Youth Environmental Leadership Experience

In partnership with the Boys and Girls Club AVID/TOPS High School Program, the Dane County Youth Environmental Leadership Experience (YELE) is a summer initiative that works with high school students to explore the natural world, foster peer support and mentorship networks, explore natural resources careers, and inspire confidence in outdoor recreation activities.

Youth who participate in this program will have unique opportunities to build leadership and career skills, make new friends, participate in outdoor adventures, and learn about the environment through field experiences.


Student Benefits:YELE canoe trip group photo

Student Requirements for school year programming:

Contact Micah Kloppenburg for additional information.


Summer 2021 applications are closed. Please check back in with us next year.


2020 Summer ExperienceCity of Madison map with a teen green spaces marked.

To ensure our community remained safe through the continuing COVID pandemic, we transformed YELE and went fully virtual. In spite of the challenges, fifteen TOPS Summer Interns enthusiastically joined a weekly, virtual gathering where we explored what it means for connect to the outdoors and to each other. Following an hour or so of engaged (virtual) conversation, we independently completed a set of outdoor challenges designed to help us discover the outdoors with different eyes. One highlight experience found the TOPS Summer Interns creating emotion maps from their house to their local green space. We tracked changes in our heartbeat and emotions as we walked alongside traffic, by construction sites, were surprised by birds (or bikers), and through neighborhoods before stopping to rest and reflect at our chosen green space. Though physically distant, we were still successful in getting outdoors 'together' (see our green space map to the right!). 


2019 Summer ExperienceYELE 2019 teens group photo

The summer of 2019, the Dane County Land & Water Resources Department piloted the Youth Environmental Leadership Experience with an awesome team of seven MMSD high school students. Students spent seven weeks and over 60 hours exploring our connections to the natural world in six Dane County Parks and with nine community partners. They gained experience with stream monitoring, trapping small mammals, canoeing, and gained a better awareness of  how culture and nature intersect.

Students’ experiences and unique voice were captured in video blogs created by the teens, check them out!