The SCA is a national non-profit changing lives through hands-on conservation work in the outdoors. Our program participants protect and restore national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks and community green spaces at various locations across the country. After working with the SCA, program participants emerge with increased environmental awareness, social responsibility and leadership skills.

Through its Urban Green Program, the SCA provides young people with paid green jobs, including single-day service projects, seasonal work and year-long internships or fellowships. In Chicago, participants plant trees, build trails and restore habitats while exploring green job opportunities, building leadership skills, and learning about the local environment through environmental education field trips, outdoor recreation and service projects.

The SCA Chicago Community Program offers volunteer and paid service opportunities for young adults starting in the spring and high school summer programs (running July through August). Volunteer programs take place on weekends, while paid service programs run Monday-Friday during summer at sites in and around Chicago. The SCA fielded its first community conservation program in Chicago in 2010.

During the program, participants learn how to work as members of a diverse team of peers; gain knowledge of public land resources, environmental issues, and career readiness skills; increase their understanding of environmental and trail restoration techniques; acquire experience in public service and outdoor recreation; and develop valuable professional skills through teambuilding and leadership activities.

Current Opportunities

Urban Green – Chicago Park District All Women’s Crew
The SCA All Women’s Young Adult Crew, in partnership with the Chicago Park District, will complete various conservation projects within Chicago Park District natural areas. Activities include using hand and power tools to complete projects such as trail/park maintenance, habitat restoration, invasive species removal, herbicide application, and leading stewardship days.  Expected dates: May 6 – Nov. 1, 2024. Pay: $660/wk living allowance.

Urban Green – Forest Preserves of Cook County Crew
The SCA’s Conservation Corps Gap Year program, in partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County with support from the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, is designed to provide advanced conservation job training and leadership skills for young adults ages 18-22. Alums of the Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps Program or other Chicago conservation high school programs are highly encouraged to apply to learn advanced skills. Expected dates: June 10 – Nov. 8, 2024 Pay: $16.75/hr.

Urban Green – Morton Arboretum Young Adult Crew
This Conservation Crew, in partnership with the Student Conservation Association and The Morton Arboretum, will help to significantly scale up and expand efforts to improve the Chicago region urban forest to create a healthier tree canopy that is more abundant, more diverse and more equitably distributed to provide needed benefits to all people and communities. Expected dates: May 6 – Nov. 1, 2024. Pay: $660/wk living allowance.

Trainings Offered

  • CPR Certification
  • Resume Building
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) Outdoor Ethics
  • Financial Literacy
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Trail Skills

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must be at least 14 years of age or in high school for teen school year and summer programs. For young adult programs, applicants must be at least 18 years of age. Other requirements vary by position. In order to participate in paid programs, applicants must be able to produce valid citizenship documents.

Key Partners

  • Friends of the Forest Preserves
  • Forest Preserves of Cook County
  • Chicago Park District
  • Chicago Region Trees Initiative
  • Davey Resource Group, Inc.
  • National Forest Foundation
  • Morton Arboretum


SCA Chicago Office
Samuel Vergara, Chicago Program Manager
P.O. Box 23288
Chicago, IL 60623
Phone: (312) 239-1661 Ext: 6009