One Person CAN Make A Difference

December 13, 2023


Your support inspires young leaders to believe in their ability to change the world.

When Cai applied to the Urban Ecology Center’s (UEC’s) Outdoor Leader Program, she didn’t expect it to change her entire perspective. She reflected: “I didn’t feel like myself alone could make a difference. It just felt really big, too big to pursue on my own.”

Cai has serious concerns, “I’m really worried about how things will be in the future. Will we have enough resources to sustain life?  What will happen to the animals? Will there be any habitat left for them?”

What she discovered was that her feelings of hopelessness towards helping the environment are common, not only among kids her age, but also the adults in her life. Cai realized that she’s not alone - in her worries or in finding solutions. She started to have a more positive outlook, stating, “after coming to the UEC, I saw a lot of people who were all so passionate about nature and realized I can help. We can all help.”

The UEC’s Outdoor Leader Program is a paid internship for high school students designed to get youth outside, explore green careers and learn professional skills. Cai praised the experience saying, “Some jobs just expect you to be professional right away but we’re so young, we don’t really exactly know how to do that yet. The UEC gave us a chance to make mistakes and correct those mistakes through learning.”

Her favorite thing about the internship, “was just being part of a community. It was very nice to be part of something that we all had common interests in but then get to know people from different backgrounds.”

Cai and other young leaders were taught how to make positive change: “After spending the summer with the UEC, I can tell people what I am doing to help. I helped mitigate the spread of invasive species. And I feel I have more tools to educate others on ways they can help.”

Your support inspires young adults like Cai to believe in their own ability to make a difference AND provides them with the skillset to make it happen. Cai is now a senior high school student, and has already been accepted to Carthage College’s chemical engineering program. Her career goals include making pesticides and herbicides more environmentally friendly. We have no doubt that she’ll achieve this goal.


The story above was featured in our News from the Naturehood publication. News from the Naturehood showcases individuals from the UEC community and their inspiring stories - demonstrating how your support has a big impact! To receive this mailing 3x per year and support the UEC, become a sustaining member of The Hive!

Past Employee
Guest Author
Development Communications Manager

Michelle is UEC's Development Communications Manager. With a degree in Zoology and Environmental Studies, she began her career as a zookeeper. An American badger remains her favorite animal - having raised one from a cub. After making some difficult professional decisions, Michelle ended up in the nonprofit sector where she’s happily stayed for 8+ years.  Having started in January 2022, she still feels incredibly lucky to be part of the UEC team - a team who, like her, cares deeply about the environment and those, both human and not, that depend on it. When she’s not at the UEC, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband, two young children and their deaf English setter.

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