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WTA’s Emerging Leaders Are Just Getting Started

Posted by Kdooley at Feb 08, 2022 04:20 PM |

WTA welcomes a team of five new folks focused on building an inclusive community and learning leadership skills for working in the outdoors.

On an overcast day in mid-January, a small group gathered at Deception Pass State Park to embark on a journey that WTA hopes will unlock opportunities for their future career endeavors. The group came together as the 2022 Emerging Leaders cohort. In just the first few weeks of the program, the cohort has had an introduction to trail work, learning about the importance of annual maintenance as well as honing more technical skills like rock work. They also met with WTA’s leadership team to learn about each facet of how WTA supports its mission and enjoyed laughing and getting to know each other.

ELP group photo_01_2022.jpg
Photo by Zachary Toliver

Emerging Leaders Program

WTA is committed to creating systemic change by increasing entry points to the outdoor industry for communities that have faced inequitable access to the outdoors, including Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) individuals. WTA’s Emerging Leaders Program hired an incredible team of five individuals who want to form an inclusive community and build leadership skills to support future career interests in natural resource stewardship and outdoor recreation. Throughout the 12-week program, cohort members will also have opportunities to collaborate with community partners and land management agencies.

By investing in paid development opportunities in the outdoor industry, WTA hopes that future leaders will build upon professional and personal aspirations while contributing to an outdoor community where people of all identities feel included and valued.

A look at what’s ahead 

trail work learning.jpg
Photos by MJ Sampang and Sarah Fox

Learning from community partners and networking

The next few months will be filled with a variety of experiences for the 2022 ELP cohort. They will have the opportunity to engage and learn from community partners like Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, Young Women Empowered, Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, Communities for Healthy Bay, Campfire Coffee and Campfire Explorers Club, Golden Bricks Events, Braided Seeds, Equity in Education Coalition, Y.E.T.I. and more.   

Exploring what leadership looks like in trail work, in community and in outdoor recreation

Cohort members will continue to learn technical trail skills as well as emergency response and leadership development as it pertains to trail maintenance. Over the course of the program, trail projects are scheduled with a variety of public land agencies including Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Natural Resource, King County Parks, City of Puyallup and City of Seattle.

Cohort members will also have the opportunity to receive their wilderness first aid certifications, participate in Outdoor Leadership Training snowshoeing and backpacking workshops to build their outdoor leadership skills, trip planning and group management skills; as well as deepen their shared experience as a community.

Alongside gaining leadership skills on and off trail, each cohort member is developing an individual project that will help gain additional knowledge and skills while working with WTA’s program teams. Some of the communications focused projects include writing advocacy alerts and seasonal membership appeals, contributing to Washington Trails magazine and updating information in WTA’s vast hiking guide. Other projects are focused on scouting and planning logistics for multi-day trail work events, participating in recreation coalitions and strategizing outreach opportunities for underrepresented communities.

Photo by Sarah Fox

We are so thrilled to welcome this wonderful team to WTA and look forward to continuing to create opportunities for them to build their professional experiences and support their journey of career development in the natural resources, outdoor recreation or nonprofit sectors.   

Learn more about the Emerging Leaders Program.

Meet the 2022 Emerging Leaders cohort 

Bri (Cohort member)

Bri_portrait .jpgGrowing up in Seattle, Bri spent most of their time outdoors at local parks or on field trips with their school, later in life their interests led to paddle boarding and climbing. By finding peace in the outdoors a smidge later in life, she has built her academic focus and undergrad degree on inclusivity in environmentalism at Western Washington University.

“I’ve already learned so much about the behind the scenes work done at WTA. I’m excited to shake things up alongside ELP ‘22”

Leina (Cohort member)

Leina 2022 bio.jpegLeina is a recent graduate of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health where she received a bachelor of arts in food systems, nutrition and health. During her time in undergrad, she discovered her passion for outdoor recreation through climbing and sea kayaking. She hopes to pursue a career in nonprofit work related to outdoor access or food insecurity.

"I am so stoked to participate in the Emerging Leaders Program; it has been inspiring to learn from my fellow cohort members and the ELP team. I'm looking forward to gaining leadership and trail maintenance skills so that I can develop future opportunities for myself and others in the outdoor industry."

Sarah (assistant leader)

Sarah portrait.jpgOriginally from Canada, Sarah moved to Washington last summer to work as an assistant crew leader for WTA’s youth volunteer vacations and is excited to return this spring as assistant leader for the Emerging Leaders Program. Sarah worked on her first trail crew in Northern Ontario when she was 17 and has a background in the field of art history and curatorial studies. This summer you’ll find her hiking the Pacific Crest Trail!  

"It's been so great to get to know the crew over the last couple of weeks! I'm really looking forward to seeing how all of our perspectives and experiences intersect in the work we continue to do in the program."

Tiffany (Cohort member)


Although Tiffany was born in New Jersey, she grew up in Washington and considers Seattle home. After studying biology and computer science in college, she worked as a software engineer for over 3 years until she discovered her love of hiking and the outdoors as an adult. She successfully completed a southbound thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019. She has experience as a youth wilderness instructor taking kids and teenagers on backpacking expeditions and recently got her remote EMT certification. Tiffany is passionate about getting more young people outside and bringing diversity to outdoor spaces. Tiffany believes that everyone belongs in the outdoors, no matter who they are!

"I've already learned so much about trail work from the first couple of weeks in the program, which has been amazing because I've never done any of it before! I'm hoping the rest of the program will help me gain more confidence in my trail work skills, and become a better outdoor leader overall."

Zenwa (Cohort member)

Zenwa_portrait.jpgBorn and raised in Seattle, Zenwa studied fine arts at the University of Washington. After graduating, he took a cross-country road trip to Atlanta, Georgia, and stayed there for a couple years before the Pacific Northwest’s lush scenery called him back to Seattle. His favorite hikes always have rad views and a good swimming hole. When not at work, you can find him reading comics, painting, making music or playing with other people’s pets.

“The Emerging Leaders Program has provided me with practical trail building techniques and professional networking opportunities in the span of just two weeks. I look forward to developing my community outreach skills as I work towards the completion of this program.” 

Cohort leaders

Zachary (ELP coordinator)

zach.jpgZachary spent most of his life bouncing around various rural Midwestern towns before finally settling down in the Pacific Northwest — largely because of the region's unrivaled landscapes and its phenomenal vegan food. In 2020, he joined WTA as a member of Emerging Leaders Pilot (previously Leadership and Inclusion Crew). Coming full circle, he is now the program coordinator for the same program that gave him his start at WTA and spends his summers in the backcountry leading WTA's Lost Trails Found crew, which strives to restore lost and overgrown trails throughout Washington.

“I’m so excited about the different types of leadership I’ve already observed among this new cohort. It will be interesting to see where they go in this program, and how they hone their styles.”

MJ (Community Partnership and Leadership Development coordinator)


Maryjo, also known as MJ, was born and raised in the Bay Area but is now settling into her PNW roots. She is a certified environmental and outdoor educator from California’s Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (AEOE) and has worked with various nonprofit organizations focused on environmental justice and empowering BIPOC youth through the outdoors. Her true passion is to continuously create equitable and accessible outdoor programs for underrepresented youth and communities.

“The space and community created has been so nourishing and joyful. I could tell from the start that this group is very eager and motivated to find ways to impact their community.”