The Student Conservation Association will achieve a major milestone this year when we place our 100,000th service member!
We will mark this momentous occasion with a year-long #SCA100K celebration, one that showcases SCA members, alumni, and others as they shape stronger communities and a more resilient world. Throughout this, our 65th year, there will be many opportunities to participate in this commemoration.
From the original SCA volunteers at Grand Teton and Olympic National Parks in 1957, through our subsequent alliances with national forests and wildlife refuges, the introduction of urban conservation programs in the 1970s, our landmark Greater Yellowstone Recovery Corps, and the Presidential Citizens Medal presentation to SCA Founder Liz Putnam, SCA has blazed a trail of youth service and stewardship all across America — a movement that today exceeds 130 conservation corps nationwide. And that’s what this campaign is all about.
We intend to celebrate all youth who serve our lands and waters, all partners who mentor the next generation of conservation leaders, and all the supporters who make these transformative opportunities possible.
In the weeks and months ahead, look for SCA100K updates here including Ambassador Q&As, partner profiles, videos, and more.
Grace Anderson is an independent consultant committed to building the capacity of people of color in the environmental space. She grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley but says she didn’t fall in love with the outdoors until a 2012 SCA Alternative School Break experience at Joshua Tree National Park, where she slept outside for the first time. Since then, Anderson has been chasing adventures around the world including Nepal, Patagonia, and the Yukon Territories. She has instructed for NOLS, GirlVentures, Balanced Rock, and worked in various capacities at organizations to build relationships that support people of color in the outdoors and environment.
Valeria Casas, Houston Community Programs manager, SCA. One of numerous SCA alums on our staff, Casas began with SCA at age 15 and immediately forged new and powerful connections with the outdoors. The following summer, she served with other teens from around the country at Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco. “I met these kids and they all had dreams,” she recalls, “and I realized then that I could have one, too.” Today Casas helps SCA members achieve their own dreams while advancing the cause of conservation.
Pipa Elias is deputy director of the Environment Program at the Walton Family Foundation, with a focus on solutions that enable nature and people to thrive together. Prior to that position, Elias was director of Agriculture for North America at The Nature Conservancy, and started at TNC as a senior policy advisor working on international climate policy. Her initial year of service with SCA was in 2002 with our DC Urban Treehouse Program, and she completed two more internships in 2003 and 2004-2005. She also served on SCA’s board of directors from 2006-2010 and on the Alumni Council from 2017-2019.
Nancy Fernandez, park ranger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Based in San Diego, Fernandez manages communications for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Previously, she was outreach coordinator for the Savannah Coastal Refuge Complex’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. With SCA, Fernandez held several positions. She was a climate change education intern at Lewis and Clark National Historic Site and San Juan Island National Historical Park in 2015, followed by an environmental educator at Chattahoochee River National Recreation Areaand SCA NPS Academy mentor. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from CSU Stanislaus.
Tom Hudspeth, professor (retired), University of Vermont. Hudspeth, who helped found UVM’s Environmental Program, enjoyed a distinguished 43-year career marked by a prodigious output of scholarly work and a passion for engaging students and communities in the pursuit of a more sustainable world. He worked tirelessly to provide vibrant, hands-on, authentic learning opportunities for his students that would challenge their worldviews and influence their lives for years to come. Since retiring, he has been engaged in climate change education, communication, and advocacy. Hudspeth served with SCA at Olympic (1964) Great Smoky Mountains (1965) and Zion National Parks (1967) and on the Board of Directors from 1979 to 1983.
Alesha Jones, student, Westinghouse High School. Already a four-time alumna of SCA’s Pittsburgh Community Crew Program at age 16, Alesha plans to return for a fifth hitch this summer, which would make her the sole active SCA member among the 10 Alumni Ambassadors. Aiding the environment in her home community holds tremendous importance for Alesha. “It’s amazing to make a difference around the parks and fix things that mean a lot to people, like their favorite trails,” she states. The high school junior has also recruited other Pittsburgh teens to join her in serving with SCA, including some family members.
Chris Setley, F-35 international logistics lead, Department of Defense. A decorated Marine veteran and former intern to an assistant secretary of the Navy, Setley now works on developing advanced aircraft for the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and U.S. allies. “I have always attributed the foundation of my commitment to service and value of diversity in part to my time as an SCA volunteer,” he says. “Although conservation is not my profession, I have always found ways to support it and am very proud of my SCA roots.”
Dr. Donna Shaver, Chief of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery for the National Park Service. Dr. Shaver began her career at Padre Island National Seashore as an SCA intern in 1980 and eventually joined the staff full-time, helping to guide an innovative program that reintroduced Kemp’s ridley sea turtles to Padre Island’s beaches through experimental imprinting and head-starting. Recognized today as one of the world’s foremost authorities on sea turtle conservation, Dr. Shaver has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sea Turtle Society, among many other honors.
Rob Thomas, senior sustainability planner at AECOM, a leading infrastructure consulting firm that designs, builds, and manages projects across multiple engineering, architectural and technological disciplines. Thomas led an SCA crew in his hometown of Newark, NJ in 2009. Shortly thereafter, he interned with the City of Newark Office of Sustainability. Thomas remained with the City for approximately 11 years after his internship, eventually being appointed as the Chief of Energy and Environment. He joined AECOM High-Performance Buildings Studio in 2021 and continues to be an advocate for SCA urban crews. “Cleaning up vacant lots that will become urban gardens, removing invasive species, planting trees – this work can quickly change the fabric of a neighborhood.”
Mark K. Updegrove is a presidential historian and the author of five books on the presidency, including the just-released INCOMPARABLE GRACE: JFK in the Presidency. Updegrove served on a 1978 SCA trail crew at Yosemite National Park, an experience he characterizes as “magical.” He currently serves as the president and CEO of the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation and the presidential historian for ABC News. Earlier in his career, he was the director of the LBJ Presidential Library and publisher of Newsweek.