Sc3 at NCTC image

@National Conservation Training Center (NCTC)

The Student Climate & Conservation Congress (Sc3) honors, educates, and empowers distinguished high school students at the nation’s premier training facility for sustainability leadership.
July 9 - July 15, 2023 Application Closed

Environmental Leadership, Policy & Innovation
at The National Conservation Training Center
of the U. S. Department of the Interior

Program Details

Driven to be a change-maker? Become a U.S. Green Schools Fellow!

If you are driven to create positive change in the world, the Student Climate & Conservation Congress (Sc3) invites rising 9-12 grade students to participate in America’s most prestigious student leadership program for aspiring change-makers at the nation’s heart of environmental and climate leadership.

Established in 2007 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior and the Green Schools Alliance, the Student Climate & Conservation Congress (Sc3) U.S. Green Schools Fellow Program recognizes and honors distinguished high school students who are, or aspire to become, climate & conservation catalysts in their schools and communities. 

In 2010, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrated innovation and impact beyond the school campus in their greater community. In 2016, the program was again extended to recognize students demonstrating a commitment to sustainable solutions through impact in any of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Training extraordinary youth leaders since 2008, Sc3 is a week-long leadership program that is convened annually at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, WV. Each year, anywhere from 50-100 high school students are named as Fellows and invited to participate in the Student Congress.

Congress participants – known as ‘Sc3 Fellows’ – spend one exceptional week at NCTC learning from faculty and experts in the government, non-profit, and corporate sectors. Through discussion, networking, and hands-on experience, Sc3 Fellows explore environmental, social, and economic interconnections that impact climate change, environmental justice, natural resource conservation, youth activism, and the challenges and opportunities facing their generation in an ever-changing world.

SC3 History

Sc3 honors, educates and empowers outstanding student environmental leaders with the skills, knowledge, and tools needed to address climate change and natural resource conservation challenges, as informed change agents within their communities. Whether through the arts, humanities or sciences, youth leadership is needed more than ever and comes in all forms. Since 2008, Sc3 has inspired and prepared the next generation of stewards to follow in the footsteps of climate and conservation leaders and advocates who have come before. Sc3 alumni Fellows have gone on to top universities and colleges, and many have become leaders in their schools, communities and chosen careers.

Program Goals

We focus on developing three pillars of environmental leadership in our students. What is environmental leadership?


Taking action starts with building knowledge. Participants through discussions, workshops, and connecting to nature and place will explore important concepts in the field of sustainability. An essential question guides this process in every program. By the end of the week students will have made gains in eco-literacy and built a solid foundation in principles of climate change, conservation, and sustainable development.


We emphasize the application of knowledge to practical, real world problems through a project-based approach that allows for an in-depth investigation of an authentic and complex environmental problem. Knowing about something is very different from knowing how to do something. We structure the program to bridge this gap, developing functional, transferable leadership skills in the process.


Sc3 is an authentic space for students to explore their own value structures, professional and intellectual interests, and how their beliefs inform their environmental ethic and activism. It is a space for youth to engage in their own sustainability journey with other like-minded peers. Our students are part of an emerging global community passionately committed to protecting human and planetary health and creating a more sustainable world than the one that exists today.

Summer at NCTC

There is no other facility in the nation for aspiring young change-makers that rivals the purpose and experience of the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC).

The NCTC campus 'footprint' comprises a little over 100 acres, leaving untouched more than 400 acres of natural habitats, including old fields and meadows, deciduous forests, the Potomac River, and shoreline springs, creeks, ponds, small wetlands, and moss-covered limestone cliffs. Days feature a combination of project-based learning, outdoor activities, and quality time enjoying the extraordinary community of students from all over the world that participate in this one-of-a-kind summer program. Our trip together down the Potomac is one of the many highlights of the week. Check out what past students have to say about Sc3

The What and the How

Sc3 envisions a world where every person is aware of and accountable for the impact they have in creating an environmentally, economically, and equitably sustainable future.

What Calls you? What problems do you want to solve? How will you be a global citizen in your school and community?

Through open space collaboration, the Sc3 Sustainability Leadership Training program connects “Student Fellows” with nature and place, each other, and experts in their fields. Sc3 is a unique shared experience that:

  • Guides you through a program that helps you to identify your global concerns, the problem you want to solve and inspires meaningful action.
  • Engages you in an immersive campus environment through a program mentored by experts and sustainability thought leaders in the sustainability field.
  • Inspires innovation, entrepreneurial thinking and bold project action that fosters meaningful, measurable, positive impact based on each student’s interests.
  • Empowers you with the skills & tools to influence change in your homes, schools, community and beyond.
  • For additional information and an Sc3 photo gallery, visit the Green Schools Alliance website.

This exciting program is run in partnership with the Green School's Alliance. Together, we hope to continue supporting and cultivating the next generation of environmental leaders. You can find lots of additional information about SC3 on the GSA website.


We use a tiered tuition model that leads to more socioeconomic diversity in our cohorts.


Our standard course fee, which represents the actual cost of operating our programs, including the administrative costs that are necessary to sustain our organization in the long-term. This is the suggested rate for families living in high cost of living areas with household net assets of greater than $650,000 and/or annual household income of greater than $180,000.

Tuition Assistance

Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, and other programming. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families - no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.


Scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive up to 100% of the program tuition in financial assistance. A parent statement of financial circumstances and a recent tax return are required.

What's Included


Double occupancy rooms at the National Conservation Training Center.


Students will be provided with a full meal plan at NCTC. Dietary preferences or restrictions are no problem.

Dynamic Learning Opportunities

Project-based. Interactive. Fun. Sc3 is an applied sustainability program. We focus on the application of ideas to practical problems.


Between training modules, connect to nature and place every day traversing the NCTC campus, or optional early morning birdwatching, river walks, and yoga. A river trip on the Potomac is a highlight of the Sc3 experience.

Residential Faculty and Staff

Sc3 Faculty and Staff reside in the dorms. With a student to faculty/staff ratio of 10:3, someone is always around!


World-renowned experts from the government, non-profit, and private sector.

Pre-Program Materials and Support

Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.

Not Included

NCTC shuttle to/from Washington DC (if applicable) is an additional $25/person one-way. Personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and other incidentals are also not included.


Maybe, but that depends significantly on a number of factors. See this article on college admissions for more info.

No. Our position on college credit for pre-college enrichment programs is that, in most cases, it drives up the cost of participation without adding much value to the experience. It’s unlikely that admissions officers will weight the fact that a course was taken “for credit” any greater than one that is not in admissions decisions. Furthermore, competitive universities do not typically allow pre-college credits to transfer. Typically to be eligible for credit transfer, a course must be offered by accredited four year degree granting institutions as part of an undergraduate degree program, be at least three weeks long and meet for a minimum of 30 contact hours, and/or course enrollment must be by a majority of current college students. The vast majority of pre-college courses, even those offered by colleges themselves, don’t meet these requirements. This is probably why large pre-college programs run by universities like Columbia don’t confer credit. They know it’s not going to transfer.

Our staff can treat basic medical situations on-site within the limits of their certifications and training. Participants with more serious needs will be transported to an emergency medical facility or urgent care.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

The mission of Sustainable Summer is to cultivate the next generation of environmental leaders. Each student must be fully committed to and capable of working hard, taking responsibility for him or her self, and working effectively in the group to achieve the goals of the program. The following Essential Eligibility Criteria state expectations of each participant.

Each participant must…

  • Act reliably around hazards to minimize risk even when not directly supervised.
  • Independently perceive, understand, and follow directions and instructions given by others to be able to successfully execute appropriate and perhaps unfamiliar, techniques to avoid hazards and/or manage risks. These directions may be given before the hazard or risk is encountered or may need to be given during exposure to the hazard/risk and out of necessity and practicality are often given orally.
  • Be able to stay alert and to focus attention for up to several hours at a time while traveling in wilderness terrain, attending classes, or receiving instructions.
  • If taking prescription medications, be able to maintain proper dosage by self-medicating without assistance from instructors or others (except possibly in emergency situations).
  • Work effectively as a member of a team. This may require problem solving on an interpersonal or group level as well as a willingness to accept differences.
  • Contribute to a safe learning environment—no verbal or physical inappropriate behavior of others is tolerated for any reason.

Sustainable Summer Red Rules

Violation of the following “red rules” will result in immediate dismissal from a program:

  • NO engaging in activities that break US or local laws
  • NO sexual contact or exclusive relationships
  • NO sleeping in a room other than the one to which you have been assigned
  • NO body alteration, including piercing and tattoos
  • NO riding in motorized vehicles, unless authorized to do so by program staff
  • NO behavior that physically or emotionally endangers yourself or others, including 
specifically the use of recreational drugs or alcohol

Sustainable Summer Bullying and Inclusivity Statement

Sustainable Summer defines bullying as harassment, intimidation, or any act intended to exclude or harm another person physically or psychologically. We believe that any form, type, or level of bullying or discrimination is unacceptable and we have a zero tolerance policy on bullying and reserve the right to dismiss any student who bullies or discriminates against others.


Student health and well-being is unquestionably the number one priority for every organization working with teens, and we’re no different. However, let’s start with a basic statement about traveling abroad (or anywhere, for that matter): No one can guarantee total protection from injury, illness, or death. We can, though, consider our actions in the context of risk, which is the ‘effect of uncertainty on objectives.’ Sustainable Summer has invested in the quality of its risk management practices by participating in the Risk Management Training offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an organization with over 40 years of experience managing risk in wilderness environments.

As a result of this training Sustainable Summer has developed a risk management strategy encompassing all levels of our organization. In order to mitigate the risk that is inherent in all international expeditions, we have invested time and resources in these practices because the health and well being of our participants is of the highest priority. All Sustainable Summer programs feature experienced staff using established risk management practices to guide every decision.



Students that live within driving distance can be dropped off at the NCTC campus in Shepherdstown, WV. For students arriving by plane or train, NCTC shuttles will pick up Sc3 students at Union Station and Dulles Airport in Washington DC and bring them to the NCTC Campus. Shuttles will take students back to Union and Dulles at the end of program. Details on arrival times and other travel logistics are provided to enrolled families in your MySummer account. There is a $25 one-way fee for the shuttle.

Yes. Students can apply to multiple sessions and, if accepted, participate in consecutive sessions, either concurrently or not.

Program Staff

30 faculty fellows from around the US join students at NCTC to advise, support, and learn.

National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) Program Testimonials

Driven to be a change-maker? Become a National Sc3 Fellow!

  • Step 1

    Apply online. Your application will include a Letter of Recommendation from a teacher or mentor, a personal statement, and two short (500 words or less) responses to open-ended questions about sustainability. There is a $35 application fee (waived for scholarship applicants).
  • Step 2

    Admissions decision, based principally on the applicant's ability to demonstrate interest in sustainability issues and to contribute positively to our community of students. Students and parents are notified via email and provided enrollment instructions. This is also a good time for parents to be in contact with our office to review any questions about the program.
  • Step 3

    A non-refundable deposit secures enrollment in the program. Enrollment deposits are made online by credit card and the enrollment form must be completed by a parent.

Partners and Supporters

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