James River Leadership Academy


COVID-19 Update: We take the safety of our students and staff and their families very seriously. With the uncertainty of the time, and changes being made daily, we are monitoring and abiding by national, state, and local safety guidelines and procedures.  We have decided to move forward with the planning for our James River Leadership Academy program and will be in constant communication with the applicants and current students with any changes to our program. Payment is not needed for this program.

​This program has a limited capacity, so please do not wait to apply. If you have any questions, please reach out to our Environmental Educator, Charles Johnson at cjohnson@thejamesriver.org.

The James River Leadership Academy (JRLA) is a year-long leadership program for rising 10th, 11th, and 12th grade high school students who are interested in advocating for the future of the James River. The goal of JRLA is to engage, develop, train, and inspire participants in preparation of taking personal and community-wide action to address issues facing the James River.


Program Impacts

Since 2015, JRLA has influenced positive change throughout our 10,000 square mile watershed.

  • 73 students engaged
  • 24 schools and 14 counties represented
  • 375 community service hours completed
  • 150 + volunteers engaged
  • 27 + professional mentors engaged
  • 5 bird nesting platforms built
  • 50 acres of riparian buffer zone restored
  • 13 education and outreach materials of various media generated
  • 5 art installations created

Environmental Opportunities for High School Students

One of the James River Association’s primary strategies for a healthy James River is to help communities realize the benefits of a healthy river. Environmental education is a key way we do this. We work to inspire the next generation of river stewards and...

What is the JRLA?

The James River Leadership Academy (JRLA) is a year-long leadership program for rising 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade high school students who are interested in advocating for the future of the James River. Students will develop awareness of how to apply environmental...

2019 Leadership Academy Session 2

The James River Leadership Academy (JRLA) students start off their second session with a beautiful ride on our pontoon boat from the ferry landing at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge traveling west towards the City of Richmond. The main conversations during this...

James River Leadership Academy Partnership

Partnerships are an important component of community conservation efforts. Partners can enhance community engagement in projects, increase community awareness of the issues in our watershed, and establish a structure for the support of our youth in the James River...

James River Leadership Academy Application

Applications are accepted on a rolling admission process. Priority will be given to students who apply prior to April 24, 2020. James River Leadership programs are based in Lynchburg, Richmond and Williamsburg. Students will be assigned a leadership academy and session dates based on their location and availability.

JRLA Program Overview

Participants commit to JRLA for one academic year during which they participate in four Leadership Sessions. The activities during these Sessions include discussions, team building exercises, environmental ethics, and outdoor appreciation. 

JRLA participants will be required to implement a “community-based capstone project” outside of the Leadership Sessions. JRLA staff will help students meet project goals by matching them with a professional mentor to create project objectives and timelines. In addition, JRLA staff will provide an ongoing list of events and opportunities throughout the watershed so students stay engaged with community-based environmental awareness.


For more information

If your group or organization would like more information about the James River Leadership Academy, please contact Charles Johnson, Environmental Educator, (804)788-8811 ext 220 or cjohnson@thejamesriver.org.