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Student Ambassador Tigran Attends the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit

Charting a Path to Success, the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit

This Fall, my friend Billy from the National Park Trust contacted me and told me about the Northwest Youth Leadership Conference in Seattle, WA. I trusted that Billy knew what the summit was all about, so I quickly signed up. The free, two-day conference was for 150 young adults between the ages of 14 and 26. The first day was dedicated to field trips in the local area, and the second day was the actual summit.

My trip did not start as smoothly as I had hoped due to many flight delays. It was 2:30 in the morning when my Dad and I finally got to Seattle, on the first day of the summit. After getting a few hours of sleep, I was ready to begin the field trips!

The first field trip of the Summit was to a ropes course at Camp Long, which is where the first American to climb Mt. Everest, Jim Whittaker, learned to climb. I had no idea that Mr. Whittaker had

Tigran on the high ropes course

trained there, which was really exciting.

The original plan was to do the low ropes course, which did not require any safety ropes. However, because our group was so small, our group leader decided to put us on the forty-foot tall high ropes course instead. Buddy Bison and I looked at each other nervously; we hadn’t planned to go on a giant course like that. Yet, we put on our helmets and harnesses and hiked over to the course.

We started by practicing clipping into the safety wires that would hold us up. After that, we walked on a long wire out to all of the challenges. A great feature of the course was how it was set up. It was shaped like a spider web, allowing you to choose which challenges you wanted to do. There was everything from zip lines to moving wooden boards. This ended up being extremely fun, and Buddy and I enjoyed every second of our time there.

After our trip to Camp Long my family and I went on an exciting field trip to Klondike National Historical Park on our own. This park preserves the history of the 1897 Gold Rush in the Yukon province of Canada. We started at the Visitor Center, which had great interpretive displays. There were exhibits on the equipment that prospectors used, the routes “stampeders” took, and even some exhibits on the significant figures that participated in the gold rush. The dedication people needed to succeed back then was amazing; they traveled through freezing snow, bad weather, and tall mountains.

After taking a quick look at some of the exhibits, we were introduced to Ranger Kelsey gave us a tour of the park with Ranger Jane. We were completely surprised to learn that our tour group was just Buddy Bison, my Dad and me! Ranger Kelsey gave us a presentation on the effects of the Klondike Gold Rush in the United States as a whole, and Seattle in particular. In her opinion, there are four things that make a national park; history, culture, nature, and people. On the tour, each stop represented one of these things. It is surprising how much there is to see there–you would never guess that many of the buildings are important to the history of Seattle! Ranger Kelsey’s presentation was amazing, and pointed out many incredible things that we would never have spotted ourselves. You may be wondering, why does Seattle have a national park dedicated to a Canadian gold rush, for the answer, you will have to visit!After the tour was over, we went back to the visitor center, where we were introduced to Superintendent Charles Beall, who was also at the summit the next day. I gave Ranger Kelsey her own Buddy Bison and she squealed with delight. We also met Ranger Kayla, who would be my group leader at the summit.

Tigran at Klondike Gold Rush NHS

Buddy and I had no idea what to expect from the summit, but we were very excited. The summit was held at an incredible rock climbing and mountaineering center called The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center. There are incredible artificial indoor and outdoor climbing walls and even some real basalt rock to practice climbing on. Just before the summit began, Buddy and I checked in and my dad started to explore the area. There, we met up with Ranger Kayla again, who like us was really excited.

Each summit group was named after a nearby mountain peak. My group was after Shuksan. I think this name represents the journey we will have to take to take to become a ranger; they both require training, perseverance and dedication. The summit began with a huge welcome ceremony, with all the participants in a large hall. Then, we all were able to choose a breakout session,

Tigran, Ranger Kayla, and Buddy Bison at the Youth Leadership Summit

which were hour-long classes about a certain topic. There was everything from career planning to team challenge courses. Everyone chose three breakout sessions. I chose a session about becoming a ranger, a session on the effects of climate change in Mount Rainier National Park, and climbing on a huge rock-climbing wall.

After the three breakout sessions, it was time for one of the main attractions of the summit, the opportunity fair. This was an event for us to meet with a huge number of outdoor related organizations. Several of these groups offered internships and other opportunities for young people who want to pursue a career in the parks. There were many different national parks represented, including Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Mount Rainier National Park and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. There were also Forest Service Rangers but we didn’t get to see Smokey Bear on this visit. Many local and national non-profit volunteer groups were there as well, offering a wide variety of different opportunities.

The final activities were large group discussions about different topics; Buddy and I chose to participate in a discussion about how to connect people who have never experienced the outdoors with park related opportunities. When the summit ended Buddy and I said goodbye to Ranger Kayla and our other new friends.

The Northwest Youth Leadership Summit was a great experience, and addressed one of the biggest challenges for the parks; getting the next generation of park enthusiasts involved in creating the next generation of park stewards. It is important to engage the next generation, whose responsibility it will be to take care of our parks in the future. Events like the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit give an opportunity to youth to get involved and chart a career path in the parks. It was great to meet so many amazing people who are working to protect our parks, and to meet other like-minded young adults interested in working in our public lands.

I think happiness and success comes from following your passion. In the parks, there are almost endless opportunities to pursue your passions, either as a volunteer or as a career. Buddy Bison and I will be looking for other Youth Leadership Summits and we hope to see you there!

Orienteering with Student Ambassador Sarah

Every good adventurer knows that you can’t always rely on a GPS unit or your cellphone to help you navigate outdoors. Being able to use a compass and a map are important skills when outdoors, especially in the wilderness.

Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah practiced her orienteering skills at a local New Jersey park last weekend. Orienteering is an outdoor activity where you use a compass and paper map to navigate to checkpoints, or “stops”,  hidden in a natural area. Sometimes people compete in orienteering competitions to see who can find all the stops the fastest! Read all about Sarah and Buddy Bison’s adventure below:

“This weekend I got to try orienteering at Estell Manor Park, which is a county park in Atlantic County, New Jersey.  I started off by learning about orienteering and how to use a compass.  If you are hiking in the wilderness, it is really helpful to know how to use a compass, since you might not be able to use your phone, and a compass never needs batteries.

I learned how to use the map and compass together to tell me which direction to go when I’m hiking. One interesting thing I learned is that there is a difference between the direction of the North Pole (Geographic or True North) and the “magnetic north” of the Earth. [A compass uses the Earth’s magnetic field to align with the point of “magnetic north”, which is in a different location than the geographic location of the North Pole. Learn more here.]  I also learned how to use the map scale to figure out how far I should be walking between each of the orienteering stops.

Once we learned how to use the compasses, we headed out on the trails.  Estell Manor Park has lots of great trails that go through the woods and some of the trails go by the Great Egg Harbor River. There are a few different orienteering trails to try here. Once we were out on the trail,  I used the compass and the map scale to find my way to the different stops on the orienteering map.  It was cold out and there was still snow on the ground, but I had a great time orienteering at Estell Manor Park.  I’m hoping to come back to this park again a try one of the other orienteering trails.”


Adventures in Washington, D.C.

Hi, it’s Student Ambassador Audrey!

Student Ambassadors Audrey (left) and Sarah (right) with Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and Buddy Bison

Today I will be talking about the visit I took to the White House, which was amazing and a once in a lifetime experience. I had the honor of going to the White House for Halloween as a guest

of National Park Trust, where I was able to hand out candy and stickers with another National Park Trust Student Ambassador, Sarah! Sarah was very nice and it was a privilege to meet another

Student Ambassador. Sadly though, we did not get to see President and Mrs. Trump. But I did get to meet a few other famous folks like Buddy Bison, Woodsy Owl, and Smokey Bear. This was also my first time meeting some of the National Park Trust Staff and I got to see how excited they are about getting kids interested in parks.

Student Ambassador Audrey at the Jefferson Memorial

While we were in Washington, DC we were able to see several Memorials and Monuments – such as the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.  When you visit Washington DC be sure and wear good shoes, because even with good shoes your feet will hurt from all of the walking!

Happy Holidays to all of my Buddy Bison Friends!

From your BBF [ Buddy Bison Friend ],


Celebrating Halloween at the White House

Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah had a very special Halloween this year. Sarah traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate Halloween at the White House with fellow Student Ambassador Audrey and Buddy Bison! Check out Sarah’s adventure below:

“Did you know that the President of the United States lives in a National Park? The White House is located in President’s Park , which is one of the units of the National Park Service.  President’s Park includes the land around the White House, an area called the Ellipse, and Lafayette Park. There are many different statues and memorials in the park areas near the White House.

Student Ambassadors Sarah (right) and Audrey (left) at White House Halloween Event.

Last month, I had an amazing opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., and  volunteer on the White House grounds with National Park Trust for a Halloween event. I was able to hand out goodies, such as Buddy Bison stickers and Junior Ranger hats and badges, to lots of children and their families who came to trick-or-treat at the White House. A lot of the families asked questions about my Junior Ranger badges and how they could get their own. It was fun talking with them about some of the parks that I have visited and about parks that they had been to before. I even got to meet Buddy Bison, Smokey Bear, and Woodsy Owl! It was also exciting to get my own President’s Park Junior Ranger badge. There were lots of other government agencies that were handing out treats too, such as the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Forest Service, and NASA. NASA even brought a moon rock for people to see!  

While I was in Washington, D.C. I was able to visit many of the different monuments and memorials that are part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks site.I was able to get my junior ranger badge from there also. My family and I walked around the National Mall and we followed the trail around the Tidal Basin to see some of the memorials. Fall is a great time to visit Washington,D.C., because the leaves on the trees are starting to change color. We saw beautiful leaves as we walked by the Potomac River and around the Tidal Basin and the National Mall.  

Some of the monuments that I visited were the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.  Each monument and memorial is unique and special, and visiting these places was very inspirational to me. I really enjoyed learning about the history of these places and how they came to be. One of my favorite places was the Lincoln Memorial. Abraham Lincoln has always been one of my favorite presidents, and being able to visit the Lincoln Memorial was a very special moment for me. I can’t wait to visit Washington D.C. again to see more of the parks there!”

Exploring Park Activities with Student Ambassador Audrey

Hello Buddy Bison Friends!

I am asked from time to time how I started visiting parks.  My parents wanted me to start enjoying being outdoors more, so we visited my local State Park, which is Lake James State Park (NC). When I was 7, on a visit to a trail at Lake James, I learned about a program called Kids In Parks which is a program sponsored in part by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.  This cool program, which has a similar mission to the National Park Trust mission, is to encourage awareness and appreciation of parks and public lands. The Kids In Parks program has colorful brochures for kids called Track Trails, which are filled with activities kids can do on trails or in parks.  When kids complete an activity their parents can enter their activities on the website for Kids In Parks, and they will send kids awesome prizes! For each Track Trail kids complete they receive a unique sticker. Stickers are something that most kids enjoy and it was fun to receive mail myself and get a sticker to put into my Track Trail Journal.  When my parents went to the Kids In Parks website they found state parks and national park sites that were both a part of the Kids In Parks network. As we visited more parks, I discovered the Junior Ranger Programs which were available in National Parks. The Junior Ranger programs have given me the chance to learn a lot about the parks I visit and earn cool badges and patches. Earlier this year Buddy and I helped with a booth for the Kids In Parks Program (pictured below).

 I do my best to encourage kids to get out and explore parks that are around them! Programs like the Junior Ranger Program and Kids In Parks are just a couple of ways that families can get out and enjoy our parks.