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Buckingham High’s Jones learns conservation leadership

Taylor Jones, a senior at Buckingham County High School, recently participated in the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ (VASWCD) inaugural Youth Conservation Leadership Institute.

Youth Conservation Leadership Institute (YCLI) is a recognition program for students who focus on volunteer service and environmental stewardship.

YCLI began as an expansion of Youth Conservation Camp in an effort to keep students engaged in the environmental topics introduced at camp. Peter Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District (PFSWCD), which serves Buckingham and Cumberland counties, sponsored Jones to attend the week-long environmental camp at Virginia Tech where Jones first learned about the Institute. Students submitted their applications for the Institute to the VASWCD immediately following camp and were notified of their acceptance in September.

Program participants are required to complete a minimum of 20 hours of community service with a conservation focus. Nine students were selected to participate in VASWCD’s first Institute.

Peter Francisco SWCD also served as Jones’ mentor for the project. The two worked together to secure a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Citizen’s Water Quality Monitoring Grant to purchase water quality monitoring equipment. Jones also worked with Andrew Schmitt, FFA advisor, ag and welding teacher and Envirothon coach, to recruit students to serve on the school’s Envirothon Team, which, in turn, would serve as the citizen water quality monitoring team. 

Virginia Envirothon is a natural resources competition through which high school students in the Commonwealth compete by demonstrating their knowledge of environmental science and natural resource management. In preparation for the event, teams of students spend the year studying soils, forestry, aquatics, wildlife, and a current specific environmental issue. Students also apply their knowledge of these topics and problem solving skills through an oral presentation in which they solve real-life environmental problems. The winner at the state level competes at the North American level.

The site selected for the monthly water quality monitoring is Horsepen Creek in the Horsepen Wildlife Management Area. The project will be complete in December. Blair Smyth, with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, helped determine the best site to perform the water quality monitoring making the project a true community effort.

The final program and awards luncheon for YCLI was held Feb. 20 at Ash Lawn-Highland in Charlottesville. Jones gave a five-minute PowerPoint presentation outlining his project. 

The presentation will be shared with Peter Francisco SWCD Board and local landowners and agriculture producers at the district’s spring dinner meeting on April 28, and the results of the year-long project will be shared at the 2017 spring dinner meeting. 

The water quality monitoring results will also be shared with the Buckingham County School Board and the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors.

Peter Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District is accepting applications from youth in grades 9-12 residing in Buckingham and Cumberland Counties for the 2016 Youth Conservation Camp at Virginia Tech July 10-16. The district will sponsor two participants who are truly interested in experiencing this environmental camp.  Deadline to apply for sponsorship is May 2. To get an application, contact Elise Corbin at (434) 983-7923 or email or visit