WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training Helps Communities Spend Nights Under the Stars
For nearly a decade, WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training program has been working to increase access to outdoor experiences by reducing barriers to support educators and group leaders with training and gear for camping and backpacking trips. We wanted to look back and see how those experiences have made an impact.
For nearly a decade, WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training program has been working to increase access to outdoor experiences by training educators and group leaders and providing gear for camping and backpacking trips.
As we approach our 10th anniversary of the program, we took a look back at some of the stories we heard from leaders after their trips with youth. Here are some of the powerful moments that leaders have shared with us over the last 10 years.
"Students loved the trip and most of them had never been camping before. The night we got there, one student was looking at the stars and said, "This is the best night of my life." She went on to explain how she always wanted to see the stars but has never left the city."
Sara Ullmer, Highline High School, 2015
taking on greater challenges
"I think a number of kids that had never backpacked before are now really excited about doing more hiking and backpacking and taking on greater challenges. It was great to see them support and encourage each other. As leaders, we were really happy to take kids who might never have a chance to do this and see them get excited and want to do more."
— Dawn Erickson, Darrington Outdoors, 2018
new community experiences
"Our youth have never been out to the wild with their community members. The trip was a lifetime experience for the youth, as well as elders, to be around the circle of the community during the whole trip."
— Alan Kafley, ECOSS, 2017
a safe space
"The biggest outcomes came from the way backcountry trips remove people from their typical context and routine. My high school students got a break from the stresses at home, some of which are more than any kid should have to bear. With some of those stresses removed and a sense of security in the group and with consistent food and a place to stay, students were able to be more vulnerable with each other, to have fun and to connect about some of the shared emotions we have that tie all people together. It was awesome to watch them have this opportunity. Students also were able to connect with the 12 WWU students who were teaching environmental ed lessons and learn from their experiences in college and tackling the challenges of adulthood."
— Tim Hall, Waskowitz Environmental Leadership School (WELS), 2017
new opportunities to grow
"For some, this camp experience is transformative. Youth have the opportunity to explore new forms of creative expression, deepen relationships with themselves and others, explore topics like personal identity and social justice, engage in the healing process and practice joy and celebration in a supportive environment. Adult mentors had the opportunity to do the same, and expressed how much they loved getting to learn from such a powerful group of young people."
— Rae Parks, Y-WE, 2019
a "life-changing experience"
"We had an amazing time at Rainier — out of the eight of us, four were completely new to camping and were initially nervous about being too cold/not having enough food/wildlife. Yet, by the end of the trip, all four newbies were extremely proud of their progress and competency with LNT principles — in fact, on several occasions, members of our group would teach other trail users about the importance of staying on trail, not harassing wildlife and packing out trash. I don't want to exaggerate or anything but I did hear the phrase 'life-changing experience' tossed around a couple of times."
— Michelle Piñon, Latino Outdoors, 2017
Since 2014, WTA has supported 347 overnight outings — ranging from one to seven nights — providing 819 nights under the stars. During those outings, more than 7,800 youth and adults experienced extended time in nature. We are thrilled to continue to support organizations that are creating transformative experiences for their communities.
If you are an educator or work with youth and families serving communities where 40 percent or more are low-income or communities of color and are interested in getting your group camping or backpacking, consider joining an upcoming Outdoor Leadership Training workshop.
Join us for one of our upcoming Outdoor Leadership Training workshops:
- Camping workshop at Dash Point State Park, June 3
- Backpacking workshop at Olympic National Park, July 13-16