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!