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An Open Letter to the 16th Cohort

June 24th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

If you are new to or unfamiliar with the North Cascades Institute, there are a few bits of jargon that need to be explained:

  • Western Washington University has a graduate residency program where students spend their first year at the Institute (often shorted to NCI). They then finish their degree at the University.
  • Early summer is the transition time where the older cohort spends the summer working through Leadership Tracks, while the younger cohort arrives to the mountains for the first time together.
  • The current older cohort is the 15th, and the younger 16th. Often this is shortened to C15 and C16.

Even if you are not a part of C16, this letter is a great opportunity to learn about C15, Leadership Tracks and the residency as a whole. On to the letter!


Dear C16,

Welcome to the North Cascades ecoregion! If you have lived here your whole life or if this is your first time here, you are going to get to know more about the life in these mountains than you ever thought possible. Between hiking, tracking, teaching and paddling, in just a year this place will feel like home.

» Continue reading An Open Letter to the 16th Cohort


Student learn leadership, love of nature on trips in North Cascades

July 24th, 2015 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

By Jessi Loerch for the Everett Herald

Kang Pu stood at the back of a boat in a narrow, winding canyon off Ross Lake. Before him, a group of adults waited to hear his story. Kang, 16, began by saying he had been in the United States for just a year, he was still working on his English, and that it was hard for him to speak in front of a group.

His story, his eagerness to learn and his poise blew his listeners away.

Kang is from Burma. His mother died when he was young. At 13, he went to work in Malaysia to help support his family. While working, he missed his family and he wasn’t able to attend school. Getting an education was a priority for Kang, but he knew it was going to be hard in Burma.

Kang moved to Washington with his uncle’s family. He misses his family and his country, but he is getting an education at Foster High School in Tukwila.

He was in the North Cascades for Youth Leadership Adventures, offered through the North Cascades Institute.

The program takes kids, most of whom have little experience with the outdoors, backpacking or canoeing in the North Cascades in hopes of instilling a love and appreciation for wild places.

The students are racially diverse; many come from low-income families and, if they choose to attend college, will be the first in their families to do so. None of them know each other when they start the program.

That doesn’t last long, said Nika Meyers, the lead instructor on the trip. The trip Kang attended was eight days long. There were nine students and three youth leadership field instructors.

The group hiked a total of more than 30 miles carrying heavy packs. They helped with trail maintenance and learned how to treat water and cook in the backcountry. Along the way, they learned leadership skills and lessons about the natural environment.

» Continue reading Student learn leadership, love of nature on trips in North Cascades


Behind the Scenes: A Visitor Day with Youth Leadership Adventures

April 20th, 2015 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Guest post by Matt Dolge

My morning started off at 4:30am on August 9th, 2014 with a 3-hour solo drive to Ross Lake in the North Cascades. I had a lot of time to think about the day ahead yet had no idea how much this day was going to change my life. A month earlier I had accepted the invitation to participate in a day trip with Youth Leadership Adventures, which I had no prior knowledge of. But the offer to hike the North Cascades and explore Ross Lake on a guided boat tour was a chance I couldn’t pass on—and I’m glad I didn’t.

By 7:30am the sun was rising over the mountains peaks, which made the lake, sparkle like diamonds. At the trailhead an energetic group of strangers prepared for a hike down to the lake. The strangers were just friends that I had not met and they warmly welcomed me into their group. We tightened our hiking boots, stretched out the legs, and began to make our way down to the “Mule.” The hike was an easy scenic stroll on well-kept switchbacks. We took our time to observe wildlife, take photographs, and learn about the history of North Cascades Institute.

Once we reached the dam we could see that the lake stretched all the way up to the Canadian border. Being an avid hiker who has hiked 4 out of the Mighty 5, Utah’s National Parks I thought I had seen all the colors that nature could provide, but Ross Lake’s naturally blue-green color is surreal and the water is so clear that fish can be seen 10 feet below the water’s surface. This protected land is so pure and raw it cannot be reproduced through photographs.

Before boarding the Mule, which is a more of a barge than a boat, we discussed the activities for the remainder of the day. Amy Brown from North Cascades Institute leads the conversation and let’s us in on why we are here. “YLA is a hands-on outdoor leadership program focused on mentoring students in field science, communications, and public speaking. It is our goal to listen, learn, and support them in their passion for conservation”.

After about an hour on the boat we arrive at the campsite the youth leaders have called home for the past ten days. Their campsite is primitive with no running water or restrooms, but has an incredible view, sitting on a bluff which overlooks the lake. I mentally add this as a place to camp to my bucket list. We pick up the group of students and return to the Mule to troll northward to a secluded shoal. This remote area is heavily shaded with overgrown trees and lichens are thriving. It’s lunchtime and we break into small groups to learn why the youth have chosen to participate in YLA. It is at this point that I learn why I made the three-hour drive…

An Institute Board member talks with a YLA student

These youth leaders felt empowered to take responsibility for the environment and hearing them speak about conservation, sustainable practices, and stewardship was truly awe-inspiring. Standing before us were the next stewards of the environment. What they needed from us is support, leadership, awareness, and access to resources. What they already had was the determination to protect the environment; they just needed to know how to do it. Thanks to Youth Leadership Adventures these passionate environmentalist now have the leadership skills to make an impact in their local communities. Environmental activism doesn’t begin behind a desk or closed doors it begins in the North Cascades being inspired by youth who have the passion to become stewards of the environment.

A YLA student shares her story with the visitor group

Visit Matt’s blog here, and learn more about Youth Leadership Adventures here

YLC reunion

Wilderness, Zumiez and Hope: Youth Leadership Adventures Reunion 2013

October 16th, 2013 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Story and photos by Liza Dadiomov.

As the temperature outside gets cooler and the leaves turn vibrant hues of yellow, red, and orange, I find myself hunkered down indoors and the memories of my summer become distant. However, on September 28, I had the chance to reunite with students that participated in Youth Leadership Adventures in the North Cascades this past summer. Reconnecting with the students and their families brought me back to the incredible communities we formed in the backcountry of the North Cascades just a few months ago.

Over 100 people attended the reunion, including students, their families, North Cascades Institute staff, graduate students and our hosts for the day: Tom Campion and Zumiez staff. Zumiez is an action-sports retail company with stores all over the US and Canada. Tom Campion, Zumiez co-founder and renowned advocate of wilderness preservation, graciously offered their headquarters in Lynnwood, WA for the big event.

YLC reunionAlumni, families, and North Cascades Institute staff all reflected on their summers.

The morning began with a warm welcome by Campion and Aneka Singlaub, North Cascade Institute’s Youth Leadership Coordinator. Following an icebreaker game, Campion shared some of his passions with the audience. He reflected on a wilderness experience he had as an eighth-grader and the impact that left on his own life. He continued with a story about his and others efforts to save the spotted owl, a critically endangered species that lives in old-growth forests.Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
Campion’s more recent work has been in the preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.

While sharing breathtaking photos and stories of this remote wilderness and the threats that ANWR faces, Campion asked the students, “What does wilderness mean to you?”  Some of the answers included, “A place that makes me feel small,” “Falling out of a canoe into Ross Lake,” and “Home.” Campion concluded by sharing the hope he feels for the future because of the spotted owl saga and the amazing students sitting in front of him.

YLC reunionTom Campion and some Youth Leadership Adventures students.

» Continue reading Wilderness, Zumiez and Hope: Youth Leadership Adventures Reunion 2013