Chapters & Centers

CLI Program Launches New Year at Audubon Florida Assembly

Every fall, the Conservation Leadership Initiative welcomes 25 Florida college students and 25 Audubon chapter mentors.

Since 2020, the Conservation Leadership Initiative (CLI) has been launched remotely or in small regional groups due to the pandemic and Hurricane Ian. But after three years away, Audubon Florida’s Conservation Leadership Initiative was finally able to launch in-person at Audubon Assembly! 

CLI inspires the next generation of environmental leaders through building relationships, networking, and creating experiential learning opportunities. Our chapter mentors volunteer their time to immerse students into local chapter initiatives and the conservation community while CLI staff work to connect students to Audubon’s statewide and national programs through career panels, professional development webinars, and field experiences. This year’s class represents 11 different Florida colleges and 17 local Audubon chapters, spread across the state from Pensacola to Miami. 

Assembly kicked off for CLI students with a meet-andgreet session to use their new Vortex binoculars as they explored Nature’s Classroom, Hillsborough County’s outdoor environmental education center. The next day, the entire CLI class and their mentors met for the first time, followed by exclusive birding field trips. Students then attended tailored programming, which included a career panel and professional development workshop before they rejoined the Audubon Assembly for learning sessions, speakers, chapter celebrations, and networking. 

“The Audubon assembly was wonderful! I got to meet and connect with lots of incredible Audubon staff and conservationists. I got to learn what it truly means to be part of the Audubon Society!” — 2023-2024 Student Alexandra Barath, University of Central Florida 

Audubon Assembly is just the beginning for the CLI Class of 2023-24. Through May 2024, CLI students and mentors will collaborate within their chapters and the Audubon network to find meaningful ways for the students to get involved in Audubon activities, including student-led projects.

We thank Vortex Optics for their fourth year of binocular donations, allowing our students to become instant birders upon joining the program. 

This article originally appeared in the Winter edition of the Naturalist magazine.

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