Youth Leadership Adventures 2018 Program Report

Youth Leadership Adventures is a progression of transformational learning experiences, designed for local underserved teens to jump-start lifelong environmental and community stewardship. Primary activities are 8-day Outdoor Leadership and 12-day Science and Sustainability Summer Courses in North Cascades National Park, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Youth Ambassadors, Internships, and the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit allow participants to put skills into action.

Program Outcomes

Develop a SENSE OF PLACE & COMMUNITY by connecting underserved teens to public lands

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but without YLA I would have never have experienced the great outdoors like this.

– Sydney

Deepen ECOLOGICAL LITERACY through first-hand field science learning.

YLA empowered me and made me more confident that women in STEM are just as capable and able to do anything.”

— Kathleen

Cultivate LEADERSHIP & COMMUNICATION SKILLS through identity exploration and public speaking

A leader is someone who can pull together a group of strangers and make them family.”

— Taylor


I loved the service projects! Helping build things to support fellow adventurous folks and being part of a bigger cause is a special thing.”

— Jayda

Participant Snapshot

We provide scholarships, transportation, clothing, gear, meals, family orientations, culturally relevant curriculum, and gender-inclusive camp options. 94% of participants reported that they applied for YLA because of these support systems.

  • 82% live in the North Cascades ecosystem
  • 72% identify as low-income families
  • 10 languages spoken
  • 157+ outdoor learner hours per student
  • 1,875 volunteer hours in National Parks and Forests
  • 51% first time visiting North Cascades National Park
  • 95% summer course participants received scholarships
  • 63% identify as people of color
  • 77% first time participating in an outdoor program
  • 66% of participants paid zero dollars
  • 74% prospective first-generation college students
  • 79 summer course participants
  • 28 Youth Ambassadors
  • 115 Northwest Youth Leadership Summit participants
  • 2 Summer Course Interns

* Demographic statistics are for Summer Course and Ambassador participants

Pathways for Youth

Next-Step Opportunities to Put Skills Into Action

Throughout the school year, Youth Ambassadors further develop leadership and outdoor skills, volunteer, and plan for college and careers. Each participant volunteered 10 hours at state parks and public lands and received 56 hours of college access lessons and visits to regional colleges and universities. Read student-penned narratives from 2017 Ambassador trips on our Blog.

Summer Course Interns assist in leading summer courses while gaining work experience. Participants are inspired by interns who are of similar ages and backgrounds. Interns receive stipends, housing, meals, and Wilderness First Aid training.

The Northwest Youth Leadership Summit equips students with personal and professional development skills to serve the environment and communities. The free, day-long Summit in Seattle includes skill-building sessions, a career fair, discussions, and outdoor adventures.

Student Testimonials

I am motivated to help schools become more eco-friendly because I want future generations to respect our planet and thrive.

— Christian

I realized that my identity is not found only in my race. You discover who you are once you find your sense of place. Nature helps me get away from distractions and find myself.

– Jessica

After past challenges, I couldn’t trust the people, and worse, I couldn’t trust myself. Youth Ambassadors helped me to be more confident every day and made me push my limits and overcome them.

— Eleanore

Pathways for Youth—Inna’s Story

I recently graduated from Mount Vernon High School. Adopted at 3 from Russia, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. My first involvement with North Cascades Institute was Mountain School in 6th grade, where I decided that I like being outside and learning about the environment. The summer after 10th grade, I nervously arrived for the 8-day Youth Leadership Adventures trip. It was my first time camping with people other than my family. After, I wished that it lasted a whole week more.

I’ve grown my enthusiasm for learning every year since by participating in additional Youth Leadership programs. I attend the Summit in Seattle and last year I was a Youth Ambassador. We went on field trips, volunteered with park rangers, and learned about college and career planning. I then participated in the 12-day Science & Sustainability trip this summer.

Leadership and public speaking were challenges that I faced. I had trouble saying what was on my mind and seeing myself as a leader. This summer, our instructor Dakota taught me that everyone is a leader, just in their own way. I had similar lessons before, but it sunk in this time. I gravitate towards being a “guide,” known as “participative leadership.” Finding my way as a leader is an unending path.

Now I’m planning to enroll at Western Washington University’s Huxley College and apply for the Youth Leadership Internship in 2019. I’m proud of having been an Ambassador, a “Ross Lake Leader,” and a “Cascadian Cookie Bear.” I’m thankful to be part of such an important group of outdoorists and tree huggers in the PNW.

2017 Donors and Supporters

Our scholarship recipient is driven to find meaning from his YLA experience, shaping his education and world view. This is exactly how we hoped our gift would affect young people. As long as programs like this exist, hope will prevail.

— Michele and Robert Liburdy, 2018 Scholarship Donor


Major partners for Youth Leadership Adventures include: the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission and Seattle City Light


  • Anonymous Foundation
  • D.V. and Ida J. McEachern Trust
  • Henry M. Jackson Foundation
  • OneFamily Foundation
  • Swinomish Indian Tribal Community
  • Tulalip Tribes Charitable Trust
  • Washington State Recreation & Conservation Office No Child Left Inside Grant Program
  • Whatcom Community Foundation


  • Aguila Scholarship
  • Amy Brown Scholarship
  • Andrew Goodwill Murphy Memorial Fund
  • Ann Zwinger Scholarship
  • Booth Family Scholarship
  • Candi & Dick James Scholarship
  • Community Catalyst Scholarship
  • Cook and Sullivan Fund for Youth Scholarship
  • Darby Foundation Scholarship
  • Dee & Chuck Robinson Scholarship
  • Dream Green Scholarship
  • Fritzberg Scholarship
  • Gary Peterson Memorial Fund
  • Georgina Scholarship
  • Glasoe Family Scholarship
  • Guemes Island Environmental Trust Scholarship
  • Huisman Family Scholarships
  • Kevin LaFleur Youth Leadership Scholarship
  • Lee Cole Scholarship
  • Lorrie Otto Scholarship
  • Michele and Robert Liburdy Scholarship
  • The Skagit Scholarship
  • Weisberg Family Scholarship

Special thanks to Northwest Youth Leadership Summit sponsors and for in-kind gear donations from Crocs, GearAid, and SmartWool.

This May, 170 people contributed to Youth Leadership Adventure scholarships during our Give Big for Youth campaign, raising over $180,000 for all of our youth and school programs. Thank you!

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