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Youth Volunteer Vacations: What You Need to Know for 2021

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Mar 16, 2021 12:56 PM |
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At WTA, we know that the disruptions, stress and social isolation of the previous year makes outdoor opportunities for teens more important than ever. WTA is excited to resume our Youth Volunteer Vacation program in 2021, where youth ages 14-18 build trails and community together in beautiful places across Washington state.

At WTA, we know that the disruptions, stress and social isolation of the previous year makes outdoor opportunities for teens more important than ever. WTA is excited to resume our Youth Volunteer Vacation program in 2021, where youth ages 14-18 build trails and community together in beautiful places across Washington state. 

As in previous years, WTA will host a multi-week priority application period, during which all applications for Youth Volunteer Vacations will be given equal consideration. In 2021, that period will be April 1-15.  After April 15, all applications will be considered on a rolling basis, reviewed in the order they are received. 

WTA believes everyone should have access to Washington’s trails and feel represented and included in the hiking community. As part of that work, we're excited to offer two shared-identity trips this summer: the All Girls and LGBTQ+ Crews. The remaining six trips will be open to youth of all identities. When making trip placements, WTA staff work hard to build multicultural, gender-diverse crews where youth of diverse identities and backgrounds feel welcome, affirmed and included. 

A group of volunteers pose for a photo on trail. All are wearing masks and hard hats.
Getting out on trail is a great way to meet new people, spend time outside and earn some service hours. WTA is excited to be able to offer Youth Volunteer Vacations again this year, with safety protocols to help keep everyone safe. Photo by Britt Lê. 

While we are excited to offer our Youth Volunteer Vacation program again, we know that demand for the program will far exceed the number of program spots available. In 2021 we will be offering less than 50% of our standard amount of YVV programming. This reduction will allow us to create essential staff capacity focused on lowering the overall risk of a participant or staff member contracting COVID during a WTA event. In light of the decreased number of trips offered, we are limiting each youth volunteer to one total trip and are unable to guarantee that youth will be placed on a trip with a requested friend or family member. We're preparing for the reality that not every youth who applies will be placed on a trip this year. In light of this, we're actively exploring options for offering youth day work parties in the Puget Sound region this summer so that youth who aren't placed on a trip can still spend time on trail with us and their peers, building trail and community — and earning service hours! 

Detailed information regarding COVID safety protocols for youth trips will be shared with confirmed trip participants after they are registered for a trip. Youth and their guardians will also have an opportunity to attend a pre-trip crew meeting via Zoom the week before their trip, ask WTA any remaining questions, and meet the other members of their crew. For a brief overview of how we’ve modified our events in light of COVID, you can view the protocols currently in use on all WTA events here.

The big changes for the Youth Volunteer Vacation program are: 

  • Crews will consist of six teens and two adult leaders.
  • All crew members will do a daily COVID symptoms check with their crew leaders. 
  • All crew members will maintain at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and other crew members at all times, including: on trail, at camp, at meals and in the spacing of personal tents.
  • All crew members are required to wear a face mask with at least 2 layers of material if unable to briefly maintain social distance (for example, while cooking in the kitchen tent or moving a rock on trail).
  • Youth will not be allowed to share a tent with anyone outside their household.
  • All crew members will minimize the sharing of tools. If sharing tools is required, tools will be cleaned and sanitized between participants.
  • Parents/guardians must commit to picking up their teen within 12 hours of notification if the teen shows any signs or symptoms of COVID that cannot be attributed to another health condition. 
  • Parents/guardians and teens will receive an email 14 days before their trip with detailed recommendations from the CDC on best practices leading up to the trip to ensure the safety of everyone on the crew. 

Have questions? Join us at one of our live Q&A sessions! Clarissa Allen, Youth Trail Program Manager, will give a brief overview of the application process for 2021 and answer any questions you may have. You can sign up for a Q&A by clicking on the links below:

If you’re unable to attend one of the Q&A sessions, you can reach out to Clarissa via email, clarissa@wta.org, or phone 206-678-2025.

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