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Collin Tasaka, New OLT Instructor, Gets Youth Stoked to Go Outside

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Oct 24, 2019 11:33 AM |

The newest member of WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training program is an enthusiastic advocate and role model for getting youth outside and on trail.

By Dawn Hammer

Collin Tasaka kind of has a thing for the outdoors. 

Aside from being an Outdoor Wellness Leader (OWL) at the University of Washington’s Bothell campus and a coordinator for Outdoor Asian, a community of Asian and Pacific Islanders focused on getting outside, Collin is also one of WTA’s newest Outdoor Leadership Training instructors.

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Collin gets ready to lead a hike at WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training. Photo by Britt Lê. 

WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training instructors are passionate about being outside and on trail, and aim to share that passion by teaching leaders of youth organizations how to safely take their groups outdoors on everything from day hikes and snowshoe treks to weeklong backpacking trips. 

Learning to Lead

Collin’s first experience with WTA's leadership program was as an attendee at one of our snowshoeing workshops; he’d signed up in order to gain outdoor leadership knowledge for his newly-acquired role with UW’s OWL program. He was impressed with what he learned from the WTA instructors — both the immense gravity of the responsibility an outdoor group leader must be willing to take on before leading youth into the wilderness, and the practical skills necessary to do so safely.

As Collin’s OWL role developed, so too did his interest in the WTA program: He’s now completed all four of the Outdoor Leadership Training workshops — snowshoeing, hiking, camping and backpacking. Eventually, he was asked to co-instruct an OLT backpacking workshop in North Cascades National Park, an opportunity he jumped at. 

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WTA's OLT leaders learn how to cook for, and clean up after, a large group in the outdoors. Photo by Britt Lê. 

Collin is a charismatic leader, one who makes participants feel instantly welcome. For Collin, that’s an important factor in creating the sense of safety and community he hopes to impart on every OLT and OWL trip he leads. He loves taking groups outdoors and watching how each individual grows in confidence over the duration of the trip. 

Getting youth outside is really powerful. It's a chance for kids to get away from whatever the norm is in their life and build new, impactful experiences with others,” Collin said.

He knows those experiences all too well: His time as a Scout, where he sometimes spent up to a week away from home, helped him learn how to form new friendships and gain practical skills, all while being outdoors. It’s his own formative time outside that motivates Collin to pass on his love of outdoor adventure to others, especially individuals who might think that trails are not for them. 

Andrew Pringle, WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training instructor & outreach coordinator, says Collin has taken all of the things he's learned through WTA's training and his own experience to really make the topics come alive. 

"He helped everyone connect with the topics," Andrew said. "Some of the important topics, like risk management, can be a bit dry. But Collin blended our curriculum with his own experiences and stories to really illustrate the importance of all the lessons. He was so excited to be learning and teaching. At night in his tent, he was reading a book about outdoor leadership." 

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Prerequisite for OLT leaders: Infectious smiles. Photo by Britt Lê.

Get to Know Collin

Why is it important for you personally to get outdoors? 

"The outdoors is my place to reflect and recharge. Life can be hectic and often threatens to drag me down. When I hike, I listen, observe and think. We have so much natural beauty to see and hear while hiking in Washington. It makes me happy."

Favorite hike?

"How can you make me choose!? One of my most memorable hikes was when some friends and I hiked to a fire lookout to see the sunrise during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. Watching shooting stars fade into a brilliant mountain sunrise was cold, unforgettable and so worth it."

#1 tip for those new to hiking?

"It's not about the destination. It sounds cheesy, I know. But we put so much emphasis on making it to the end that we often forget to enjoy the rest! Don't worry about how fast others are going, or about seeing that perfect, Instagram-worthy moment at the top (although yes, those can be quite nice). Sometimes, that gorgeous view you were hoping for is going to be socked in with clouds, or the hike you've been planning ends up being too much to complete in a day. It's okay when that happens. There is still so much to appreciate about where you're at, whether it was what you were expecting or not. Hike for you, at a pace you like, and have a good time. Oh, and don't forget to drink water. Cheers!"

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Photo by Jessi Loerch.

Trails for Everyone: The Outdoor Leadership Training Program

The Outdoor Leadership Training program was born from WTA staff’s own love of getting outside; our program evolved from a desire to make the outdoors more equitable and accessible for all. We talked to educators and community leaders who work with youth to research the barriers that keep some people from getting outside — things like lack of funding for purchasing appropriate gear or intimidation at the idea of trying a new outdoor activity. We also know that it’s imperative for school-aged youth, especially, to experience the outdoors and learn the self-confidence and reliance that can come from adventuring outside.

Thanks to our ever-growing collection of new and gently used gear ranging from baselayers, jackets and hiking boots to tents, backpacks and stoves, we’re able to offer leaders who have completed OLT training workshops access to our gear library.

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Learn about the importance of carrying the 10 essentials on trail, and then borrow most of what you'll need from the Gear Library. Photo by Erika Haugen-Goodman. 

Workshops provide group leaders necessary skills such as risk management practices; Leave No Trace outdoor ethics; games and activities to enhance their outing; and the logistics of trip, meal and activity planning. As part of our commitment to increase outdoor equity and accessibility, scholarships are available that can help reduce the overall cost of attending an OLT workshop, as are grants to help fund a trip.

Love trails, but don't have the time to become an OLT leader yourself? Support trails for everyone, forever, by making a financial contribution today.