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High School Interns Clear Out Invasive Plant In Bridgeport Park

The LEAF crew at The Nature Conservancy’s Devil’s Den in Weston. From left: LEAF intern Elmer Galvez, LEAF intern Enoc Escobar, the Conservancy’s Mark Mainieri, LEAF mentor Stephen McClellan, LEAF intern Loc Nguyen, and LEAF intern Ted Brooks.
The LEAF crew at The Nature Conservancy’s Devil’s Den in Weston. From left: LEAF intern Elmer Galvez, LEAF intern Enoc Escobar, the Conservancy’s Mark Mainieri, LEAF mentor Stephen McClellan, LEAF intern Loc Nguyen, and LEAF intern Ted Brooks. Photo Credit: © Cynthia Fowx/TNC

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Four teens from New Haven went to work in July to help control the spread of an invasive weed in a Bridgeport park.

The teens are members of the internship program at The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders called Environmental Action for the Future, or LEAF. As part of the program, they worked to remove Japanese knotweed from Svihra Park.

The knotweed was introduced in the U.S. as an ornamental plant. But it aggressively spreads its roots, displacing native fauna.

The teens also worked on nature projects in Weston and Old Lyme. But the summer wasn’t all work for the teens.

“The internship is a mix of both work and education,” said Cynthia Fowx, conservation outreach manager at The Nature Conservancy. The program also engaged in educational programming with conversancy staff, including a session held at Seaside Park in Bridgeport.

Interns are paid, Fowx said, and are required to make a one-month commitment. The program typically hires high-achieving students from environmentally friendly high schools.

This summer’s interns were from Sound School Regional Vocational Aquaculture Center and Common Ground High School, which are both schools with environmental-themed curriculums in New Haven.

This year’s group included Ted Brooks, Elmer Galvez and Loc Nguyen from Common Ground. Another participant, Enoc Escobar, attends Sound School.

Fowx said that she hopes the program inspires a new generation of environmentally focused leaders.

The program has been in Connecticut for five years, she said. But LEAF began 21 years ago at the national level. Fowx estimates that interns worked in 11 cities across the country this summer.

“Ultimately, we’re really working for the next generation of environmental leaders,” Fowx said. “Whether they are working directly in the environmental field after high school or just in their day-to-day lives, we hoped they have used those positive outdoor experiences and tools internship has provided to benefit the environment and come up with the kind of solutions we haven’t started to address yet.”

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