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Making Sure No Child Is Left Inside

Posted by Christina Hickman at Feb 25, 2020 10:12 AM |

The No Child Left Inside program provides important grants to outdoor education and recreation programs for youth in Washington. Learn more about the program and how you can ensure its continued success.

On President’s Day, WTA Youth Ambassador Tessa Smith spoke to about 30 people packed into a conference room on the state capital campus in Olympia. In front of an audience of other youth, outdoor recreation organizations and legislative aides, she talked about the value of the No Child Left Inside, an important grant program that helps youth who might not otherwise have the chance to experience outdoor activities. The program has already benefitted WTA and our partners and we'd like to see it have even more of an impact in the future. 

Tessa shared how spending time outdoors allowed her to move through a difficult phase in her life. She said that all young people should have the same opportunity to experience the outdoors — but often don’t.

In another meeting later in the day, Annalise Pree, also a WTA youth ambassador, shared her own story and echoed the value of providing opportunities for people who are low-income or marginalized.

WTA youth ambassador Tessa Smith speaks at the recent NCLI lobby day in Olympia about how the outdoors have impacted her. Photo by Britt Lê.

“I’ve had the privilege to explore the outdoors all my life, and it’s had a huge positive impact on all aspects of me. That opportunity is not something that all kids get, which is very sad to me," said Annalise. “(Nature) is a place where everyone is welcomed and can feel like they belong.”

Tessa and Annalise were just a few of the young people who visited Olympia to support No Child Left Inside. They were brought together by the NCLI Coalition, made up of outdoor recreation groups including the  Darrington Outdoor Club, Glacier Peak Institute, The Mountaineers, The Wilderness Society, Young Women Empowered and more. The group used the President’s Day holiday to be part of No Child Left Inside Day and show their strong support for the grant program, which provides funding to help get young people outside. 

A sunny day for NCLI's lobby day. Photo by Britt Lê.


The No Child Left Inside grant program funds activities that benefit youth at risk of failing or dropping out of school and children facing social, behavioral, economic or health barriers that make it hard for them to recreate outdoors.

The program is co-administered by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office. Grants are awarded every other year to organizations that provide students with an opportunity to learn about the natural world and become stewards of nature. Organizations who work with students, including schools, community groups, Native American tribes and veteran organizations can apply for the grants.


In 2007, the Washington State Legislature created the No Child Left Inside grant program to provide under-served students with opportunities to experience the natural world. It was allowed to lapse during the recession and was revitalized in 2015. Since then, the programs has served more than 30,000 young people across Washington and serves as a model for other states. 

"No Child Left Inside has become the signature grant program to provide young people in our state with valuable outdoor education experiences,” said Don Hoch, Washington State Parks Director. “We are encouraged by the program’s successes and its impactful legacy in connecting children and families to the outdoors in Washington.” 

Danny Pree and WTA youth ambassadors Annalise Pree and Tessa Smith in Olympia. Photo by Britt Lê.

The community benefit of No Child Left Inside

WTA and our community know that connecting with nature can help all people, and especially youth. We also know that not everyone has the same ability to access the outdoors. NCLI helps break down those barriers.

During each grant cycle, many of WTA’s partners apply for NCLI grant funding. As part of the application process, these organizations are asked to submit letters of support for the work they are doing. In 2019, WTA submitted 12 letters of support for a variety of organizations providing meaningful programming to youth. Two of the 12 received funding — Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) and North Seattle Youth Resource Center (NSFRC).

“NCLI is a huge part of our funding. Without it, I don’t think we'd be able to fund the Nature Connections program,” said Rae Parks, program manager for Y-WE. “From a very general perspective, the type of program we get to run with that (funding) centers young women, centers women of color, and focuses on making equity and social justice not just a side project of what we do as an organization, but really at the heart of why we even exist.”

WTA helped support Y-WE’s Nature Connections program by loaning a variety of gear, including snowshoes, hiking boots, tents and sleeping bags, through our Outdoor Leadership Training (OLT) program.

Youth from Y-WE's Nature Connections went snowshoeing — many for the first time — around Paradise at Mount Rainier this winter. The ability to go on this sort of outdoor adventure was enabled by grant money received through the NCLI grant. This spring, the group is going camping in Vantage, and a backpacking trip is planned for the summer.

The No Child Left Inside grant program allowed WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training program to provide a mini-grant to NSFRC. That grant helped cover trip-related expenses, provided opportunities for staff and volunteer training on planning and facilitating outdoor recreation activities, and helped rent equipment for any outdoor trips that required extra gear. 

“I’ve had a lot of kids, who never experienced camping because they thought it wasn’t fun, thought there were bears around, or they were scared to camp in a tent, said Renee Pierce, program supervisor for NSFRC. “It’s nice to get kids out of their comfort zone and to be able to educate them about different outdoor activities as well as giving them the platform to do it.”


While these two programs continue to do amazing work to provide youth with resources to get outdoors, dozens of other deserving organizations didn’t receive the grant funding. This underscores the need for continued and increased funding for NCLI. Make sure you join our Trail Action Network to stay up-to-date and take action on NCLI funding and WTA’s other legislative priorities in the coming weeks.