Across America's back-country and urban spaces, the Student Conservation Association, a non-profit, connects high school and college/graduate students with hands-on environmental conservation and sustainability opportunities.
The Student Conservation Association partners with US government department and agencies, such as the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, as well as businesses, including Aramark, to provide students across all 50 states with environmental conservation and sustainability service/internship opportunities. Hoping to inspire lifelong stewardship of our environments and communities among youth, they provide a variety of programs and a range of opportunities to accommodate students from high school and beyond.
Though the SCA started out by connecting students to hands-on conservation service which stirs up images of roughing it in the back-country, the opportunities that the organization offers today are diverse enough to appeal to even those who are outdoors-adverse. I've had friends do a range of things with the SCA, ranging from river ecology field research in the southwest to green building research in Chicago. Through the SCA, students provide labor and resources for the partner organizations, while students gain skills and experiences, all while doing some good for the environment/conservation/sustainability.
A couple summers back, the SCA helped connect me to an internship at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where I contributed to work on programs aimed at preparing the region's biodiversity stewards for climate change. Like any program, it had its hiccups, but one thing that was very clear in my experience was that the program was VERY interested in making sure that its members (students) gain valuable experiences. By checking up on their programs and continually setting up networking events, they seemed genuinely interested in helping their students move forward. I think this is what makes the program a good place for students in that transition phase between school and work .