Connecting to Your Calling through the Young Urban Forest Leaders

For Lucy Szczesniak, her interest in the natural environment and urban forest set off a chain of rewarding professional, personal and spiritual developments in her life. Becoming a Young Urban Forest Leader (YUFL) gave her clarity in the next chapter of her life and connected her to a new network. Hoping to inspire others to join the YUFL program, she shares her experience and guiding principles.


Lucy has always enjoyed connecting with community, and worked at a local library to support herself as she completed an Honours Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Biology and a Masters of Forest Conservation. It was during this time that she found LEAF and the YUFL program. Drawn by the opportunity to expand her technical skill set while advocating for the natural environment, she applied for and was accepted into the program in 2016.
Reflecting on her experiences, Lucy feels that the best part of being a YUFL was, without question, the sense of community and support she experienced as a participant. Lucy was thrilled to spend time with like-minded individuals and greatly appreciated the mentorship offered by the LEAF staff. Alongside her YUFL team members, she developed a wide range of practical skills like hosting tree identification walks, inventory procedures, report writing, public education, public speaking and event planning. Networking with other professionals also inspired and connected her to something larger than her own individual goals. Becoming a YUFL allowed her to see if urban forestry and community engagement was a good fit and helped her visualize the kind of future she wanted.
Since 2016, Lucy has gone on to pursue more professional and personal developments to support her passions. Following the completion of her Masters of Forest Conservation at the University of Toronto, she worked as a Forestry Data Collector for the City of Toronto. Later, she joined the Town of Oakville as a Forest Ecologist, where she developed forest management plans for woodlands and hosted community tree planting events which promoted the benefits of the urban forest and the importance of stewardship. She is now an entrepreneur who offers guided nature meditations and works one-on-one with individuals to help them find peace and stillness within themselves and in nature.
Looking to encourage others to get involved, she had the following words to share:
“Your wisdom lies within your heart and your feelings. What you feel called towards is a deep indicator of where growth and purpose exist for you, and where your greatest potential can unfold. Be guided by curiosity, and be open to whatever opportunities may present themselves. And ask for guidance from within- often through conversation and sharing of ideas with trusted friends, we find ourselves mapping out our desired path in this life.”


Interested in becoming a Young Urban Forest Leader? We are accepting applications for the 2021 program! Learn more or join our upcoming Info Session on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021.


Gain valuable insights into the benefits of guided forest bathing by following Lucy on Instagram @lucysinvitation or visit her website She offers free guided nature meditations that will help you find peace and stillness and connect you to the healing powers of the forest.


Lam Tran is the Education Coordinator at LEAF.


This blog is part of a series intended to highlight YUFL alumni. The blogs were written by Lam Tran based on responses collected in 2020 and revised in 2021 with the purpose of sharing YUFL alumni experiences, as participants of the program and their journeys after graduating from it. Read other blogs on the Young Urban Forest Leaders program here.


The Young Urban Forest Leaders Program is funded by a City of Toronto Community Planting & Stewardship Grant and the Canadian Tree Fund.