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 $146,000 has been awarded to 71 scholarship winners.

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

Congratulations to Our 2021 Scholarship Recipients

Mariama Bah, Zion; 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.

Ava Grace Benstine, Oswego; Oswego High School
Throughout her high school years, “Gracie” Benstine has always looked for opportunities to get her hands dirty. Volunteering at a community food pantry garden, Benstine composted natural fertilizer, collected rainwater, and helped provide 2,000 pounds of produce for families in need. Working through the local Student Leadership Initiative Program and National Honor Society, Benstine helped remove invasive plants at local forest preserves and participated in cleanups along the Fox River, raised money for tree planting efforts, and organized student-to-student efforts to study and combat impacts of climate change. Her nominators praised Benstine’s community service ethic and student leadership roles. Benstine plans to attend Augustana College in Rock Island.

Levi James Buckrop, Taylor Ridge; 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; 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. 

Elizabeth J. Kleinert, Ashkum; 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.


2020 Recipients

Audrey Batts

Kaneland High School, Elburn
Audrey Batts developed her love of nature as a preteen, studying the decline in populations of pollinating bees, and as a teenager participating in the annual Backyard Bird Count, monitoring frogs and studying the importance of freshwater mussels in Illinois waterways. A member of the FFA at Kaneland High School, Batts credits camps at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center and her volunteer work at the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton with spurring interest in conserving Illinois’ native wildlife. Her work at the zoo has included assisting in wildlife education programs for the public. She and fellow students also assisted in tree planting at the Big Rock Forest Preserve in Kane County. Batts plans to attend Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, enrolling in the Animal Science program.

Henry Eberhart

Evanston Township High School, Evanston
Henry Eberhart recalls his interest in conservation and sustainability emerged at age 6 when he helped prompt a change in school policy and started a recycling program. Beginning as a high school sophomore, he served on the Evanston mayor’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan working group to formulate city policies intended to help Evanston become carbon neutral, expand use of renewable energy and cut citywide waste output over the next 30 years. Eberhart also worked with Environmental Justice Evanston (EJE), conducting a survey and examining inequities in trash removal in low-income communities of color, and addressing with fellow students and community leaders the effects of climate change relative to racial and economic issues. He also led student protests over a lack of action on climate change issues. Eberhart plans to attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire where he hopes to continue his conservation activism while enrolled in the Native American Studies program.

Alexander Morelock

Taylorville High School, Taylorville
Alex Morelock says his interest in conservation started early, when he attended events for youth hunters and hunters with disabilities with his father, an Illinois Conservation Police Officer. From helping build a pond and working on invasive plant removal on his grandparents’ property, he carried his conservation ethic to service projects at Taylorville High School. Morelock organized a student Green Committee to work on trash cleanups in the community and fundraise for local ecofriendly causes. Students also planned an Earth Day event. Morelock plans to attend Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri studying in the Pre-Law and Political Science programs with an interest in specializing in environmental law.

Natalia Rosinski

John F. Kennedy High School, Chicago
Natalia Rosinski first joined fellow biology students her freshman year at John F. Kennedy High School in Chicago in volunteering at Cook County’s Arie Crown Forest Preserve assisting in invasive plant removal as a community service project. That work hooked her on conservation efforts and habitat restoration. Summer conservation internships through the Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps led to habitat work at the nearby Theodore Stone Forest, cutting invasive buckthorn, honeysuckle, Canada thistle, canary reed grass and white sweet clover to enhance the woodlands, oak savanna and prairie, helping native species to return and preserving the natural ecosystem. She’s recommended the internships to other students. Rosinski also volunteers at Bemis Woods and Bob Mann Woods forest preserves on invasive plant removal, helping inexperienced volunteers learn about the value of habitat restoration. Rosinski plans to attend DePaul University in Chicago and enroll in the College of Science and Health.

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