Youth are taught leadership skills and natural resources conservation at Texas Brigades camps scattered across the state, said Dr. Dale Rollins, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist at San Angelo and the camp concept's originator.
Rollins said each camp is limited to 20-30 students from ages 13-17.
"As I reflect on my career, the dividends I've witnessed from the Brigades camps are not only professionally rewarding, but they also stoke my fires daily to push for conservation education," he said. "And I believe those same sentiments apply to each and every one of the 100 or so volunteers who assist with the various camps.
"A lot of high school students aspire to find a career in wildlife management, but the field has always been highly competitive," Rollins added. "Participation in the Brigade camps offers them a chance to get not only a taste for such careers, but also to develop a network of contacts who can help them achieve their career goals. The Brigades network is one big family."
"Parents love the program," said Helen Holdsworth, San Antonio-based Texas Brigades executive director. "They appreciate the level of education offered by the wildlife and natural resource professionals, as well as the challenges presented to the participants. We offer a high-quality, unique experience for the students.
Holdsworth said the father wrote: "For two summers, now, I have seen how these kids become very passionate about wildlife and conservation. And I have seen firsthand how my own son has grown as a person as well, thanks to y'all."
In another correspondence Holdsworth mentioned, Charlie Neuendorff of Fayetteville wrote, "The camp was life changing; it was the best experience of my life. I made wonderful friends, and I am excited to hopefully see them next year when we all return as Assistant Covey Leaders."
The camps are a partnership effort of the AgriLife Extension, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, several universities, conservation groups, local soil and water conservation districts, private businesses and individuals with an interest in wildlife and youth leadership development.
"We're also always looking for highly motivated adults from 20 to 60 years of age who are willing to serve as 'covey school' or 'herd' leaders," Rollins said. "They'll get a one-of-a-kind intensive workshop in the game species they choose. But even better, they'll get a full helping of appreciation and optimism about today's youth and what a powerful impact they can have on conservation."