Scholarships

Conservation Achievement Scholarship Program

The Illinois Conservation Foundation awards the annual Conservation Achievement Scholarship to encourage the next generation of leaders to preserve and enhance a sustainable outdoor environment.

Up to four one-time scholarships of $2,000 are given to outstanding high school seniors in Illinois who have demonstrated effective, voluntary and long-term dedication to the preservation, protection, enhancement and/or promotion of Illinois' natural resources.

The Conservation Achievement Scholarships have been awarded since 2005 thanks largely to generous donations from numerous organizations and individuals. A total of $156,000 has been awarded to 76 scholarship winners.

Applicants must be Illinois residents and a senior in an Illinois high school during the year of the scholarship award.

The 2023 scholarship application period is now open. The deadline to apply is March 3rd, 2023. 


2022 Scholarship Recipients

Allison Klemstein

Vernon Hills, Vernon Hills High School


Allison Klemstein is an excellent high school student who found her appreciation for the environment as a sailing instructor on Lake Michigan. She studied environmental justice in humanities, and while outside of the classroom she pursued her interests through STEM Scholars and Science Olympiad. As a member of the water testing team at her local Sierra Club chapter, she helped residents of Long Lake protect the health of their families from different water toxins. As a volunteer for the Lake County Forest Preserve, she helped remove invasive species and planted native species to help restore the natural environment. Klemstein plans to study civil and environmental engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado.



Tanner Spencer

Rushville, Rushville-Industry High School


Tanner Spencer’s love for conservation started at a young age as he was raised by a family who cherished the outdoors. While spending his younger years hunting and fishing with his family, his passion for the outdoors grew. While working for a local garden center, Spencer realized he wanted to find a career where he could work to help conserve our natural resources. He began planting trees and Conservation Reserve Program fields, building pollinator gardens and participating in a timber-clearing improvement project. He also volunteered with a project that he is most proud of – helping a district wildlife biologist band wood ducks at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge. Spencer plans pursue a degree in environmental studies and wildlife management at Illinois College in Jacksonville.



Will Jenkins

Raymond, Lincolnwood High School


Will Jenkins’ passion for the outdoors began at age 2 when his father took him out for his first dove hunt. This passion grew throughout his teenage years as he became an avid hunter, especially enjoying hunting deer, turkey and quail. Jenkins developed an understanding properly managed habitat is key to hunting. This led him to pursue opportunities to help create and maintain natural habitats throughout his high school years. As a freshman, he took the opportunity to turn his FFA project into just this – he planted and maintained a pollinator garden through his senior year. He also volunteered to help local farmers with Conservation Reserve Programs and participated in controlled burns. He attributes much of his gained conservation knowledge to his work with Pheasants Forever. He spent time on the Illinois Youth Leadership Council, volunteers at state and national conventions, and continues to be an active member of his local Pheasants Forever chapter. He is also a proud member of the FFA and currently serves as chapter president. He plans to attend Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield.



William Weber

Flanagan, Flanagan-Cornell High School


Although William Weber is highly ranked within his high school class, you won’t hear him talk much about his studies. He has grown to enjoy nature through his years in scouting. His favorite conservation project was his Eagle Scout project: removing 650 square feet of invasive brush and trees from the Comlara Park campground shoreline at Evergreen Lake in Hudson. While removing brush and trees from the area, he got the idea to place two dead trees and some brush in the lake to provide a fish structure to benefit the fishing quality. Throughout his high school years, Weber has participated in many other conservation projects, including helping IDNR biologists with a muskie rescue at Evergreen Lake. It was during these projects that he learned about the conservation effort it takes to keep a lake populated and healthy. He has also volunteered to help plant trees, foster young oak trees and participate in a prairie seed collection. He plans to study fisheries and waterway management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

2021 Scholarship Recipient Videos

Elizabeth Klienert

Clifton Central High School
Land conservation was instilled in Lizzie Kleinert early in life on her family’s livestock and grain farm in Iroquois County. Her father promoted the concept of no-till farming. As an FFA member and officer at Clifton Central High School, Kleinert worked with fellow members to secure grant funding for a tree planting initiative prompted by the woodland losses caused by emerald ash borer, planting new native trees near a local ballpark. Her work with the FFA also includes talking to younger students about the benefits of environmentally safe practices on the farm, and efforts such as recycling in rural areas and local communities. Kleinert also worked with her grandfather to plant a community sunflower garden that is enjoyed by wildlife and members of the community. Kleinert plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Levi Buckrop

Rockridge High School
Growing up on a family farm, Levi Buckrop turned a lifelong interest in the outdoors into a mission to expand and enhance wildlife and natural areas habitat close to home. He has managed the family’s farm pond to improve fish habitat, including placing downed pine trees and other structure in the pond. He and his family planted 9,500 oak, hickory, walnut and pecan tree saplings and added grassland plantings to help limit erosion and provide improved habitat for deer, turkey, pheasant, quail, rabbits and doves. Buckrop’s love of the outdoors led to interest in pursuing a career as a Conservation Police officer, and he will attend Western Illinois University in Macomb.

Felicity Guttmann

Edwardsville High School
With an interest in agriculture, Felicity Guttmann plans to study crop and soil science and pursue a degree in agronomy. Last year, Guttmann began raising chickens, with an eye toward protecting the environment in the process. She utilizes chicken droppings in producing compost for use as fertilizer in raised garden beds. As an additional nod to improving her local environment, Guttmann always carries a bag on walks and runs to pick up trash along the way. She hopes to promote sustainable agriculture practices that reduce tillage and limit fertilizer and pesticide use. Guttmann plans to attend the University of Missouri at Columbia, Missouri.

Mariama Bah

New Tech High at Zion-Benton East
Mariama Bah, during a visit to a favorite Lake Michigan shoreline beach with her mother, noticed the amount of sand that had washed away. Her academic and environmental curiosity piqued, Bah – through Lake County’s Center for Conservation Leadership – embarked on a stewardship project collecting data and assisting scientists in measuring and documenting the impacts of shoreline erosion at the Zion Park District’s Hosah Prairie natural area. Bah also researched and wrote on environmental justice issues and impacts on people and their communities. A top-ranked student academically, Mariama Bah plans to attend Northwestern University in Evanston.

2021

Mariama Bah, Zion; New Tech High at Zion-Benton East
Ava Grace Benstine, Oswego; Oswego High School
Levi James Buckrop, Taylor Ridge; Rockridge High School
Felicity Guttmann, Edwardsville; Edwardsville High School
Elizabeth J. Kleinert, Ashkum; Clifton Central High School

 

2020

Audrey Batts, Kaneland High School, Elburn
Henry Eberhart, Evanston Township High School, Evanston
Alexander Morelock, Taylorville High School, Taylorville
Natalia Rosinski, John F. Kennedy High School, Chicago

 

2019

Killian Marie Delaney, Frankling High School, Franklin
McKenna M. Gayon, Addison Trail High School, Addison
Shelby Mitchell, Murphysboro High School, Murphysboro

2018

Preston Launius, Sesser-Valier High School, Sesser

2017

Patricia Calderon, Whitney Young Magnet High School, Chicago
Jacob Handel, Sycamore High School, Sycamore

2016

Elizabeth Moore, Rock Island High School, Rock Island
Katelyn Toigo, Jerseyville Community High School, Grafton
Charlee Thompson, Edwardsville High School, Edwardsville

2015

Emma Buckardt, Deerfield

2014

Kenneth Bielski, Rockton Alex Handel, Sycamore

2013

Boryana Borisova, Elgin High School
Kyle Feldker, Valmeyer High School
Elijah Houck, Alton High School