James River Leadership Expeditions
The James River Leadership Expeditions (JRLE) is a year-long leadership program for all high school students who are interested in advocating for the future of the James River. The goal of JRLE is to engage, develop, train, inspire, and help prepare participants in taking personal and community-wide action to address issues facing the James River. The JRLE is one of the best learning experiences for young people, as traveling to an entirely new part of Virginia pushes the boundaries of our comfort zones, both mentally and physically.
As part of JRLE, students commit to helping communities realize the benefits of a healthy James River and support protecting the river with a community capstone project. By joining JRLE, participants get the chance to take on an exciting year-long challenge where they develop leadership skills and working knowledge that will help them in higher education and/or their career.
During the James River Leadership Expeditions, the James River Association education staff provides expert instruction on paddling and camping skills, teambuilding, wildlife identification, water quality monitoring, history, river ecology, and policy. The safety of the trip participants is a top priority; staff who manage the program are trained in canoe instruction, Wilderness First Aid, and CPR.
If selected, a deposit of $200 will be requested to secure a position in the program; all supplies, gear, food, training, and instruction are included. This fee can be waived or reduced if it prevents participation.
The James River Leadership Expeditions gives students the opportunity to bond with other students that share their passion for the environment and develop their network of support. They will also meet environmental professionals with different backgrounds and knowledge to build a network of contacts when applying for schools, jobs, and so much more. They will learn about environmental careers and programs they can pursue. The students will also learn about the history, wildlife, and water quality of the James River. The JRLE is an immersive, hands-on learning experience that will be remembered for a lifetime.
As the culminating part of the JRLE experience, participants create a leadership-focused environmental capstone project. The focus of each project is to learn leadership skills while helping the environment. Using ideas gained in their summer expeditions, students choose a problem that impacts the health of the James River watershed and create a solution to implement during the program’s year. Each time JRLE meets throughout the year’s four sessions, students collaborate on their capstone ideas and gain valuable insight from their peers and JRA mentors. Consistent check-ins and access to JRA knowledge helps students to be successful in their chosen project.
At the end of the JRLE experience, students present their capstone projects to a panel of peers and experts. Past capstone projects have included leading community cleanup projects, installing permanent erosion control solutions, teaching classroom environmental lessons, and creating habitats for endangered species.
“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.”
2024-2025 Program Timeline
January 1st, 2024: Applications open
April 3rd, 2024: Application period ends
April 15th, 2024: Applicants informed of their acceptance
late May: Orientation at JRA’s office in downtown Richmond
Middle expedition: 7/15/24 – 7/19/24
Lower expedition: 7/29/24 – 8/2/24
Saturday, November 9th to Sunday, November 10th 2024 – James River Ecology School – Overnight at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge in Chesterfield
Saturday, January 18th 2025 — James A. Buzzard River Education Center, Richmond
Saturday, May 3rd 2025 — James A Buzzard River Education Center, Richmond
James River Leadership Expeditions Application
2024-2025 Application period opens in January 2024
What is needed for the application:
- Student Contact Information
- 300 Word Essay
- 5 Short Answer Questions
- 2 Teacher/Mentor Letters of Recommendation
Information for Current 2023-2024 Participants
Middle Expedition: 6/26/23 – 6/30/23
Lower Expedition: 7/10/23 – 7/14/23
Upper Expedition: 7/31/23 – 8/4/23
Five-day, overnight expedition on the river. Session One is offered during the summer as three different week-long experiences. During Session One, JRLE removes barriers and allows for our youth to engage in new experiences that they may have not been exposed to before. With our education staff, youth are given unparalleled access to local culture and history.
Session 2: November 11th & 12th, 2023 (overnight) — Presquile NWR
Building Project Vision & Stewardship. In Session Two, students will have the opportunity to brainstorm community capstone projects.
Session 3: January 20th, 2024 — JRA Office, Richmond
Inspiring Our Commitment & Working Groups. We will review public speaking skills with demonstrations and games. We will be setting action plans for our capstone projects. We also will be conducting an example action project with the James River Park System.
Session 4: May 4th, 2024 — Luck Company Headquarters in Goochland, Virginia
Leadership Launch and Environmental Symposium. In Session Four, students will celebrate all their achievements from the year with JRLE and present their capstone project to a panel of local experts.