The first cohort of PINES Fellows pause for a photo at Frog Pond, Williamson Nature Preserve
TLC is thrilled to welcome five students from Knightdale High School (KHS) into our inaugural cohort of the Pathways into Natural Environments and Science (PINES) Fellowship program. Please join us in welcoming Daniel Ivan Vargas, Zoe Grandy-Richardson, Raphael Mukondiwa, Hanna Camptella, and Quinten Jones into the TLC community! This year’s cohort of PINES Fellows features three juniors and two seniors, each entering the program with a wide variety of interests – from landscape architecture to farm-to-table restaurants.
Through honest conversations as an organization, TLC knows that we have a role in creating opportunities to increase diversity in the environmental profession. The lack of racial diversity in environmental organizations is a well-documented problem and one that TLC must actively address if we are to reflect the communities we serve and fulfill our promise of protecting land forever. Demographic shifts in the Triangle bring opportunities to harness the energy of younger and more diverse populations.
In conjunction with KHS, TLC developed the PINES Fellowship to open pathways of opportunity for a diverse group of high school students in the field of conservation and natural resources. Through weekly meetings all spring, Fellows are learning about career opportunities in conservation, building relationships with TLC staff, board members, and environmental professionals as well as learning about conservation through immersive experiences.
Fellows explained that the PINES program is an outlet to finally do something with their interests in environmental conservation and advocacy. “Like most people, I understand the importance of conservation of our damaged planet – but I’ve never had the means to help out, the TLC Pines program is my opportunity,” shared Raphael.
When asked about their goals for the PINES Program, several Fellows expressed interest in gaining confidence in their career paths and are excited to have access to a community of professionals and mentors that share their passion for the environment.
The cohort has a broad range of post-graduation plans and each is finding value in the potential of building connections, confidence, and experience. “I don’t really know what career path I want to take yet but, I think it’s important to see what all these jobs can really look like before I decide what path I am going to take for the rest of my life,” shared Hanna.
Looking towards the future, TLC will increase the number of Fellows reached and deepen the experiences gained. Additionally, we’re committed to continuing to help Fellows reach their career aspirations, even after completing the program. As a paid Fellowship, the PINES program not only helps students build a better resume and skillset for their post-graduation plans but supports them in funding these plans as well. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to support the students at KHS and make an impact on the future of conservation. TLC thanks Protolabs Foundation for their generous support for this program.