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Young WILD Leaders Get a Lift from Outdoor Leadership Training

Posted by Rachel Wendling at May 12, 2017 02:00 PM |

Normally, our Outdoor Leadership Training program trains adults who work with youth. But last month, we were joined by a group of exceptional youth leaders who will use their new skills in their community.

This March, we headed out to Tiger Mountain for a hiking workshop with our Outdoor Leadership Training program. We were excited to be outside on an early spring day, and even more excited to have a group of youth join us for the first time.

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WILD staff and fellows took advantage of WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training recently. Kaiwen Lee, Mina Liu, Jenny Liu, Tinh Lou, Han Xing Ye, Zhi Min Yan, Alisa Koyama and Karmen Deng paused for a photo at the end of the day after they’d changed out of some of their gear. Photo by Andrew Pringle.

Usually, at our OLT trainings, we work with adults. On this trip, however, six young fellows from Wilderness Inner-City Leadership Development (WILD) joined the training to get some tricks and tips to get their peers and other members of their community outside. The youth also took advantage of WTA’s gear library to stay warm and dry.

WILD, which has been around for 20 years, primarily serves youth who are Asian Pacific Islanders, people of color, immigrants and refugees. They focus on building relationships between different generations, community-based service learning and environmental leadership.

As part of that effort, WILD recently started a four-month fellowship to help youth, ages 16-18, develop their leadership skills. Kaiwen Lee, youth education and engagement manager for WILD, hopes the skills the fellows learned at the workshop will help them introduce members of their community to the outdoors. Kaiwen appreciated the interactive nature of the hiking workshop and says the gear was helpful. “We definitely made use of the rain gear, gloves and hats as needed.”

Mina Liu, a fellow with WILD, borrowed gear for the trip, which helped out with the less-than-perfect weather. Mina said she also appreciated the chance to get to know people from a variety of backgrounds.

“I think the trip overall was very successful,” she says, and the skills will stick with her. (Perhaps a bit too much in one case. The final song from the last game of the day was stuck in her head for ages. “Mingle, mingle, mingle ...”)

“What stands out about WILD is that we facilitate different experiential activities based on pre-existing, cultural relationships youth already have with nature,” Kaiwen says. “An easy example is through food. We like to make our own lunches before a trip, and so we’ve brought out spam musubi and bento boxes while hiking. Ultimately, as WILD staff, we want to build meaningful relationships between youth, their communities and local ecosystems that honor the youth’s ethnic backgrounds.”

We want that, too, and are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the next generation of young leaders.

WTA staffer Michelle Piñon leads a hiking workshop for WILD fellows and other youth leaders.


AT WTA, we believe getting youth outdoors to play, learn and grow provides opportunities to increase their confidence and expand their horizons.

With our gear library, we support groups that take youth outdoors. We provide gear, training, help with funding and a supportive community. The groups provide the personal connection to the youth. We hope that each time a rain jacket or pair of boots goes out the door that a young person discovers the benefits of nature. Throughout this year, we will be telling the stories of some of the groups who make use of our gear library.

Learn more about the Outdoor Leadership Training program.

This article originally appeared in the May+June 2017 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.