2015 Youth Leadership Conference: A Confluence of Young Leaders
By Emily Ford and Ginna Malley Campos
On Friday November 6th, a voice broke the frosty air: “Who wants to be a leader?!” Cheers echoed across emerald Diablo Lake and up the cloudy slopes of Sourdough Mountain. Sixty-one students from Washington and Oregon kicked off the beginning of an exciting weekend at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.
The Youth Leadership Conference is an annual event where students with an interest in conservation as a career meet at the North Cascades Institute. The three day conference connects youth with major conservation partners through breakout sessions, projects, and wonderful discussions.
The sixth annual conference included students ages 14-22 who are alumni of North Cascades Institute’s youth programs (including Youth Leadership Adventures, North Cascades Wild, Cascades Climate Challenge, Mountain School and Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth Program) as well as other youth programs such as Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities (O2), Student Conservation Association (SCA), Darrington’s Youth Forestry Institute (YFI), and InterIm WILD.
Canoeing on Diablo Lake
Students started the weekend by catching up with old friends from their various summer programs. Together, they enjoyed a weekend of learning about service, jobs, internships, college, and summer program opportunities as well as developing professional skills to excel. Highlights from the weekend include:
Small Group Hikes: Students explored near-by nature trails, played games, learned natural history, and reflected on their past, present and future experiences in the North Cascades and other public lands.
Keynote Address: Alex Tremble, the National Youth Programs Coordinator for the National Park Service in Washington D.C., shared his personal story and discussed the important role we all play in increasing diversity within the conservation field.
Keynote Speaker Alex Tremble
Breakout Sessions: Each student attended three 75-minute skill building workshops to benefit future leadership positions, conservation and involvement with public lands. Community action, climate change, diversity, planning outdoor trips, job interviews, college applications, leadership development, and opportunities with the Federal Government were among those offered.
Opportunity Fair: Two classrooms were filled with colorful tables, helpful representatives, and yummy snacks, as students connected with stewardship and conservation organizations, public land agencies, and higher education opportunities offering participants internships, jobs and volunteer opportunities.
Breakout Session with North Cascades National Park’s Jason Bordelon and Erica Keene from the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Student Success Panel: Five returning students ran the show by sharing their personal stories before, during, and after being involved with Youth Leadership Adventures. Many reflected on this event as being the most inspiring of the weekend!
Open space: At the end of the weekend, there were 2 hours of student-run open space. This empowering event allowed students to pick their own topics to discuss, share, and learn about issues that are important to them. This year included discussions on poverty, the food industry, climate change, extinction and the decline of native species, LGBTQ+ issues, the 2016 presidential election and much, much more.
Freetime: Yoga! Campfire! Lodges! Dining Hall! Ice Cream Social and Dance Party! There was plenty of time to reconnect with friends, dance, canoe, and eat delicious food.
Small group leader and graduate student, Gavin Willis, talks to students about goal setting during the conference
What students and partners had to say about the conference:
“By the end of this conference, you have nothing but connections!”
“The North Cascades Leadership Conference is a must-go for every young adult. You will meet great people, eat amazing food, learn more about yourself than you ever have known before, get in touch with wildlife, and learn how to get your future started. We all grow and benefit from it.”
“I came to the Youth Leadership Conference to get access to resources that could help me get more involved in conservation. Also, I wanted to discuss environmental (and social justice) issues with other youth who share a desire to create change. Finally, I wanted to reconnect with the peers and instructors I made over the summer!”
“The Learning Center is such a wonderful space to nurture future leaders. I have never participated in a program that has people so willing to help me achieve my personal goals, and show me (and others) how important it is to protect this world we live in. Thank you.”
All of our participants, staff and partners who attended this year’s Youth Leadership Conference.
This event would not have happened without the help of all of the following organizations. Thank you to all of our wonderful partners for attending and offering so many engaging opportunities to local youth.
· InterIm Community Development Association (InterIm Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development)
· Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
· Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
· Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center
· Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
· National Outdoor Leadership School
· North Cascades National Park
· Skagit Land Trust
· Skagit Valley College
· Student Conservation Association
· Washington Conservation Corps
· Washington Trails Association
· Western Washington University
· Wilderness Awareness School
Please check out the following video to learn more about this year’s Youth Leadership Conference!
Thank you to our funders, including Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission, Toyota and the National Environmental Education Foundation.