NatureBridge Alcoa Scholars Summer Program 2018

Explore the wonder and science of nature this summer in Yosemite National Park or Shenandoah National Park, USA

The NatureBridge Alcoa Scholars program is a unique opportunity for 55 high school students from diverse backgrounds and nationalities to learn and grow in two of the United States’ most beautiful protected lands: Yosemite and Shenandoah National Parks. This two-week program is designed to develop future environmental leaders as it takes students on a challenging physical and academic journey into spectacular wilderness. Scholars will participate in a multi-day backpacking adventure, conduct hands-on science projects, help take care of the national park through a service project, and explore environmental issues from a global perspective. Supported by a new group of friends from around the world, Scholars will return home with a deeper connection to the environment, empowered to make a difference in their home communities.
Please note that the NatureBridge Alcoa Scholars program is only open to high school students who are from a community in which Alcoa operates. To view Alcoa's locations worldwide, click here.

The program:

The 2018 program will take place in two iconic settings: Yosemite and Shenandoah National Parks. After arrival, Scholars will spend a few days at base camp in their selected location. They will then be split into smaller hiking groups of 8-13 participants and will travel into the backcountry, where they will explore magnificent terrain and conduct environmental science research projects unique to the park. Scholars will backpack for this six- or seven-day portion of the program, hiking from campsite to campsite and carrying all of the gear they need in large backpacks. From stream studies to team-building challenges to solo reflections, every day will be full of scientific discovery and personal growth. Upon returning to base camp, Scholars will celebrate their accomplishments and present their scientific findings to an audience of their peers and invited guests.


In Yosemite, Scholars will spend a few days getting to know the base camp at Crane Flat before hiking out into the Yosemite Wilderness for a multi-day backpacking trip. Glaciated valleys, granite peaks, and alpine lakes will provide the stunning backdrop for a fun and challenging backpacking adventure through Yosemite’s Cathedral Range. After returning to base camp, Scholars will explore the wonders of Yosemite Valley and the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias. They will participate in a stewardship project in the park in order to support its preservation and present their science investigations to park rangers and visitors in Yosemite Valley.


In Shenandoah, students will spend a portion of their time backpacking amongst the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, some of the oldest mountains in the world. They will explore the natural wonders of the park and design their own ecological research projects. They will also spend time learning about the human history of the area, as Shenandoah National Park was created after the Eastern United States was heavily populated. After the backpacking trip, Scholars will have the opportunity to present their scientific findings to peers and invited guests. They will then explore the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., visiting monuments, memorials, and museums, and considering their individual rights and responsibilities as they learn about their natural and human-built surroundings.
To learn more about each park, visit the National Park Service webpages for Yosemite and Shenandoah.


How to Apply 

Applications are due March 5, 2018
Please click on each item to be directed to the appropriate form.

A complete application packet consists of:
Student Contract
Letter of Recommendation
Participant Registration Form*
Medical Exam*

*Email completed Participant Registration Form and Medical Exam to

If you are unable to complete the online version of the application, please email for a printable version.

Application Timeline

March 5 - Application forms due (Application, Student Contract, Letter of Recommendation, and Participant Registration Form must be completed. Preferred due date for Medical Exam)
April 3 - Scholars announced
April 17 - Medical Exams from accepted Scholars due, reviewed by NatureBridge staff
End of April - Scholars confirmed

For more information:

Please contact Katie Draude, Summer Programs Manager, at or +1 (415) 598-9832.




Shenandoah: July 16-29, 2018

Yosemite: August 5-18, 2018


Students ages 16-18 from communities where Alcoa operates across the globe. 
Please note: Application and program delivered in English. English proficiency required. 


All necessary expenses for this program, including travel, will be covered by a generous grant from Alcoa Foundation. Learn more about Alcoa Foundation.

If accepted, NatureBridge will require a fully refundable $100 deposit by May 15. Deposits will be fully refunded once the applicant arrives at the program.

Watch this video about the 2017 Yosemite program:


Check out post-trip projects: