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Youth Ambassador Spotlight: Julianna Hoza

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Feb 03, 2017 03:55 PM |

Learn how this Youth Ambassador has been making big waves in her local hiking community.

Julianna Hoza grew up with a strong connection to trails thanks to a family of five outdoor enthusiasts who wouldn’t let a little whining break their hiking spirit. After being dragged on a handful of steep mountain treks with panorama views, she was hooked. However, it wasn’t until her first WTA Youth Volunteer Vacation when she discovered another hidden passion of hers: giving back to the trails she loved.

"Being outside and particularly in the mountains has always been what makes me feel alive."

Juli on a mid-week hike during the Hoh extended youth volunteer vacation. Photo by Austin Easter.
Juli and fellow volunteers on a mid-week hike during the Hoh extended volunteer vacation. Photo by Austin Easter.

Growing a passion for trail work

In an effort to strengthen her connection to trails, Juli registered for her first youth volunteer vacation –- a week-long trip to Tiffany Lake in the summer of 2015. Juli embarked on her trip with the hope of having a fun, adventure-filled week, but came out of the experience with much more than she bargained for.

"One of the most vivid days in my memory of the last few years is my first day ever doing trail work. Working with a guy on my crew, I spent about 5-6 hours shoveling mud, redirecting a little stream, carrying enormous rocks, positioning and re-positioning those enormous rocks, and filling in spaces with bucket-loads of dirt. At the end of that very long day we had completed about two feet of trail (a step over a stream). But more importantly, I’d laughed hysterically, was absolutely covered with mud, and had gained a friend. That day showed me everything that I would love about trail work."

Since her first trip, Juli has accrued almost 25 days on trail, including an extended volunteer vacation on the Hoh River. She has no plans of slowing down. The endless learning experiences and warmth of the volunteer community has her coming back year after year.

"I've learned a lot about organizing and outdoor leadership in the last year. I've learned to make plans early, and to always follow through. I’ve found a group of people that care about the same things as me: friendship, environmental conservation, outdoor adventure, and hard work. I’ve found a community that shares my values."

Juli practicing her crosscut saw skills. Photo by Jacob Mandell.

Becoming an ambassador for trails

After displaying her commitment to trails, Juli was invited to join the 2015 Youth Ambassador cohort. Ambassadors are enlisted with the task of presenting about WTA youth opportunities to their peers, as well as completing school-year projects with a strong emphasis on trails and outdoor recreation.

“Since becoming an ambassador in the youth program, my projects have made the outdoors a life focus for me”

Juli has consistently gone above and beyond on her youth ambassador projects, and has made a substantial impact in her community. Not only did Juli start a hiking club at her own high school, but she helped inspire a nearby school to follow suit after setting a stunning example.

“Maybe the biggest impact on my life has been the Hiking Club I founded at my high school. Along with a group of friends, I lead groups of about 6-10 students on hikes in the Cascades and Olympics about every two weeks. Anyone is welcome on these hikes, and perhaps the most amazing part of making this group has been seeing people who have never been in the mountains go out and have an outdoor adventure for the first time.”

The 2016-2017 Youth Ambassador cohort at the annual summit. Photo by Andrew Pringle.

Juli has been able to spread her love of hiking with her classmates via organized weekly treks, and also the thrill of trail work by organizing a WTA youth work party for fellow club members.

“It was great to be able to show my friends just what it takes to build the trails that we use so much.”

As her final project of the year, Juli became one of our youngest hiking guide correspondents, adding four new trail descriptions and more than 30 trip reports to our hiking guide. After an incredible first year, Juli was welcomed back for a second year with the Youth Ambassador Program.

Inspiring future stewards

Juli is already hard at work planning her ambassador goals for the rest of the school year. Her first venture for 2017? Trail advocacy. Juli is currently in the process of organizing a group of peers to attend the annual Hiker Rally Day in Olympia, where she will be able represent youth trail users and their passion for hiking.

Though she's not stopping there. After her initial success with scheduling a work party, Juli hopes to transcend the boundaries of her high school and reach out to other local schools to create a joint youth work party.

“I joined WTA because I already loved to hike and camp, and I just thought 'why not?' But now, I realize that my life would be totally different if I had chosen not to try that one new thing: trail work. Taking that little step to just do something that I thought would be fun to learn had a huge impact on my life. If anyone is considering learning to do trail work or getting involved in outdoor leadership, it’s worth trying out because you never know. It might just be something you love, too!”

>Learn more about WTA's youth volunteer opportunities

Juli and fellow volunteers about to embark on a two week long vacation in the Hoh Rainforest. Photo by Austin Easter.