The Difference a Role Model Makes

When Jennifer Morales met a female National Park Ranger at the NW Environmental Youth Summit in 2017, the seed was planted for her future coursework and career. At this gathering for future conservation leaders at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, the ranger explained how Diablo Lake gets its color from the nearby glaciers.

Jennifer found herself thinking “Could I do that? Could a person of color be in that role?” From that moment on, she realized she wanted to educate other people about nature. 

Jennifer signed up the next summer for a Youth Leadership Adventures course, an Institute program that takes local high school students with immersive wilderness trips in the North Cascades. She looks back with a smile on some of her experiences—falling out of a canoe, slipping on the trail, working hard with a pack that was almost bigger than she was!

“Youth Leadership Adventures was an amazing opportunity for me to branch out and try something I had never done before. I created a new family with memories that will last a lifetime. Being the ‘leader of the day’ helped me define the leader that I am now—organized and comfortable with being in charge.”

Jennifer went on to participate in another Youth Leadership Adventures course the following summer and another Youth Summit, turning that seed from 2017 into a magnificent forest of diverse career possibilities for her.

In YLA she learned how to set up a tent, cook outside for the first time, and how to work as a group to complete camp chores. This set her up well for two months of camping with the Northwest Youth Corps in Oregon after graduating from Sedro-Woolley High School. Jennifer did trail maintenance, fuel reduction, invasive plant management and tree planting, and she’s proud that she quickly gained her chainsaw certification.

Using what she learned in Youth Leadership Adventures as a foundation, Jennifer has moved forward with her dreams of becoming a park ranger. She now attends Western Washington University, pursuing a degree in recreational management with a minor in environmental education. She’s also applying leadership skills she gained in YLA by serving on the Native American Student Council.

North Cascades Institute plants the seed that grows over time into an ethic of conservation and stewardship.

We invite you to join us in making this investment in the future Jennifers of the world through your generous gift today. Thanks so much!




  1. Institute Staff

    And hey! WE ARE HIRING a Youth Leadership Coordinator to support our 2022 season of this program.

    As you read above, Youth Leadership Adventures is our camping program focused on climate change education for high schoolers. This position will support student recruitment and enrollment, course planning, curriculum design, staff training and mentorship, and coordinating support for field educators.

    Learn more and apply for this position at

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