SFI Conference Green Mentor Program Sets the Right Example

August 17, 2022

Group shot of the mentees and mentors at the SFI/PLT Annual Conference

By Megan Quinn

In June 2022, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and its award-winning educational program, Project Learning Tree (PLT), came together in Madison, Wisconsin for a joint conference.

The annual conference’s theme was Collaborating for Communities and Forests, so it’s fitting that the conference also played host to its first SFI Conference Green Mentor cohort. Nineteen young adults were selected from across North America to participate in this four-month mentorship opportunity.

Mentees were matched with professionals in the forest and conservation sector, whose experiences were as diverse as the mentees chosen for the program. Every mentee came into the Green Mentor program with different goals—some were students looking to navigate their early careers, while others wanted to expand their work in new directions.

For me, being selected as a mentee was a chance to explore a new perspective on the work I do as a Conservation Biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and curate new ways of sharing my knowledge through speaking opportunities.

The importance of intergenerational mentorships for young professionals in the forest sector cannot be understated. Youth need supportive, welcoming mentors to guide them. A well-intentioned youth program can quickly fall apart if the supports aren’t there to ensure it meets participants’ needs. I’ve been fortunate to take part in several youth focused programs across Canada, and I’m very impressed by the Green Mentor program.


If a youth mentoring program wants to be impactful, it must offer accessible opportunities. For many young people, the cost of attending an international conference is a huge barrier to entry. As part of the Green Mentor program, travel, hotel, meals, and conference fees were covered for mentees, allowing us to fully participate in all aspects.

Support also extended beyond finances. Leading up to the conference, mentees attended a virtual meeting, connected in a group chat, and read through conference guides that covered everything from reminders for international travel regulations to dress code standards. For a young person who may be attending a conference for the first time, these supports help to make them feel more prepared. Although this wasn’t my first conference, the Green Mentor program’s resources allowed me to get the most out of every session and gave me confidence that I belonged in this space.

Authentic Involvement

At registration, mentees were given name tags that identified them as being part of the program. These colour-coded badges let everyone at the conference know we were here to learn. My mentor, SFI’s President and CEO, Kathy Abusow, opened the conference by encouraging everyone to start a conversation with mentees. For someone walking into a room full of professionals, many of whom have pre-existing relationships, it can be intimidating to take that first step and introduce yourself. Starting the conference on that welcoming tone made me feel like I was authentically involved in the journey. 

Megan's name tagThere were separate events for the mentees to get to know their mentor and fellow program participants, but the focus was on encouraging mentees to attend the main conference sessions and network with everyone. It can be easy to unintentionally isolate young professionals by giving them too many side meetings, but the events put on for the Green Mentor program participants complimented the SFI and PLT sessions, instead of distracting from them.

Seeing Work in Action and Engaging

For many mentees, the 2022 SFI/PLT Annual Conference wasn’t just a chance to meet their mentor in person, but to also hear them speak in conference sessions. It’s one thing to hear about the work someone does, but seeing that work in action, and being able to engage in it is far more meaningful.

Mentees were invited to learn and participate in a variety of sessions, including Advancing Opportunities for Diverse Communities in the Forest Sector, Growing Forest Literate Citizens, Building a Progressive Indigenous Relations Training Program, and Fire and Climate Resiliency: Healthy Forests and Community Engagement. The broad programming helped to expand our knowledge, but we were also invited to engage by asking questions and providing our perspectives.


Networking is not solely done in a conference room. Some of the most organic, meaningful conversations I had with conference attendees were during the scheduled fun activities. Whether it was finding a friend for the 5K Fun Run, engaging in a highly competitive game of Jenga, or sharing life experiences over a cup of tea, the 2022 SFI/PLT Annual Conference struck a nice balance between fun and work.

Megan playing giant jenga

The conference was just the beginning for this special SFI conference cohort of the PLT Green Mentor Program. Over the next few months, participants will meet one-on-one with their mentors to explore career goals. Mentees can choose to follow the pathway set out in the Career Pathway Plan, or embark on a self-directed mentoring journey.

Too many times, I’ve sat in a room and felt like the token youth at the table. Not so with my latest experience. The Green Mentor program sets the right example for how youth can be authentically involved in forest and conservation programming. As I reflect on my time in Wisconsin, I feel as though I’ve returned to Canada with a renewed sense of purpose for conservation work, and I’m excited to see what opportunities this program will allow me to explore.

PLT Canada’s Green Mentor program connects young people ages 18-30 with Green Jobs professionals. The mentorship program involves meeting (in person or virtually) two or three hours a month. Mentees can expand their Green Jobs knowledge, goals, and network. Mentors can inspire the next generation of leaders, recruit employees, and gain new perspectives.

Apply to be a mentee

Apply to be a mentor


Growing a resilient and diverse workforce

Growing a resilient and diverse workforce: PLT Canada’s 2023 Annual Report

We are thrilled to release our 2023 Annual Report—it was another busy year for Project Learning Tree Canada! We continued our work to provide a lifetime of learning through environmental education, forest literacy, and career pathways.   Since 2018, PLT Canada has supported over 7,600 Green Jobs, providing 50% of placements to women and 15% of our placements to Indigenous youth. We have also placed 1,900 young adults facing one or more barriers to employment, such as youth self-identifying as…


This Giving Tuesday Help PLT Canada Foster a Lifetime of Learning

Imagine what introducing one child to nature through Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT) can do. Imagine a little girl learned how forests improve water quality through a PLT activity. It sparked her curiosity and ignited a passion for the environment. Now she’s a water quality engineer, improving access to clean drinking water. All because of one teacher doing one activity with this one little girl. Now imagine the positive impacts 145 million students have made on our environment, thanks to…


Emily Prouse sitting on a picnic table with a dog.


By Emily Prouse Designing and building mountain bike trails as part of my Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada) Green Job brought together my passion for the outdoors and my love of biking down mountains. The fact that I got paid to build trails in the beautiful forests outside my hometown of Quesnel, BC, felt like a green “dream” job. It’s the kind of dream scenario that I hope will help motivate my future students when I finish my Bachelor…


Truth, respect, and reconciliation for all

Truth and Reconciliation Week 2023

At the end of September, Canada commemorates Truth and Reconciliation Week 2023, culminating in the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day on September 30. It’s estimated that over 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their homes and sent to residential schools between 1831 and 1996. At these schools, children were taught to hate their Indigenous languages, cultures, traditions, and ancestral connections to the land. Many suffered physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse. Many children died…