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WTA Youth Ambassadors: Adaptable and Driven

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Apr 13, 2020 04:00 AM |

It's been an interesting year for our latest cohort of youth ambassadors — but we've been immensely proud of everything these tireless teens have already been able to accomplish for trails.

Story and photos by Britt Lê

Every year, WTA’s Youth Ambassador Program concludes in the spring with a reunion. We celebrate successes, engage in mild heckling, and, of course, do a little bit of trail work.

The 2019-20 youth ambassador cohort excited to start training back in the fall.

But, with public health as priority #1 this year, we had to think more creatively about ways we could enjoy each other’s company and honor our shared love for the outdoors ... while staying home.

Enter the unexpected hero of the times — video calls.


Instead of bonding over trail work, last week WTA’s youth ambassadors convened (virtually) to commiserate about life during Stay Home, Stay Healthy and share photos of outdoor spaces that are meaningful to them.

In an hour, we journeyed from the port in Victoria, BC to the summit of Vesper Peak in the Cascades, and from the shoreline of Lake Superior in Michigan, all the way to the White Cliffs of Dover in England. It was reassuring to see, despite everything we’re going through, we can still find joy in connecting with other hikers and basking in nature’s magnificence. 

Youth Ambassadors taking initiative

Before we headed into the great indoors, the 2019-2020 youth ambassador cohort had already accomplished some major wins for trails this year. Here's what they'd done in just a few months:

  • Kai Yuen organized the first of what was to be a series of five springtime youth ambassador work parties. 16 folks spent a day leveling sections of the popular loop trail at Discovery Park.

    An ambassador-organized work party crew enjoying a well deserved lunch break.
  • In February, Tessa Smith and Annalise Pree joined WTA staff and representatives from other organizations in Olympia to lobby for No Child Left Inside, a program that provides funding for groups to take kids outside.
  • Ambassador John Lochner published an article about WTA’s youth volunteer vacations in his school’s newspaper.
  • Between November of 2019 and February of 2020, this cohort of 13 youth ambassadors presented to more than 625 of their peers about how young people can get involved with WTA’s programs.

Though other youth ambassador projects were disrupted by public efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus and the scaling back of WTA’s programs, we’re still immensely proud of everything this cohort has already been able to accomplish.

Instead of having an in-person reunion, next month the youth ambassadors will be wrapping up the program year with one last video call. While it's not quite the same as a day spent on trail together, this cohort has shown an admirable adaptability to roll with what comes their way.