What We Do

Every day SCA provides opportunities for young people to make a positive impact on the world around them.

Every year we motivate and deploy thousands of young people who care passionately about improving their natural world. We put them to work in our parks and public lands and urban green spaces to make improvements and learn conservation and sustainability practices. We teach them how to plan, enact, and lead, all while making a tangible impact in conservation.

SCA members are …

… age 15 to young adults

… high school and college students, or recent graduates interested in green careers

… from all 50 states and from all socio-economic backgrounds

SCA members protect, enhance, and restore national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks, and urban green spaces across the United States. They serve year-round in programs lasting anywhere from two weeks to twelve months.


In 2014 SCA engaged 7,655 volunteers in all 50 States, impacting natural and public spaces visited by over 220 million people


Today’s SCA volunteers are tomorrow’s leaders.

The lessons we impart stay with these young volunteers as their experiences ripple out into all they do throughout their lives.

  • 96% of members have gained skills that they expect to use in the future.
  • Tens of thousands of “green” professionals—from park superintendents to EPA scientists to urban planners—can trace their career beginnings to their time with SCA.
  • SCA alumni make up an estimated 12 percent of the National Park Service workforce.


“Nature is the essence of everything we are.”

—Jacqueline Keating, SCA Park Guide Interpretation Intern, Arches National Park, Utah

Awards and Honors

SCA programs, staff, and members have received a number of awards and honors acknowledging the powerful work we do across the country, locally and nationally, to protect our outdoor spaces and empower our future leaders. Below is just a sampling of these honors.

  • 2014 The Walden Woods Project’s Environmental Challenge Award
    SCA received the Environmental Challenge Award for engaging youth in hands-on conservation service and serving as a model for those who seek effective, constructive and sustainable outcomes. The Walden Woods Project and Thoreau Institute were founded by rocker Don Henley.
  • 2014 Golden Halo Award
    SCA and American Eagle Outfitters – signature sponsor of our ongoing Alternative Spring Breaks (ASBs) –  won the Golden Halo Award from the Cause Marketing Forum for our 2013 ASBs at Big Cypress National Preserve and Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
  • 2010: 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal 
    SCA founder Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam was bestowed this prestigious award by President Barrack Obama for “performing exemplary deeds of service for her country and fellow citizens.” She was the first conservationist to receive the Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian award, since its creation in 1969.
  • 2009: Audubon Rachel Carson Award
    SCA founder Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam received the nation’s premier award honoring women leaders in the environmental world. Presented annually, the Audubon Rachel Carson Award recognizes women who have advanced the conservation and the environmental movement locally and globally.
  • 2009: Walter J. Dunfey Nonprofit Management Award
    For more than one-quarter century, The Corporate Fund has presented this annual award to organizations demonstrating exemplary nonprofit management practices. Each year, Dunfey Award is presented to organizations that meet critical community needs in New Hampshire.
  • 2009: The Walmart Foundation Green Jobs Training Initiative Grant 
    The $550,000  grant, presented in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, supported the Milwaukee Conservation Leadership Corps (CLC) Program local job training and youth employment experience in conservation projects operated in partnership by SCA, Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board and Johnson Controls.
  • 2009: Do Something Award 
    DoSomething.org is the country’s largest not-for-profit for young people and social change. Every year DoSomething provides grants to individuals and groups who are trying to make a difference in their communities. The SCA Great Allegheny Passage interns earned a Do Something grant for their work conducting sustainability evaluations to help encourage economic revitalization in towns along the Allegheny trail.
  • 2008: Cooperative Conservation Award
    SCA and project partners—Mount Rainier National Park, the Washington’s Trails Association, the National Parks Conservation Association, Washington’s National Park Fund and The Mountaineers—received the Department of Interior’s highest honor for their efforts helping Mount Rainier National Park recover from damage done by the 2006 flooding.
  • 2008: Outstanding Achievement Award
    Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam was honored by the Society of Women Geographers for her role as founder of SCA and her work as a conservation educator. 
  • 2008: Cornelius Amory Pugsley National Medal Award
    This prestigious award is bestowed annually by the American Academy for Park & Recreation Administrations. It was given to SCA founder Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the promotion and development of public parks in the United States.