2016 Northwest Youth Leadership Summit: Leaders In Action

Fun activities. Good food. Hands-on learning. Passionate discussion. A surprise visit from Sally Jewell. The newly-named Northwest Youth Leadership Summit included all of this, and more.
This conference, now in its seventh year, is for young adults in the Pacific Northwest who have participated in at least one outdoor program and want to stay involved. This year brought a new name, length, and location: 200 people – students and adults – gathered at The Mountaineers in Seattle on October 22, 2016 for a day of making connections, learning new skills, and having fun. Students arrived representing over 15 organizations and came from hometowns all over western Washington and northern Oregon.

Students gathered in Summit Groups to discuss goals for the day. Photo by Jodi Broughton

The change from a smaller, three-day event at the Environmental Learning Center to a larger, one-day event in Seattle was a collaborative effort with The Mountaineers, the National Park Service, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and the North Cascades Institute to make broader connections between students in outdoor organizations across the Northwest. Hosting the summit in a more central location for a shorter time frame enabled many more students to participate.
The day was packed full with activities. After breakfast and a welcome from student emcees Thien and Logan, the students met in small Summit Groups to discuss their goals and plans for the Summit. Two Breakout Sessions – hour-long workshops on various topics– were held before lunch. Students learned basic rock climbing skills, received tips on writing resumes, and delved into complex climate issues. One student wrote, “[The supportive leader session] was the most valuable because I got to explore more formally what it means to be a servant leader. I identified myself as a servant leader, as well as found truth in my new formed opinion that a leader is not a good one unless they are a servant leader.” Another student appreciated some of the skills emphasized in the Breakout Sessions: “The resume session was the most valuable [to me] because I am beginning to think about college, so I will take any tips I can when it comes to applications and interviews.”

Students learn the basics of rock climbing during a Breakout Session. Photo by Jodi Broughton
Outside activities during a Breakout Session. Photo by Michael Telstad

Lunch provided a chance to catch up with old friends and reflect on the first two Breakout Sessions. Just before heading out to the third and final Breakout Session of the day, students and adults were ushered back to their seats for a surprise VIP guest. Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the Interior, visited the Summit to speak with the students and answer questions! The students took the opportunity to ask questions on the Dakota Access Pipeline, how to discuss climate change with skeptics, and the designation of the Stonewall Inn. Secretary Jewell spoke about the power of place and the importance of connecting National Parks to people. In describing the awe and empowerment she feels in working with young people in the service of public lands, Secretary Jewell brought herself, and many in the audience, to tears. For many folks attending the Summit, Secretary Jewell’s visit was a big highlight of the day:
“Sally Jewell – WOW!”
“I got to shed tears with the Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment, revealing how her work is another step towards the long arc of the justice of love.”
“[Next year,] arrange more surprise visits from people like Sally Jewell!”

A surprise visit from Sally Jewell! Photo by Michael Telstad
Student Success Panelists Alex Compeau, Greg Carreon, Lucia Guido and Justine Nishitani with Sally Jewell. Photo by Michael Telstad

The middle of the afternoon featured the Student Success Panel, a tradition of the Youth Leadership Conference. Five students who have participated in outdoor programs as students and then again as leaders shared their stories of opportunity and hard work. These students – Alex Compeau, Lucia Guido, Greg Carreon, Justine Nishitani, and Melen Yemane – participated in and worked with programs such as NCI’s Youth Leadership Adventures, Washington Trails Association, Student Conservation Association, the Forest Service, NOLS, and Outward Bound. They highlighted memorable experiences from their expeditions and spoke of accepting challenges to try new things, realizing a passion for the natural world, and maintaining deep connections with the people who shared their experiences. Each student offered advice on how audience members could take advantage of the Summit to find their next steps in the outdoors. Greg Carreon, for example, spoke about how the previous Youth Leadership Conference at NCI helped him to get a job with the US Forest Service this past summer. His message helped students understand how to connect the dots between their outdoor experience and a career in the outdoors, highlighting the Summit as a key step. On participating on the panel, one student wrote, “It was an amazing experience. I got to meet and enjoy the company of the fellow students on the success panel…I got to speak from my heart in front of an intimidating crowd of people, and see my words resonate with students I did and did not know.”
Following the Student Success Panel, the Opportunity Fair offered students a chance to network with more than 20 outdoor and environmental organizations from all over the Northwest. These organizations recruited students as participants for programs, interns, apprentices, and employees. The expo-style setup allowed students to wander, mingle, and make connections with organizations and other students.
The Summit came to an end with student reflections, a closing from the emcees, and an ice cream social. The event would not have been possible without the hard work of the planning committee, volunteers, and partner organizations. Special thanks to The Mountaineers, the National Park Service, Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation!
Thank you to everyone who planned and participated in the Summit! See you next year!
Written by Sarah Clement, Cohort 16. Title photo by Michael Telstad

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