Imagine being able to use your passion and skills to make the world a little greener. That is what I’ve done this summer at the National Wildlife Federation, thanks to the Frank Karel Fellowship.

Let me give you a little backstory about myself. I love to spend time outdoors. I am talking backpacking in the remote North Carolina wilderness, climbing Colorado’s high mountain peaks and running a half marathon in Zion National Park. My happiest memories have always been outdoors.

However, these places are under threat. It’s one thing to hear about the effects of climate change on our lands and wildlife, and another thing to see how climate change is destroying the places you love via urbanization, land degradation, littering and other physical impacts. These issues are exactly what motivated me to pick up a concentration in sustainability, so I could advocate on behalf of the places and natural resources I love.

When I found out that I was paired with a non-profit whose mission and values so perfectly align with mine, I was excited. The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization. They work to ensure that wildlife has a voice in our rapidly changing environment, through conservation and advocacy work on a national level. Over the past four weeks I have learned so much about conservation policy, legislation and the importance of advocating for change.

One of the most important pieces of environmental legislation being considered is the Great American Outdoors Act. This act would help secure necessary funding to protect public lands, forests and waterways, which ultimately helps restore and protect wildlife. One of my tasks was to write a letter to Representatives urging them vote for the act. It was exactly like pitching a reporter to convince them on why they should pursue a story, but instead I was pitching how important this act was for their state’s outdoor recreation and economy.

Not only have I done really cool work at NWF, but I’ve also met really cool people. Because everything is remote due to the pandemic, I thought it was going to be impossible to truly experience NWF’s office culture or connect with the other Fellows. Surprisingly, the virtual setting did not stop me. The NWF team has made me feel extremely welcomed and has gone out of their way to make sure I have a meaningful experience.

I’ve had the chance to connect with a bunch of NWF staff and pick their brains on a variety of issues ranging from water conservation to tribal partnership. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations with everyone. It’s been nice to establish those connections even if it’s behind a webcam. Same goes with the other amazing Karel Fellows.

It is motivating and inspiring to be surrounded by others who are passionate about what they do and want to do social good. If I have learned one thing this summer, it’s that it’s important to use your voice to protect what you love.