An Open Letter to the 16th Cohort

If you are new to or unfamiliar with the North Cascades Institute, there are a few bits of jargon that need to be explained:

  • Western Washington University has a graduate residency program where students spend their first year at the Institute (often shorted to NCI). They then finish their degree at the University.
  • Early summer is the transition time where the older cohort spends the summer working through Leadership Tracks, while the younger cohort arrives to the mountains for the first time together.
  • The current older cohort is the 15th, and the younger 16th. Often this is shortened to C15 and C16.

Even if you are not a part of C16, this letter is a great opportunity to learn about C15, Leadership Tracks and the residency as a whole. On to the letter!
Dear C16,
Welcome to the North Cascades ecoregion! If you have lived here your whole life or if this is your first time here, you are going to get to know more about the life in these mountains than you ever thought possible. Between hiking, tracking, teaching and paddling, in just a year this place will feel like home.

We are C15: 15 rambunctious, curious and passionate students who just completed our year in the mountains. When you read this we will already be pursuing our Leadership Tracks: individual paths where we get to polish our leadership and teaching skills we developed over our residency.
Since there is quite a handful of us, we have included below a face to a name, while also sharing what our Leadership Track is. Also each of us has shared a bit of wisdom that we have learned over the year. We hope you see through these words just how powerful this year you are about to pursue really is (and our humor…we have a ton of that!).
Adam Bates will be working Youth Leadership Adventures this summer leading outdoor leadership, science and sustainability eight day backpacking trips.

You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Also, front load your food & drink shopping. Always be prepared.

Aly Gourd will be working as a teaching assistant for the C16 Place-Based Learning Course.

Potlucks. All the time.

Annah Young will spend the summer in Twisp working with Classroom in Bloom and Red Shed Produce.

Gulo gulo.

Ben Kusserow will be an interpretive ranger for the North Cascades National Park stationed in Stehekin, WA.

Each moment is a story. Each organism has a story to tell. Listen.

Emily Ford will be spending her eight weeks with six local teenagers coordinating and supporting their summer jobs with North Cascades National Park. They will do nursery restoration work, maintenance, professional development, community building and environmental learning.

When the first rain of autumn falls, wait until the following dawn then carry a boomerang and kazoo to the end of the Stetattle Creek Trail while chewing licorice root and only keeping one eye open at a time. When you reach the end, meditate with the mantra “knick knack flubbar fly happy quack” and you’ll know when it’s time.

Emily B
Emily Baronich will be spending her summer working in Concrete at the Concrete Summer Learning Adventure which serves 5-12 year olds within the community.

Listen to your elders.

Emma Ewert will be leading eight day trips in the North Cascades teaching outdoor leadership, science and sustainability to high schoolers through Youth Leadership Adventures.

Watch out for the porcas-they love canoe paddles!

Ginna Malley Campos will be leading eight day backpacking and canoe trips in the North Cascades with teenagers of diverse backgrounds teaching outdoor leadership skills as well as science and sustainability with NCI’s Youth Leadership Adventures.

Embrace the wild.

Hannah Newell will be settling into the Methow Valley for her leadership track working at the Methow Valley Interpretive Center. Her work will contribute to the existing exhibits at the Interpretive Center as well as provide a family friendly addition to the presentation line up this summer. She hopes to gain a deeper understanding of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and create relationships with various communities within the Methow Valley.

Look in the mud.

Holli Watne will be coordinating NCI’s Base Camp program. She looks forward to bringing her love of science and nature to a diverse audience and to working with some wonderful naturalists this summer.

Your cohort can be one of your greatest allies in your educational experience.  Share your struggles, no matter how small or embarrassing.  Their insights/different view points/similar stories may be of great use as you try to find your own way. Also, share in your victories too!

Joe Loviska will work on the teaching team for Redfish School of Change, an undergraduate-level field school. They will spend the summer exploring the cultural ecology of the Salish Sea by boat, bus, kayak, bike and foot.

Embrace kairos as often as possible.

Rob Healy will be leading trips for Youth Leadership Adventures.

Do not ask Joshua about his glass eye. Just don’t. It’s apparently a very sensitive subject.

Sasha Savoian will be doing alpine restoration on Maple Pass Loop and Blue Lake trails.

What will you remember in 20 years?

Tyler Davis will be doing interpretation for North Cascades National Park.

Remember-you’ll get there eventually…

Zachary Lundgren will spend the summer hiking, climbing, swimming, paddling, running and fishing in the North Cascades. He’ll also be working on Maple Pass Loop and Blue Lake trails doing alpine restoration.

Stay ahead of your work and adventure lots.

Welcome to a year of mountain living. Welcome to a year of teaching and learning in the wilderness. Welcome to a year of adventures, struggles and victories.
Welcome home.

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