Youth Leadership Ambassadors: A Pathway For Youth

This last August I was grateful to fill a newly created position at the North Cascades Institute, that of College Access Coordinator. The position was specifically created to support and strengthen opportunities for participants of our Youth Leadership Adventures and Mountain School programs. The AmeriCorps position is made possible by the Washington Campus Compact “College Access Corps” grant. This grant is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, and supports local economically disadvantaged youth to become more academically engaged in their education, increase preparedness for post-secondary education, and become more knowledgeable about the college application and financial aid process.

The grant allows selected college campuses, nonprofits (the North Cascades Institute!), or grade 4-12 educational institutions to place an AmeriCorps member (me!) to help coordinate college access programs in their local communities. While I have been graciously accepted into the closely knit Institute community, I have had the opportunity to serve on the planning committee of the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit, present a workshop at said conference (“College: Planning For What’s Next & What To Do Now), volunteer at the Migrant Youth Leadership Conference, attend multiple Kulshan Creek field trips, and participate in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee meetings.

While all of these opportunities stand out in my mind as highlights of my first five months in this position, getting a new program extension off the ground and running has been the most fulfilling and rewarding aspect of my work. The Youth Leadership Ambassadors program is an extension of our Youth Leadership Adventures summer program. The goal of the program is to further develop leadership and outdoor skills, facilitate service and stewardship in our local communities and ecosystems, and provide college preparedness support to high school students from Skagit and Whatcom County.

While serving as Ambassadors, students will participate in work parties, attend field trips, and receive 15 hours of college access curriculum. Our first field trip of the year is in collaboration with Skagit Land Trust to remove invasive species on Mt. Vernon’s Little Mountain. Examples of some of the other scheduled field trips include visits to local community colleges and universities, trips sponsored by National Park Service Park Rangers, and an overnight trip to our Environmental Learning Center for a stewardship weekend.

14 local Skagit and Whatcom County high school students have been selected to participate in this pilot school year opportunity. The students attend 8 different high schools including Burlington-Edison, Mount Vernon, Concrete, Mount Baker, Bellingham, Sehome, Lynden, and Meridian.

Having never previously worked with youth in an environmental education setting previously, I am looking forward to collaborating with Institute staff to help facilitate Ambassador events. Additionally, I am eager to share my background in college access work with students, many of whom aim to be the first in their family to attend college.

Previously, I worked for the Scripps College Academy, an intensive, multi-year, pre-college program for underserved high achieving young women in Los Angeles county. Scholars selected for the program sought to become the first generation in their families to attend college. Working at this organization, I helped to establish programming that aimed to develop the Scholars’ confidence and skills to be well-prepared college applicants and successful college students. My experience at this organization provided me with the skills to develop college access curriculum relevant to NCI Ambassadors, and their wide ranging interests and skills centered around environmental stewardship.

I want to live in a world where every young person believes that they are capable and deserving of accomplishing their personal goals and achieving their dreams; this is simply not the reality for many at this point in time. Programs like the Youth Leadership Ambassadors program, made possible by visionary organizations such as the North Cascades Institute, help to bridge the gap in resources and support so necessary to aiding young people in realizing their great potential.

Here’s to our inspiring college-bound green leaders of tomorrow!

Written by Taylor Ulrich. Title photo of our Youth Leadership Ambassadors at their first meeting. 

About Taylor Ulrich

Taylor is the Institute’s first College Access Coordinator. She grew up in Bellingham, attending Squalicum High School, and went to Scripps College in Claremont, CA, majoring in Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Critical Media Studies. Throughout her time at Scripps, she worked for the Scripps College Academy, an intensive, multi-year, pre-college program for high-achieving high school girls with limited resources who are determined to become the first generation in their families to attend college. Following college graduation in 2014, she worked for Morgan Stanley in Wealth Management but soon quit and bought a one-way ticket to walk the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain. After six months traveling Europe, she has returned with newfound energy and passion for college access, the outdoors, and making positive waves.


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