LAND O' LAKES
- Many people know Land O' Lakes as a great vacation destination. But it's not just resorts that draw people to the area. A state-of-the-art school attracts high school students from across the country and around the world.
"There's no other opportunities like this," said Conserve School student Lange Navarro.
That's why she left her high school in Arizona to spend a semester at Conserve School in Land O' Lakes.
"Conserve School is a chance for young adults to step away from their high school experience for a semester and concentrate on classes that use environmental stewardship as an integrating concept. So for example, during English and History class, they might be learning about the history of the Wilderness Act," explained Head of School Stefan Anderson.
The mission of Conserve School is to inspire young people to environmental stewardship through academics and engagement with the land.
"Environmental Stewardship for us and for our founder Jim Lowenstine was making sure that children and adults of the future would have the same opportunities to take advantage of the natural place around the Northwoods of Wisconsin that the people of today have," explained Anderson.
Sixty high school sophomores and juniors with a passion for the environment enroll in Conserve School each semester. They take college prep classes and earn high school credit. But they also get the opportunity to develop a greater appreciation for the environment through their classes, camping trips and Stewardship in Action projects.
"We're fixing these beds and the supports that protect them as they have started to decay," student Chad Roberts of Oregon said of his project. "Besides that, planting more and more plants for our fresh garden."
Other Stewardship in Action projects include tagging butterflies and maintaining hiking trails.
"It's really kind of a novel thing for me to be able to come here and right on my first day harvest carrots from right over there," student Leo Burmedi of Germany explained, pointing to the garden. "And then yesterday, to go to this community garden to help out and harvest carrots and harvest tomatoes and beets."
"It's really important to me to keep all the plants and keep everything you know, conserved, sustained, and keep it safe because it's so beautiful to be out here in nature," Navarro said.
That's exactly what the school's founder, Jim Lowenstine wanted.
"In his mid-forties when he wasn't married, he didn't have any children," Anderson said. "He decided that he would give his fortune and his property to the children of the future and establish a school where they could learn the tools necessary to be environmental stewards regardless of their career choice."
Lowenstine died in 1996. He left a large enough fortune to build the $40 million campus on his family's 1,200 acre lakefront land. The school opened in 2002 and became a semester school five years ago.
The endowment is large enough that it covers each student's tuition. That's about $25,000. School leaders will tell you it's worth it to change young adults' lives.
"A majority of them are choosing majors in colleges which have a strong emphasis on environmental stewardship," Anderson explained.
And that's what Lange Navarro plans to do.
"I just have that want to learn and continue growing in environmental stewardship and everything I do for nature," Navarro said.
She'll get a better chance to do that thanks to the last wish of one man.
|Story By: Lauren Stephenson