Boston students spend summer on Vineyard working with nature

Daniel Felix (on left,) Alex Vilson, and Erikka Blackstone (on right,) took a break from clearing spotted knapweed from the Katama Airpark to pose for a photo. — Photo by Michelle Williams

For the past month, a group of three city high school kids from Boston have been digging up dirt on Martha’s Vineyard and enjoying the Island’s fresh air.

The students arrived July 9 on the Island and have spent nearly a month away from the city in an internship program, Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF), sponsored by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the international conservation organization with an office in West Tisbury.

TNC established the LEAF program 18 years ago to inspire interest in environment conservation. It provides paid, residential career internships for students on nature preserves around the country and enriches these experiences in the classroom by providing professional development opportunities to educators from partner high schools, according to a press release.

The three students attend the Boston Green Academy. Alex Vilson, Daniel Felix, and Erikka Blackstone work each day at a different location.

Somedays the girls identify and remove invasive species at Katama airfield, others days they clear bittersweet at TNC’s Hoft Farm in West Tisbury.

The ever-changing schedule is Alex’s favorite aspect. “I’ve really liked being in nature,” she said. “Seeing all the plants and stuff has been amazing.” She plans to study medicine and the connection of medical treatment to nature.

During their time off work, the three students explored the Island. They’ve watched a play at Camp Jabberwocky, tried sweet bread at the Feast of the Holy Ghost, rode horses for the first time at Esperanza Riding company, and waited in line for apple fritters at Back Door donuts.

“Learning about the environment drew me in, but I like that we also get to have fun and explore Martha’s Vineyard,” Erikka said.

“We’re excited to introduce a new generation to the wonder of nature here in Massachusetts, and open their eyes to the idea of working in conservation some day,” said Wayne Klockner, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts, in a press release.

Learn more about the program at