January 18, 2023


Erin Hillert, James River Association
Cell: 608.239.2644 | Email:

James River Association is Recruiting Students for the Adventure of a Lifetime!

The James River Association (JRA) is currently seeking student and teacher applications for James River Leadership Expeditions (JRLE), a year-long program for high schoolers interested in advocating for the James River.

The program is segmented into four sessions running from July 2023 through May 2024, and it provides students with the opportunity to enjoy river-based education, build new friendships, develop leadership skills, and carry out a community capstone project. JRA will accept 30 students in the 2023-24 program across the James River watershed.

JRLE kicks off during the summer with Session One, perhaps the program’s most beloved experience: a week-long, overnight paddle adventure on the James River. These trips are divided into three excursions covering the Upper, Middle, and Lower James.

Throughout the trip, students learn technical skills like how to canoe and camp overnight and they receive further education through unparalleled access to local culture, history, and environmental teachings. They also experience a highly unique setting that gives them the chance to build confidence, self-esteem, and relationships with their fellow participants.

Nash McDowell, a JRLE alum who previously participated in the program, has this advice for students considering the program: “If I could tell students one thing, it’s that you will never experience something like this again. The James River Association is offering an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. To spend one week on the James River, technology-free, with good company, is something very hard to find. When the opportunity presents itself, take it.”

Continuing into the school year, JRLE’s second session offers an overnight brainstorming event where students discuss community capstone projects together. The third session consists of a working group complete with games that tap into personality styles, self-awareness, public speaking, and relationship management. The program ends with session four, a leadership launch and environmental symposium, where students can present their capstone projects and celebrate their accomplishments for the year.

“Through James River Leadership Expeditions, students learn they are capable of far more than they realize,” said Genevieve Wall, Senior Environmental Educator for JRA. “The experiences and relationships they build throughout the program help provide skills and awareness they will develop and use for years to come. As educators, we are honored to be able to sow seeds of knowledge, understanding, and connection to the James River through this unique and life-changing program. We look forward to welcoming new river stewards of tomorrow to our 2023-24 season.”

The James River Leadership Expeditions program is made possible in part by generous support from the Luck Companies Foundation Fund. To learn more about JRLE and apply, visit

ABOUT THE JAMES RIVER ASSOCIATION: The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River. Throughout the James River’s 10,000-square mile watershed, the James River Association works toward its vision of a fully healthy James River supporting thriving communities. The James River Association believes that “when you change the James, the James changes you”. With offices in Lynchburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Scottsville, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it. For more information visit