While on the trip to northern Wisconsin, students collaboratively brainstorm ideas about an environmentally-focused stewardship project that interests them and has a positive impact on the community.  When they return from the trip, students get started on their projects. Each student leads the efforts and has the support of an adult mentor to help guide the project and its management. These projects give students the chance to have a positive impact in their hometown as they engage and collaborate with their community. While each project is developed and implemented by an individual student, other CCL students collaborate, provide feedback and ideas to support their peers. 

Learn more by viewing this video and checking out past student projects.

Students work from July – March on their projects and should expect to spend approximately 40 hours working on them. They meet regularly with their mentor and also as a group to talk about ideas and help one another. In the following spring, students present their projects at a Certificate Ceremony, giving each a new level of confidence and a strong sense of accomplishment.
Here are some projects that students have completed in the past.


  • Invasive species removal
  • Buckthorn removal 
  • Awareness campaigns on invasive species

Organized group clean-ups to pick up garbage on trails and at parks and beaches

Water and Air Quality
Test and report on quality of local air, lakes, and rivers

Erosion Control
Measure and track shoreline erosion

Species Awareness and Protection 
Build houses and nests for blue birds, wood ducks and owls

Recycling Programs 

  • Starting recycling programs at their schools or in their communities
  • Organizing collections for old clothes, shoes, or batteries

Click here to see a full list of past student stewardship projects. 

Some students carry on their project past the initial CCL program. Read below for a sampling of these young committed Conservation Leaders:

Eddie Flores
Eddie graduated from Waukegan High School in 2019 and was a member of the 2016 CCL cohort. Now a student at College of Lake County, Eddie continues to advocate for Clean Energy, Waukegan. He was featured on the Clean Power Lake County social media post with this description:

Eddie got into environmental work his first year of high school when he joined the Center for Conservation Leadership. He did a year-long park restoration at Roosevelt Park in Waukegan, picking up trash, removing invasive species, helping maintain the rain garden by working on a permeable paver parking lot. He got his start in environmental justice work when he planned a walk-out at his school during the youth Global Climate strike week in 2019. Shortly after, he quickly learned about the superfund sites and ethylene oxide pollution in his hometown, Waukegan and has spoken out about environmental racism in Waukegan ever since.

Emir Suhaime
Over 170 students have participated in CCL since its inception 11 years ago. Many have done inspirational things following the program, but few have been as dedicated and committed as Emir Suhaime. Emir, a 2020 graduate of North Chicago Community High School, is unusual in the CCL program as he did not attend the initial Wisconsin trip. Passionate about nature and environmental sustainability, Emir became involved with CCL when he chose to volunteer as a restoration intern following his sophomore year. He hit his stride and was the only intern who did not miss a day, or even an hour, over the next two summers of work. Emir made an impressive commitment to the work he undertook as an intern and with his stewardship project and we were excited to hire him as a paid summer Restoration Ecology Intern before he matriculated at Colorado College in the fall, 2020.

Conserve. Inspire. Lead.