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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Featured photo: An internship program at The Nature Reserve in Rancho Mission Viejo for local youngsters returns this fall, after an inaugural run in 2020 (pictured here). Photo courtesy of The Nature Reserve.

In 2020, The Nature Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo tried out a program with local high school students in which they took trips to the outdoor area to learn firsthand about ecology and environmental stewardship.

Given how well it went, the program is returning this year.

John Foster, who heads up the program, said they again received good applicants when sending out feelers. The internship is intended to connect students with science and land management experts, and to potentially get the kids interested in careers within those fields.

“They’ll see where that degree will take them,” Foster said.

The internship program began on Oct. 22 with an online orientation meeting and will run through the second week of January. About a dozen students are participating, similar to the number of kids in the 2020 program. As part of this year’s activities, students will visit the Reserve site and take over its social media accounts to share what they learned.

“Professionals will show them techniques in the field, things they’ll be doing,” Foster said. “It will give students an overall chance to be out and about.”

Among those professionals will be geologists to teach students how to read geology maps and arborists to talk about taking care of trees—particularly during droughts.

“We’ll talk a little bit about the formations we have, as well as how that connects to the community,” Foster said. “I’m really hoping they’ll take an opportunity to take what they’re learning in the classroom and ask questions of professionals, and how they ended up doing what they’re doing.”

The Nature Reserve worked hard to have a diverse group of professionals on hand—including women and people from various backgrounds—so students of similar identities can see themselves represented in the field.

“It’s important for students to see people like them doing these things,” Foster said.

Students can also share positive experiences from the program with their classmates, Foster said.

The internship will also cover climate change. Some students who were in last year’s program went on to help underdeveloped communities have a voice when it comes to discussing local development, Foster said.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at

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