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Gear Library Helps Young Women Discover the Outdoors

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Mar 16, 2017 05:42 PM |

Every time they go exploring, Young Women Empowered makes use of WTA's gear library to stay safe and comfortable. On a recent trip, many of their youth and mentors were able to experience the North Cascades for the first time.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Mar+Apr 2017 issue of Washington Trails magazine.


Danielle Benavides loves to help other young women and girls get outside. On a recent trip to the North Cascades, Danielle savored walking in silence for a time, reflecting and soaking in the surroundings.

Young Women Empowered
Francesca Hill, Halimo Maie and Danielle Benavides borrowed gear from WTA’s gear library for a trip to the North Cascades with Young Women Empowered. Photo by Adiza Ameh, Y-WE Program Coordinator.

Danielle is a first-year mentor for Young Women Empowered. She’s jumped into the program with enthusiasm, rarely missing a trip. When the group gets out, they always take advantage of WTA’s lending library to get the gear they need.

Young Women Empowered provides mentorship and leadership programs for girls and young women in the greater Seattle area. The organization is open to young women from all walks of life. More than 70 percent of the youth are immigrants and 80 percent of the youth and 50 percent of the adults are women of color.

Y-WE Nature Connections, one of the group’s programs, creates opportunities for young women to build a personal relationship with nature through education, experience and reflection. They offer opportunities for youth  to experience natural places firsthand and emphasize the importance of sustainable living and protecting natural places.

The trip

In October, Y-WE took a group of eight youth and five mentors to the North Cascades.

“During our hike, we crossed the Ross Lake dam, stood in awe of the changing fall colors and discussed what the experience of being in this place—fully in our bodies and removed from our usual environment—was like,” says Anna McCracken, program specialist for Y-WE’s Nature Connections program.

For many of our participants and mentors, this was their first trip to North Cascades National Park.

“We talked about how healing and calming the experience of being out amongst the trees and mountains was. For many of our participants and mentors, this was their first trip to North Cascades National Park.”

Francesca, one of the teens on the trip, says the best part of the trip was the views of the mountains and the waterfalls.

The gear

For this trip, Y-WE borrowed fleece jackets, rain jackets and pants, boots, gloves and hats for the eight youth and five mentors.

Danielle says that the rainy weather was a challenge, but the raincoats kept everyone dry.

“The jacket worked out really well for me—the shell itself kept the rain from getting in. When it stopped raining, the jacket did not take long to dry, which was really great,” she says.

Gear Lending Library

AT WTA, we believe getting youth outdoors to play, learn and grow provides opportunities to increase their confidence and expand their horizons.

With our gear library, we support groups that take youth outdoors. We provide gear, training, help with funding and a supportive community. The groups provide the personal connection to the youth. We hope that each time a rain jacket or pair of boots goes out the door that a young person discovers the benefits of nature. Throughout this year, we will be telling the stories of some of the groups who make use of our gear library.

Learn more about the Outdoor Leadership Training program.

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