For Bonita, 19, the accessible and policy-focused placement at The Woodland Trust was an opportunity to be part of creating systemic change. The New to Nature programme has bridged a gap for Bonita and provided them with purpose and learning to explore a future in the environmental sector.
Bonita at Launch reception for the UK Tree Equity Score

After school, Bonita took a gap year to explore their interests. This led to spending two months teaching maths and science in the Philippines, where they taught practical lessons and incorporated different learning styles to promote accessibility. Upon returning home, Bonita worked as an abseiling and archery instructor, yet again finding comfort in the outdoors. Months later they applied to New to Nature.

When Bonita went along to support their friend at the final of The Woodland Trust innovation grant, they enquired about potential work experience available. There was none, but Bonita’s networking skills led a member of the youth engagement team to suggest a role in conservation and external affairs.

For Bonita, the role of Policy Assistant, which uses science to define policy, really appealed to them. Having studied Environmental Science at A Level, Bonita saw the value in using science to enact change in systems, enabling people to live more sustainably. Bonita was involved in campaigning at school, where they felt unable to make real progress. This role was an empowering alternative.

On a personal level, this placement is benefitting Bonita’s dyslexia, by encouraging them to write. Bonita was amazed at the accessibility of The Woodland Trust, where the provision of speech-to-text tools assisted their writing. Bonita found this promising; New to Nature has highlighted there are organisations who value being accessible and more representative of the world.

The challenges Bonita faces through learning are both mentally stimulating and confidence boosting. Above all, the environment to learn and make mistakes is important to Bonita’s development; the placement was the perfect middle point between the step from A-Levels to employment.

After completing their year at The Woodland Trust, Bonita hopes to explore another role in a similar organisation that reflects their values and continue purpose driven work that helps people do meaningful things.

Bonita said:

“I’m working on Tree Equity, which is looking at the benefits of trees being accessible to all people in urban areas. Mapping tree canopy cover against many factors – including income, health, employment and air pollution – allows councils to look at this map and prioritise tree planting.

“This is an amazing way to create change in the system for other people, to be able to empower people to live more sustainably.

“I’m in peer consulting from the Youth Environmental Service, we can bring up an issue we’re having with our placement and share it. I think that’s a really great way of learning from one another, not feeling alone in our struggles as well.

“This role is hands down helping me develop the skills that I need.

Having this placement is like taking slow, almost incremented steps into the sector. You can shadow people and practice what you’ve just learned; that sort of thing has been really great. So, being in a safe workplace, that I feel confident in, has been great to realise what I value and what I want.

New to Nature is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the King’s Coronation, delivered through a partnership of Groundwork, The Prince’s Trust, Disability Rights UK, Mission Diverse and the Youth Environmental Service.

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