Mission Impact

SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.

Because our mission targets what participants go on to do after their experiences with SCA, following up with our alumni is a key factor in understanding whether we’re achieving that powerful mission that drives all we do.

Alumni: What do we know?


At SCA we follow up with participants from all of our programs six months, two years, and five years after they serve with us. We launched these surveys in the spring of 2016, but they built on previous efforts to survey our alumni that we started many years earlier. (We’ve always been curious about where our alumni end up – and whether SCA helped then get there!)

Alumni surveys target:

  • The “stickiness” of the changes participants experience as a result of participating in SCA. (Do they still feel a sense of responsibility for the environment? Has their increased sense of confidence stayed with them?)
  • Changes in behavior and action that have resulted from their SCA experience (Are they more connected to nature? More committed to taking action in their community? More likely to take on leadership roles?)
  • Current level of education and field of employment.

So, what have we learned?

6 months: What’s stuck?

In the follow-up survey six months after SCA, we target “What’s stuck?“ — Have they experienced lasting changes since their SCA experience? If so, how?

Results snapshot:

  • 91% are more confident in their abilities
  • 88% are more able to adapt to challenging situations
  • 88% are more able to work on a project with a team of people


While all alumni told us that they are more committed to making a difference after SCA, these changes were particularly strong for alumni of our Community Crews, a program where high school students serve in their local city.

  • 90% of Community Crew alumni have a better understanding of how my choices can make a difference in the world.
  • 88% of Community Crew alumni believe more strongly that young people can change the world.
For Community Program participants, doing things they didn’t do before–eating healthier, more active, noticing trash, using less energy:

“I try to live in a better environment by recycling and picking up trash in my neighborhood.” –Community Programs

We saw trends in the responses from alumni when asked how they live differently since SCA.

Alumni of SCA’s Community Crews, a program that targets high school students who often have little or no prior experience with conservation, alumni were most likely to say that they do things they didn’t do before: eat healthier, more active, notice and pick up trash, or use less energy, to name a few.

For National Crew participants, broader perspective:

“I am more interested in learning about the environmental impact of everything I do/eat/buy, and consciously make efforts to lessen it. I also realize how much being outside positively affects my mood. The trip itself also helped me become a more open-minded individual: being accepting of others, thinking from different perspectives, and getting excited about trying new things.” – National Crew

Alumni of SCA’s National Crews, another program for high school students but one that targets those with existing leadership skills and prior experience in the outdoors, alumni spoke most about how SCA broadened their perspective. While National Crew participants most often are already conscious of conservation and the environment before SCA, these alumni often shared that their SCA experience helped them understand more about the idea of conservation, the effect of their actions on the world around them—both the planet and the people—and the possibilities of what their life could become.

For Young Adult participants, deeper understanding:

“Ever since my internship, I have become much more independent-thinking. I have always been environmentally-minded and nature-oriented. The internship intensified my passion for nature, which I didn’t think was possible. I actually left the graduate program I was in for a semester because it did not reflect my interests in nature enough. I am now focused on pursuing a career in natural resources. I am volunteering for another SCA internship this summer.” – Intern

Alumni of SCA’s programs for young adults ages 18 and older, both individual internships and team-based corps, most often talked about coming away with a deeper understanding of what it takes to get critical conservation work done and a clearer path toward a conservation career.

2 years: What’s useful?

Most useful “soft” skills:

In the follow-up survey two year after SCA, we target “What’s been useful?” In other words, have they used skills they gained at SCA in work, school, or life? Which skills have been most useful since SCA?

When asked to choose from a list the top three skills they gained at SCA and continue to use today, the most common answers are:

  • Working in a team (for all SCA programs)
  • Working hard (particularly strong for high school students)
  • Flexibility (for programs for participants ages 18+)
  • Managing projects (for programs for participants ages 18+)

For SCA Community Crews, a program that targets work readiness skills for high school students, a quarter of alumni said that acting professionally and being prepared for work were who of the most useful skills they gained at SCA. Taken together, the skills Community Crew participants cite most often — working in a team, working hard, acting professionally, and being prepared for work — will provide valuable preparation for the workplace.

Most useful “hard” skills:
  • Backpacking/hiking (mostly young adult)
  • Data collection (young adult).
  • Educating others (also in youth)

SCA experiences also provide technical and focused pre-professional skills. Among those, alumni — in particular alumni ages 18+ in individual internships or team-based corps — most commonly described gaining skills in backpacking/hiking, data collection, and educating others, all useful skills for a lifetime of conservation careers and stewardship of the planet.

  • In school in conservation field because of SCA: 39%
  • In a career in conservation field because of SCA: 54%

Slightly less than half of alumni of SCA programs for young adults ages 18+ reported that they decided to go to school in a conservation or green jobs field because of SCA. Around half decided to have a career in a conservation or green jobs field because of SCA.

This data shows that SCA is in programs for students in college and beyond, participants are often coming to SCA because of an existing interest in conservation. For one out of every two participants, the SCA experience is the spark that propels their interest in a conservation career. For the other half, that interest has already been solidified before they even start with SCA, as described by this intern alumnus: “I’ve wanted to be in the environmental field for most of my life. The SCA was a great step along the way —-I just didn’t need to be convinced to be environmental, I already was.”

  • 86% are better prepared to do well in their career because of SCA.
  • 86% say that SCA helped them learn a lot about the type of job they want to do.

“I had a general idea of what career I wanted to pursue prior to my SCA internship. This bear management internship was my first professional experience in wildlife management, and it solidified my career choice.” – Intern

Even for those who arrived at SCA already committed to conservation, alumni says that SCA helped them home in on the type of job they want to do (86%) and become more prepared to do well in their career (86%).

The following quotes reflect that trend.

“I had always planned to go to college to study research biology, and SCA didn’t change that – it’s not like it discouraged me or anything, I just planned to do that before I ever did SCA!” – Intern

“My SCA experience didn’t change my goals in school or career, but it gave me an added perspective.” – National Crew

5 Years: What now?

Which best describes what you’re currently doing?


The vast majority of respondents to the five year follow-up survey were alumni who served with SCA in internships and team-based corps programs for participants ages 18+. Five years after SCA, 85% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

piechart 2

Five years after SCA, two-thirds of these alumni are working, and one-third are enrolled in higher education, with many both working or interning while they attend school.

Employment evenly split across sectors

Employment is fairly evenly split across the four major sectors: corporate/business, educational institution, governmental institution, and non-profit organization or foundation.

  • Corporation or business: 28%
  • Educational institution: 18%
  • Governmental institution: 33%
  • Non-profit organization or foundation: 21%

For those who are working or in school, two-thirds say it’s in the conservation, environmental, sustainability, or green jobs field.

As noted before, most respondents to the five year follow-up survey were alumni who served with SCA in internships and team-based corps programs for participants ages 18+, most of whom come to SCA with prior interest and experience in conservation.

*Heavily weighted to intern alumni

The following quote reflects a trend across responses from intern program alumni.

“I am confident that I would not have achieved my current level of success without my SCA internships. The skills I acquired, the people I met, and the focus I acquired all gave me a distinct advantage going into graduate school and obtaining a job.” -Intern

Outside of work, alumni reported that they’d experienced other changes as a result of their participation in SCA. Half are more involved with their community because of SCA. Two-thirds say that they are a stronger leader because of SCA.

  • Half are more involved in their community because of SCA.
  • Three-quarters are a stronger leader because of SCA. (78%)


While the data offered here offers much to help us at SCA understand the impact of our program on participants, we are always engaged in work to build on what we’ve learned.

What’s next for alumni surveying at SCA:

1.Understanding the long-term impact of SCA on Community Crew participants will require greater attention to increasing the pool of responses from these alums. We’ll be exploring methods for increasing the response rate for our Community Crew programs, particularly in the follow-ups five years after SCA.

2.The best survey in the world won’t matter if we can’t contact our alumni. SCA is currently focusing on internal efforts to improve the accuracy of our contact information for our alumni base.

3.Research by the Search Institute into SCA’s impact on youth (www.thesca.org/about/impact-on-youth) suggests that the growth participants experience during SCA endures – even builds – over time. SCA is currently seeking partners interesting in exploring the potential of a longitudinal study of long-term participant outcomes.

Student Conservation Association