Youth Conservation Leadership Institute (YCLI)

Check back in September for applications for the upcoming school year (24-25).

Youth Conservation Leadership Institute(YCLI) is a recognition program for High School (9th-12th) students that focuses on volunteer service and environmental stewardship. YCLI offers 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 choose projects that they are interested in to carryout in their community. The program is open to any Virginia high school (9th-12th grade) student committed to the entirety of the program including:

  • Completion of at least 20 community service hours to be approved by the VASWCD staff.
  • Submission of one interim and final report/presentation on the community work completed.
  • Attendance at the final recognition program to be held in Spring of 2025
  • Read an assigned book on environmental leadership for a group discussion

Check out some past YCLI projects:

Atmika, Freedom HS/Acadmies of Loudoun, Testing Chloride Levels in Local Streams (Amy Ulland, mentor)

Liam, Tuscaroroa HS, Invasive Bradford Pear Tree Removal at Tuscarora HS (Jay Frankenfield, mentor)

Leah, Loudoun Valley HS, Sustainibility at Loudoun Valley HS – Leah’s project won FIRST PLACE at the Student Environmental Action Showcase in April 2023!!!

Advitiya, Briar Woods HS, Fluvial Geomorphology and Flooding: The Effects and Relationships between Flood Prone and Bankfull Depth & Width, Slope, Velocity, Area, Discharge, and Stream Bed Characteristics on the Ability of Loudoun County Streams to Flood

Anirudh, John Champe HS , Macroinvertebrate Survey

Anthony , Broad Run High School/Academies of Loudoun

Salvation for our Streams – Anthony focused on local stream health in Loudoun for his YCLI project. Anthony created educational materials, a website and also volunteered in a variety of ways to raise awareness about stream health in Loudoun, including the Creek Critter event at Chapman DeMary Park, assisting a Macroinvertebrate educational session at the public library, and helped to ensure we had an in-person venue for the Student Environmental Action Showcase (SEAS) at Trailside MS, where he also showcased his project! He also committed to learning all about macroinvertebrates and stream monitoring from Virginia Save Our Streams and conducted multiple stream monitoring sessions which lead to him  becoming a certified stream monitor.  He hopes to continue these efforts by volunteering with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s stream monitoring program

Check out his website:

Emma, Homeschool

Stream Signage Along the W & OD Trail – Emma is a long-time stream health advocate in Loudoun who became certified as a stream monitor at a young age. Inspired by her mother, Amy Ulland (coordinator for Loudoun Wildlife Conservacy’s stream health program), she has been monitoring stream health for many years in Loudoun. This experience led her to choose a YCLI project focused on stream signage to bring more awareness to the public on the importance and location of our local streams. Emma hopes that these stream signs will help people become more aware of and connected to these important natural resources, and will ultimately foster a greater sense of stewardship towards these valuable waterways and their surrounding environments. Emma faced many hurdles trying to get her signage approved but her tenacity won out and she officially had her first sign posted in April along Tuscarora Creek!  She is continuing her efforts and has identified four additional sites along the W&OD Trail in Loudoun that still need signage – including Town Branch, Broad Run, Sycolin Creek, and Beaverdam Run. Anyone interested in supporting Emma’s project for these additional signs can contact Amy Ulland at (Average cost for two signs is less than $200!)

Cooper, Homeschool

Stream Bank Erosion – Cooper’s love for fish and aquatic life lead him to want to improve  water quality of Dry Mill Branch, a local stream, by combating erosion. Cooper researched the watershed around to better understand the problem. He conducted outreach on the issue of erosion in our streams at the Student Environmental Action Showcase and recently planted willow whips to help stabilize the stream bank and prevent further erosion. Cooper is also a certified stream monitor with Virginia Save Our Streams and volunteers with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s stream monitoring program. Thank you, Cooper, for caring about our precious natural resources!

Sharanya, Independence High School

The City of Streams – Sharanya used her concern for our water quality in Loudun to guide her project. She worked hard to understand the world of macroinvertebrates and the Virginia Save Our Streams process to become a certified stream monitor. She assisted with multiple stream monitoring efforts as well as conducted outreach at the Student Environmental Action Showcase and with our local newspaper! Her concern for our local waterways led her to write an amazing letter to the editor of Loudoun Now – check it out!

Other YCLI Projects Include:

  • Building birdhouses for Warblers
  • Teaching elementary students about watersheds
  • Developing and Installing Trail Signage
  • Litter Clean Ups
  • Clothing Drive
  • Education Outreach about being an Intern with the Elizabeth River Project
  • Conservation Education Outreach to Elementary Students
  • Stormwater Education Outreach
  • Pollinator Gardens
  • Soil Compaction Education & Outreach to Homeowners

What past participants have said about YCLI:

“The past months of participation have been very exciting and motivating. Your mentorship and this program have been invaluable in furthering my interest in the environment.” – 2021-22 YCLI Participant

“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

“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

Questions? Please contact our Education Specialist:
(571) 918-4530 ext.109