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Teen gives his all in name of conservation

Geoffrey Clark Zispent month working conservatiproject Blue Ridge Mountains areWest Virginia. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA FILE PHOTO

Geoffrey Clark of Zion spent a month working on a conservation project in the Blue Ridge Mountains area of West Virginia. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA FILE PHOTO

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Updated: November 16, 2011 3:44PM

Here’s a shout-out to Geoffrey Clark of Zion for lending nature a helping hand.

The 18-year-old high-school student spent a month working for the Student Conservation Association on the Blue Ridge Parkway in West Virginia near the Appalachian Trail.

The SCA is a non-profit group formed in 1957 to protect endangered species, restore threatened habitats and provide other conservation relate services.

It has done work in all 50 states and aims to inspire young people to become lifelong conservationists by having them work with their hands on various projects.

The group does about 2 million hours of service a year in communities, national parks and forests.

Clark worked with five other high-school students and two crew leaders on a drainage project in the picnic area of the campground and a American Disabilities Act project that has been under way for a couple years at the site.

“The park service had been blown away by the amount of work accomplished by the crew and just loved the students to death!” said Liz Vogel, a program manager for SCA, in a press release about Clark’s efforts.

His parents, Mike and Lana Clark, said that Geoffrey grew leaps and bounds from this experience and that they are very proud of his compassion for others and nature.

Lana Clark said the students lived in tents and persevered through rain, hail, thunderstorms, wind gusts, and temperatures in the 100’s.

National Park Service rangers provided a list of jobs and the products and tools to get them done.

Vogel said while Clark was exhausted, it was worthwhile and he indicated he would do it again.

“His sister (Katherine) did it a couple of years ago and she went to South Dakota,” said Clark. She is now studying environmental education at Drake University.

“Geoffrey has always been a giver and he loves adventure,” she said. He is presently a senior at Wayland Academy, a college preparatory school in Beaver Dam, Wis., where he’s on the school downhill-ski team, manages the football team and enjoys skateboarding. Geoffrey intends on pursuing a degree in industrial design for his next educational journey.

They first heard of the SCA while both kids attended the Conserve School in Land-O-Lakes, Wis.

She said you pay for transportation, but they provide the tents and food for the month-long stay.

“We knew people who went to Alaska, Hawaii even, New England,” she said. They also have programs for college students and adults.

“You learn to survive with what you have, learn to think quickly, use the tools at hand and work as a team,” she said.

He got two breaks during his month and he went hiking on the Appalachian Trail and white-water rafting.

His grandparents, John and Sharron Thorn of Wadsworth, and Dave and Mary Lue Clark of Hot Springs, Ark., are very proud.

“They also have seen that when he puts his mind to something, he accomplishes it with gusto,” she said.

For more information about the SCA, visit

For similar trips that can land some college credit, check out the College of Lake County.

They have had groups go to the Appalachian Trail as part of a field-study trip taught on location in the beautiful Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, located in the mountainous western tip of Virginia.

You work on projects for college credit, including writing.

Locally, we also have the Youth Conservation Corps where kids can get jobs in the summer through a lottery system that pays them to work on local projects at the Lake County Forest Preserve.

The Lake County News-Sun often covers their work in the news side of the newspaper (and yes I usually get assigned to those stories).

Go to, call their Waukegan office at (847) 623-0900 or go to the forest preserve’s Web site at for more information.

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