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Student Conservation Association: Love our Planet. Now and Always.


In honor of Earth Month, we’re excited to feature a guest author from our partner, the Student Conservation Association (SCA). Cristina Hernandez is the Corporate & Community Engagement Specialist at SCA and dedicates her time and passion to conservation and environmental stewardship.


Read her story on what drives her love for environmental work, the motivation behind her dedication, and why she believes SCA’s mission is pivotal for the well-being of our planet.


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SCA Guest Blog Photo 2.pngA red-hot heatwave in DC, a tornado touching down in Chicago, and several small golden pouches of delicious snack mix, color my memories of travel over the past year. Encountering extreme weather in my travels across the nation has become the norm. The irony is that these trips are made in the name of environmental conservation, specifically, to further our mission in creating the next generation of conservationists.


Many years ago, a spunky college student envisioned an army of young people rising to the task of caring for America’s most precious resource. Her vision was outlined in a senior thesis and soon gained the interest and support of officials in the National Park Service. The first SCA volunteers arrived at Grand Teton and Olympic National Parks in 1957.


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Today, the Student Conservation Association is the largest provider of hands-on environmental conservation programs for youth and young adults. Last month, 12 young SCA crew members from Houston and Atlanta arrived at Grand Teton National Park to learn and to serve. For several of the members, the adventure was a journey full of many firsts: their first time leaving home, their first time seeing clouds from an airplane window, their first time at a National Park, and their first time seeing, as one crew member put it, SO MUCH SNOW.


Atlanta Community Program Manager Johnathan Johnson knew this was an experience his crew would remember for a lifetime, “To see kids of color experiencing things I know they wouldn’t otherwise have access to was sacred. One of our first crews visited Grand Tetons, so it was like going back home.”


He shared with me that he believes giving access to nature can be transformative; it can inspire young adults and empower them to make changes inside and out. The American Psychological Association cites a research review by the University of Washington that “contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive effects, positive social interactions, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress.” Southwest Airlines has partnered with SCA for over a decade, and it is thanks to their generosity and commitment to health and well-being, alongside many other partners, that this trip of a lifetime was made possible.


Perhaps a member of the next generation of conservationists is playing on the floor of your living room right now or holed up in their room, scrolling on social media instead of exploring the great outdoors. The next generation has a lot to tackle, and it’s up to the current generation of conservationists to demonstrate the importance of spending time in nature and loving our planet. From planting native pollinator-friendly wildflowers to volunteering at an Earth Day event in your community, you can love the planet from wherever you call home.


I’ll continue to brave heatwaves, floods, and tornadoes to do my part as long as Southwest Airlines keeps those snack mixes coming.


Thank you, Southwest, for your commitment to respecting our planet!


We are proud to partner with The Student Conservation Association in building the next generation of conservation leaders and creating lifelong stewardship to the land. Southwest Airlines volunteers, SCA members, alumni, and local communities help restore and preserve public lands and waterways, providing vital habitat as well as recreational areas. Through these efforts, the SCA and Southwest Airlines have engaged thousands in hands-on conservation service across the nation.