Building an Environmental Career in a World Recovering from COVID-19

After completing her undergrad, Sam was motivated to connect with others while establishing a career for herself in the environmental field. As a Young Urban Forest Leader (YUFL) in 2022, she was strengthened by the collective atmosphere of personal growth, community care and hope for the future alongside fellow young professionals. See how the YUFL program empowered Sam to grow her career.

For Sam, moving back to Toronto upon completing her undergraduate degree was the beginning of a new chapter. As the City was emerging from COVID-19 restrictions in 2022, Sam was driven to connect with other young environmental professionals, learn more about the urban forest in the city and expand her skillset. With those goals in mind, Sam applied for and was accepted into the Young Urban Forest Leaders (YUFL) program in 2022.



During the four-month program, Sam deepened her knowledge about urban forestry within Toronto by learning from instructors and LEAF mentors. Working with her YUFL peers, she planned and led an educational webinar on native shrubs, engaging with hundreds of residents across the Greater Toronto Area! Another rewarding component was creating an Urban Forest Stewardship Action Plan for her community, where she identified planting and stewardship opportunities and tangible actions for residents to take that would grow the local canopy.



Sam found that being in the program with like-minded youth and sharing her knowledge and passion for the outdoors was a great way to reconnect with others following years of pandemic lockdowns. Hearing from diverse professionals with different roles, backgrounds, and career stages helped Sam envision herself as a part of a network of individuals working to care for the urban forest.

"I immediately felt welcomed into the cohort by both mentors and peers. Personal difficulties or adverse circumstances faced while in the program are met with care and compassion. In particular, the program was adaptable to my needs and limitations as a participant with physical impairments. This program makes a direct positive impact on the inclusivity and diversity of what has traditionally been an exclusive and homogenous field of work. I encourage every young person who is unsure if there is a place for them in urban forestry to pursue this program.”



Since completing the YUFL program, Sam has built connections with local urban forest activists and climate community groups, such as the Friends of Glen Stewart Ravine and MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon’s Green East Group. Utilizing skills gained from the YUFL program, Sam engaged community members on the basics of arboriculture and urban forestry, building capacity in her community to grow and enhance the urban forest. She has also helped friends and family care for their trees and deepened her tree identification skills while visiting Muskoka, touring an arboretum in Rochester, and exploring Vancouver’s urban forest.

She had the following to share for others looking to take a leap into this field:

"Believe in yourself and take a chance. Stay open-minded to diverse experiences and allow your passion and drive to steer you towards new opportunities. Do your research and don’t be afraid to reach out to people whose work you admire. Don’t overthink it- small steps can build up to big results."

Interested in becoming a Young Urban Forest Leader? We are accepting applications for the 2023 program until March 21st, so apply today!


Lam Tran is the Education Coordinator at LEAF.

This blog is part of a series highlighting YUFL alumni. This blog was written by Lam Tran based on survey responses from YUFL alumni about their journeys after graduating from the program. Read other blogs on the Young Urban Forest Leaders program.

The Young Urban Forest Leaders Program is funded in part by a City of Toronto Urban Forestry Grant and the Canadian Tree Fund.