Youth Leaders Come Together at North Cascades Institute

Over Veteran’s Day weekend 63 students participated in the third annual Youth Leadership Conference, held at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. This year, the three-day conference was funded in large part by the Henry M Jackson Foundation—named after the man who was largely responsible for the creation of North Cascades National Park.
Attendees of this conference are high school students and college freshmen who have participated in stewardship programs on public lands in the Pacific Northwest. These programs range far and wide, and include Cascade Climate Challenge, North Cascades Wild, Mountain School, Mountains to Sound Greenwaythe National Park Service, North Vancouver Outdoor School, Youth Conservation Corps, the US Forest Service, Washington Trails Association, Student Conservation Association, International District Housing Association WILD Program, Seattle Parks and Rec Outdoor Opportunities Program, and the Oregon Zoo Animal Presenters.

Participants on the first day during a get-to-know-you game
College students Kassandra and Grace, youth participants in the 2011 conference, came back this year as Small Group Leaders and chaperones
Participants of the Youth Leadership Conference gather around a campfire to share stories and songs

This conference focuses on providing youth with opportunities to network with each other and various organizations, attend workshops ranging from developing public speaking or leadership skills to outdoor art, help them reconnect to the National Park, set goals for their future and connect them with a mentor to help them reach that goal…and to have a lot of fun.
On the first day, students spent time reflecting on past experiences in their lives, how they became who they are today, and why they were at the conference. They brainstormed some goals for what they want to accomplish in their future.

Two students prepare for a canoeing adventure during free time
Students canoeing in North Cascades Institute’s 18-person canoe, The Salish Dancer, against the backdrop of newly snow-covered Colonial Peak

On the second day students have the chance to gain some experience networking with organizations that could provide them with future jobs, internships, or other opportunities. The partner organizations—the Seattle unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, Lewis & Clark National Historic Park, Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, National Outdoor Leadership School, North Cascades Institute, North Cascades National Park Complex, Northwest Youth Corps, Zoo Animal Presenters Program at the Oregon Zoo, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group, Student Conservation Association, Washington Conservation Corps, Washington Trails Association, Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University, and Wilderness Awareness School.

A student talking intensely with National Park Service employee Mike Brondi at the Internship Fair
A small group of students, partners and North Cascades Institute staff enjoying the fresh snow while they explore and learn on the last day of the conference

The third day allowed for more reflection, as well as finalizing one goal to work on over the next year. With goals ranging from getting accepted to college to finishing up a community service project to doing a study abroad program, it was time for the students to say their goodbyes.
One student summed up the weekend by saying “I would like to thank you, the staff of the North Cascades Institute, and its partners, for putting on such an amazing program. The YLC program went above and beyond what I had ever expected, and I look forward to seeing what the fantastic students I met can accomplish in the future to come.”

Spirit Trickey, an Interpretive Ranger at the Seattle branch of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, telling an inspirational story as the last event for the weekend
Leading photo: Students, staff, and partners at the 2012 Henry M Jackson Youth Leadership Conference. All photos by Andrea Reiter.



  1. Saul

    The Youth Leadership Conference was a great gathering of minds, spirits and bodies – what a powerful experience for all who participated.

  2. John Miles

    Congrats to all involved. Follow-up like this to the field experiences provided by NCI, NPS and others is just what we need!

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