Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Stewardship Weekend at North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center

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 trip and receive 15 hours of college access curriculum. Ambassadors will contribute blog posts covering their adventures throughout the year here on Chattermarks.

Appearing for the first time on Chattermarks are Mia Villaluz, Tavish Beals and Maria Nuno, who share their experience participating in the Stewardship Weekend event at the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center

Youth Leadership Ambassador: Mia Villaluz

The North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center is the place people can go to participate in North Cascades Institute functions and classes. It is also a place that graduate students attend. Some people go here for fun! It is a multipurpose, beautiful piece of land. It sits just above Diablo Lake and has amazing views of the mesmerizing North Cascades mountain range. For me, the purpose of the stewardship weekend was to have fun first and foremost and to get outdoors and meet new people, while making a positive impact on the people and places around us. It was to help those who have helped all of us.

Youth Leadership Ambassadors exploring the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center. Photo by Mia Villaluz

Ambassadors were involved in all the Stewardship Weekend projects, from clearing trails to spreading wood chips in our amphitheater space. Photo by Tavish Beals

The North Cascades Institute is a nonprofit organization that creates amazing opportunities for people from all walks of life, ages 5 to 95, and it doesn’t stop there! The stewardship weekend was an awesome opportunity to get outside. We each participated in different activities to better the property We removed invasive species, did trail clearing, spread wood chips, leveled out gravel, made buildings firewise, and much more. Overall, we all got to know one another a little bit better, we met new people, ate great good, and made even better memories. I personally helped with the wood chips and trail clearing. It was a lot of hard work, but I pushed myself and had a blast meeting new people and working within my group, getting to know each person on a deeper level. The whole weekend was so exciting and each day  was beyond beautiful.

Thank you to all that participated and making a positive impact on one another and the planet!

About Mia Villaluz

Hello, my name is Mia Villaluz. I am a small town girl from the Pacific Northwest. I am currently a senior in high school and will be graduating in less than two weeks. I am very excited! Being involved in the Youth Leadership Ambassadors program through the North Cascades Institute has helped me in so many ways. I have met so many new people and learned new things about college and higher education options. I heard about the Ambassador program after completing a Youth Leadership Adventure trip last year. I went on a sixteen day backpacking trip and hiked over 90 miles doing stewardship projects and learning about science and sustainability. I fell in love with it which is why I joined the Ambassador program so quickly. I knew it would be nothing but a positive experience.

I have been going to Skagit Valley College this past year and am studying environmental conservation there. I love this field of study. I have always actively been involved in the outdoors. I have been hunting and fishing since before I can even remember and I’m so proud to say that I am not a Washington state record holder. I harvested the third largest bull elk ever taken out of Western Washington. Hunting holds such a deep meaning to me, it isn’t just something I do, it is who I am. That is why I plan on getting my bachelor’s degree in environmental conservation to become a game warden. I would like to be a game warden so I can enforce hunting and fishing laws and preserve our wildlife for future generations to come. I believe that hunting is conservation in moderation and all people misusing our lands and resource should be penalized. That is why it would be an honor to me to continue in this field of study and work a job I will love for the rest of my life. I want to be the change I want to see, so that is what I am working toward!


Youth Leadership Ambassador: Tavish Beals

The first day of our wonderful adventure started like any other day, at school. For the few fortunate souls that did not have to go to high school, it started with work. Either way, we all got onto the bus one by one, with some of us having an hour ride ahead of them. I was fortunate to be the last stop. After that we participated in some groovy ice-breakers. That is to say we each reminded everyone of our names so that we can help the tidal wave of forgetfulness that always strikes strangers. By then, of course, we where pretty used to each other. After that we made it safely to Diablo Lake, where we participated in the three day Stewardship Weekend at the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center.

Opening ceremony circle before the stewardship projects begin. Photo by Tavish Beals

Participants learn how to identify the invasive plants to be pulled for their projects. Photo by Tavish Beals

On their last day, the Ambassadors took the Salish Dancer out for a canoe ride around Diablo Lake. Photo by Maria Nuno

We got there in the nick of time to hear the opening ceremony. We learned about what we were going to do, the places we could be and of course, more ice-breakers. We learned names and then promptly forgot them in the all. The staff explained the rules and the schedule, when to work and when to expect lovely, delicious food. The Ambassadors introduced ourselves to the groups that was there and explained our mission, purpose and goals. When all the formals where over with, we went and ate dinner, which was of course delicious.

After a filling meal we retired, tired as we were, to Fur Lodge. We mingled, settled and discussed what we expected for the next day. We also shared what we were looking forward to and what things we wanted to accomplish during the weekend. Finally, we bid each other good night and fell asleep with dreams of bettering the world by teaching some weeds a lesson!

About Tavish Beals

I am Tavish Beals, a Youth Leadership Ambassador. This group helps promote stewardship and accomplishment in the outdoors with youths. I am a graduate of Concrete High School and an awarded volunteer. I was raised in the Cascades and have lived here all my life. I am a photographer and a poet.


Youth Leadership Ambassador: Maria Nuno

On our field trip we went on a three day stewardship visit to the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center. This field trip impacted me in so many ways because I never knew that so many people from different cities love coming down to the North Cascades to help in stewardship projects in nature. It was really impressive to see how much work needed to be done but it’s all worth it when you walk in a trail that you helped clean up or setting up a new layer of wood chips.  I loved this experience so much and it’s something that I look forward to next year with my family. I’ve told them that there’s so much out there that they don’t know, including the amazing food!

About Maria Nuno

My name is Maria Nuno and I am 17 years old, currently attending Mount Vernon High School.  I’ve always had a huge appreciation for nature. I love doing new things such as meeting new friends, hiking to see amazing views, jumping into a lake with friends. I love having a great time outdoors. Even though I love being outdoors, it’s not something that I was doing when I was young because my parents really aren’t into it. The Youth Leadership Ambassadors program helped me by taking me and eleven amazing students on a variety of different field trips. We always learn a lot of cool new things but most importantly we have fun.

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