​“Sometimes the things that are most important are the things we take for granted.”

Ann-Marie Alcántara
New York City LEAF Alumnus - Poughkeepsie, New York

As a first-generation child growing up in the heart of New York’s urban jungle, Ann-Marie Alcántara never envisioned herself on a career path protecting the nature that we all depend upon for clean air, water, and health. Her early experiences with nature inspired her to not only speak up for nature herself, but to empower others to understand the transformative effect nature can have on peoples’ lives.

“As a city girl, nature was a foreign concept to me. But in the summer of my sophomore year in high school, I left the sights and sounds of New York to join The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program. It was more than just my first time being in nature – getting up close and personal with bugs and dirt – it was the beginning of my life path.”

After completing the LEAF program, Alcántara says she saw the city through the lens of nature and developed a new appreciation for the trees that line the streets, the leaves that fall in autumn and the birds that chirp in the early morning. “We take for granted the nature around us – the beautiful views that are on our calendars, websites and screensavers.”

“From that moment on, I was unstoppable,” says Alcántara and she joined her school’s Envirothon club, wrote research papers on sea turtle conservation and acid rain and got jobs at first the Queens Botanical Garden and then the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire.

As a rising junior at Vassar College majoring in environmental studies with concentrations in English and Biology, and a minor in urban studies, Alcántara would like to become an environmental journalist. “I want to use my outside voice to share the power of nature through reaching out, educating, and expanding public support for the planet. As a woman, a scientist and a Latina, I want to empower a new generation of leaders who pursue their dreams and follow the path that brings them the greatest fulfillment.” ​

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