The National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) played host to more than100 high school and college students from around the globe this week.
As part of the Fish and Wildlife Service's National Student Climate and Conservation Congress (SC3), kids from 30 states and nine different countries all visited Shepherdstown to further their interest in environmental science and sustainability.
Topics such as energy-efficiency, sustainability, climate change and conservation of endangered species were all explored by students.
According to Sarah Gannan-Nagle, manager of communications and outreach for NCTC, the Department of Interior program, which begin six years ago, is more an exercise in employment training than a traditional summer camp.
"We think of this more as a career development program," she said.
The National Conservation Training Center acted as a facilitator in partnership with the Green Schools Alliance, an organization that acts as an international network for schools interested in addressing environmental and climate challenges through student leadership.
The SC3 program consisted of a week's worth of lectures from experts and authors in environmental issues, biology and ecology, as well as hands on opportunities to work with industry leaders and environmental mentors.
Students also volunteered their time working on small-scale service projects around Shepherdstown, including locations like the Shepherdstown Elementary School and Morgan's Grove Park.
Giamluca Nigro, a high school senior, traveled from Hingham Massachusetts to be a part of the congress.
"This is a group of kids that all share more or less the same passion for the environment that I do," he said.
Naomi Hershiser, a faculty member for the congress, made her way to Shepherdstown from Prairie Crossing Charter School in Illinois, where she serves as the Dean of Environmental Programs .
"I thought it would be a refreshing and inspiration thing to do," she said.
"It's an amazing group of students," she said.
Hershiser said part of the congress's strength is that it allowed the students the opportunity to work independently.
"They get to work with each other to put together action plans and projects. It's totally done by the students," she said.
"These kids are so capable."
"One of my favorite parts has been going into the small groups... and basically debating on what we think is an important thing for the environment and what we think is important to solve for the future," Nigro said.
In addition to local service projects, part of SC3s program consists of the development and implantation of conservation programs in each students own hometown.
Some of past students' projects have included things like building outdoor classrooms, gardens and green roofs, restoring wetlands and reducing invasive species, and implementing energy audits and installing alternative energy solutions.
"I feel like I owe it to kids that I'm going to mentor next year to know the most that i can about the environment," Nigro said.
As part of their partnership, the Green Schools Alliance will monitor each student's progress in completing thier own community project throughout the year.
Gannon-Nagle explained that the SC3 program is one of a few career focused programs offer by the Department on Interior that isnt aimed exclusively at college students or young adults.
Gannon-Nagle said she hopes the program serves as the impetus for younger kids interested in pursuing careers in Fish and Wildlife Services and other conservations organizations.
"The program is intended to equip students with conservation leadership," she said
"We hope this will inspire the kids."