How high schoolers can help protect the James River

Posted at 6:41 AM, Jan 26, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- The James River Association is hoping to recruit high school students to spend the year learning about the river and how to protect it.

The James River Leadership Expeditions (JRLE) is in its 12th year. The program gives 30 high schoolers from all across Virginia the opportunity to enjoy river-based education, build new friendships, develop leadership skills and carry out a community capstone project.

It's segmented into four sessions, running from July 2023 through May 2024.

The kick-off event is a week-long, overnight paddle adventure on the James River.

"We meet river stakeholders, and we paddle about 40 to 50 miles," explained director of education for the James River Association, Nat Draper. "We camp out each night, we learn how to work as a team, cook our meals, set up camp and then of course, learn about the environmental issues that face the James River."

Draper explained more than 400 students have been part of this program over the past 12 years, and some students have gone on to major in environmental science. A few of those former students have even come back to JRLE to help educate current students in the program.

"One of our big goals is to always have students become advocates of the river," Draper said. "And the best way to become an advocate of the river is to really be a part of the river and experience the river. So I think getting them a chance to paddle with other people that love the river is is key."

The application for this year's program is open now. To learn more about JRLE and apply,click here.

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