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Young Environmental Leaders Program (YELP)

The Young Environmental Leaders Program (YELP) provides a unique opportunity for high school students to learn about local environmental issues and innovative solutions being pursued.

The Program

The Young Environmental Leaders Program is an immersive education and mentoring program for high school students residing in environmental justice communities.

This program provides an opportunity for students interested in the STEM fields to gain a heightened understanding of environmental principles while exploring local environmental issues.

Students learn from local environmental experts and activists which provide career connections and showcase the impact of community action. Upon completion of YELP, students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to become active participants and leaders in their local community in respect to the environment. This program cultivates environmental leaders who will inspire social change and fight for environmental justice. A summer mentorship opportunity is presented for select students to continue their exploration into local environmental topics and leadership development through job shadowing, field monitoring, public outreach, stewardship, and public speaking.

Buffalo Public Schools
Suny Erie Community College
College Credit Provider
Niagara Falls High School
Niagara Wheatfield High School
Niagara University
College Credit Provider
Niagara County Community College
College Credit Provider
See what students are saying about YELP!

I really loved this program. It was like the light at the end of a tunnel. This program helped me discover what I want to study in college and the career path I want to follow, which is environmental science. This program basically changed my life and I am grateful for it.

2022 Participant

I enjoy the program and getting to talk about environmental problems with family and friends.

2022 Participant

This program has had a big impact on me. After I finished the program I started cleaning my environment. I started keeping tanks (rain barrels) so I can use rain water and save water. I have been teaching my friends, neighbors, and family how to keep our environment clean.

Champa2017 YELP Student

Being involved in the Young Environmental Leaders Program really made me want to do environmental science as a career, and inspired me to get more involved with my community.

Mira2018 YELP Student

I enjoyed going to different places and learning how each one impacted my life or the environment in various different ways. I gained more knowledge and experience about environmental issues and more resources on how to engage my community to help improve the environment.

Shanti2018 YELP Student

The YELP program gave me a ton of information on how we can improve and protect our water quality and I feel that these methods alongside some of the emerging and ongoing programs will help me in a future career.

Shahed2018 YELP Student

Participating in YELP has allowed me to more consciously look into issues I care about and search for their underlying causes or trends. Our lesson about environmental justice prompted my passion for learning about socio-political-economic issues that are the roots of many other issues including environmental issues. Before that lesson, I would have never made the connection and probably wouldn’t be in the major I am in right now nor would I be doing the kind of community work that I enjoy now.

Mahima2019 YELP Student

YELP has allowed me personally to be more connected with the job aspect of the environment. I have always had a strong passion for environmental work, but I had never had an idea of what to do with my passion. YELP has helped me to see that I can work in many different fields and will have several different paths that I can personally take. I like the aspect of being able to teach others so seeing all of the people we have met making a career out of environmental education outside of the classroom was very helpful and inspiring.

Marissa2021 YELP Student
In The News

See how YELP has garnered attention across news outlets.

Former YELP students met for a reunion in August, and Buffalo News columnist Sean Kirst attended to hear about their experiences and what the program meant to them. He interviewed several YELP alum and wrote about it for the Aug. 20, 2023 edition of the Buffalo News.

Read the Story Here

Here’s an interview conducted by the Buffalo News with Amani Al-karkhi.

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YELP Through the Years

View photo galleries of YELP outings from over the years with our partner schools.


Buffalo YELP


Students from Riverside and Southpark participate in YELP workshops throughout the school year which included macroinvertebrate sampling in Buffalo Creek, water quality monitoring along the Buffalo River and kayaking, and more!


Students from Riverside and Southpark participate in YELP sessions which included macroinvertebrate sampling in Buffalo Creek, Kayaking on the Buffalo River, a visit to the New York Power Vista, a hike through Tifft Nature Preserve and the Headwater Forests at Chestnut Ridge, and the Summer Mentorship Program.


Students from Newcomer Academy at Lafayette, Performing Arts, IPREP and DaVinci participate in YELP. Sessions included macroinvertebrate sampling at Buffalo Creek, kayaking on the Buffalo River, seeing wetland ecosystems at Tifft Nature Preserve, hiking through headwater forests at Chestnut Ridge, learning about the Power of the Niagara at the New York Power Vista and water quality sampling with the Summer Mentorship Group.


Students from IPREP, DaVinci, Performing Arts, and Newcomer Academy at Lafayette participate in YELP. Sessions included macroinvertebrate sampling, eating local fish, kayaking on the Buffalo River, a tour of the Buffalo Sewer Authority to learn about wastewater treatment, a tour of a green roof and other living infrastructure, a hike through the headwaters, a walk through Tifft Nature Preserve wetland ecosystems and the Summer Mentorship Program which including water quality sampling and a plastic pollution workshop for young kids!


YELP Mentorship students join BNW for the start of the water season for a flotilla down the Buffalo River.


YELP Mentorship students join BNW for the start of the water season for a flotilla down the Buffalo River.


YELP Mentorship students join BNW for the start of the water season for a flotilla down the Buffalo River.

Niagara Falls YELP


Our first year of Niagara Falls YELP!


Programming adjusted to Covid-19 restrictions, but we still had a good year.

Niagara Wheatfield YELP


Our first year of Niagara Wheatfield YELP!

Niagara Mentorship – Students applied from both Niagara Falls and Niagara Wheatfield YELP programs

2023 Mentorship Program