Learning to lead: stories from the Young Leaders Course 2023
Lilia, James and Jasmine spoke to us about their experience of the course, and how it helped them grow as budding conservation leaders.
Lilia (she/her), 18
“I applied for the BTO Young Leaders Course as the qualities of being a leader and having to confidently assert myself were not things I’d previously had a lot of opportunity to practice. I was excited to spend time in the beautiful New Forest but slightly apprehensive about putting myself outside of my comfort zone. However, I am so glad I went as I had such an amazing time with really lovely people and have taken away a lot!
The four-day course was jam-packed with so many really great sessions that it’s hard to choose a favourite: talks given by the lovely Jack Baker (creator of Pangolin: The Conservation Podcast) and the inspirational Dr Anjana Khatwa (Earth Scientist, presenter, advocate and author), practising debating an environmental issue with Richard Benwell (Chief Executive at Wildlife and Countryside Link) acting as an MP, and running our own guided walks while being kept on our toes by seeing how we would react to unexpected scenarios – someone pretending to talk really loudly on a call, run off, or even have a heart attack!
I now feel much more confident within myself, and being surrounded by other enthusiastic young people already studying or working in different interesting areas has made me really hopeful and excited for the future.”
I now feel much more confident within myself, and being surrounded by other enthusiastic young people ... has made me really hopeful and excited for the future.Lilia
James (he/him), 22
“The BTO Young Leaders Course came at a perfect time for me, as I’m just starting my second year at university, taking on a new role in its Ecological Society, and getting involved with other local projects.
I signed up for the course with the intention of developing my public interaction and communication skills, to become more comfortable leading walks and talks. It’s fair to say I left having gained so much more!
My fellow course members were massively welcoming ... it was an unforgettable few days, and a privilege to meet and learn from so many other people who care about the natural world.James
The range of guest speakers was excellent, and they covered fascinating topics and skills that, up until then, I had no previous experience with. Personal highlights included ending up in a simulated Whitehall testing my environmental negotiation skills, and spotting Crossbills whilst learning how to plan and run a guided walk in the forest!
For someone who, at times, struggles to interact with big groups of people, the staff and my fellow course members were massively welcoming, and coupled with the guest sessions, this really helped me build my self-confidence. It was an unforgettable few days, and a privilege to meet and learn from so many other people who care about the natural world.”
The highlight of the course was planning and leading my own 15-minute activity ... everyone in the group was so supportive and engaged, and even though I was nervous beforehand I really enjoyed delivering the session and would love to do it again.Jasmine
Jasmine (she/her), 21
“I had an amazing time at the BTO Young Leaders Course this summer – it was so exciting to meet other young leaders in conservation and hear their stories.
We also got to experience workshops run by some fantastic speakers and explore brand-new topics. And of course, getting to spend the course in the New Forest was a treat!
The highlight of the course for me was planning and leading my own 15-minute activity, which all of the participants got to do. Everyone in the group was so supportive and engaged, and even though I was nervous beforehand I really enjoyed delivering the session and would love to do it again.
Overall, the course really helped me push myself to interact with new people, ask and answer questions from the speakers and helped me feel more confident in myself and my abilities.”
Young people are the future of BTODonate to the BTO Youth Appeal today
Partners and support
The Young Leaders Course is supported by the following organisations:
The Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) works to support the protection and conservation of our internationally important seabird populations.
Why become a BTO Regional Network volunteer?
In the first of our Regional Network blog miniseries, we speak to Stephen, David and Nick about why they started volunteering and the changes they’ve seen since then.