apply early! CCLC recruitment starts in January and applications are usually due end of March. The 2020 program runs from June 29–August 7.

Visit our Main Page and search “corps” for more information on CLCC and other conservation job programs, or write alice.brandon@cookcountyil.gov.

The CCLC program is managed in partnership with Friends of the Forest Preserves and the Student Conservation Association, with financial support provided by the Forest Preserve Foundation.