Impact Giving | Mountain Workshops: Inspiration, instruction, and inclusion for the next generation

In this feature from Mountaineer magazine, read about our Mountain Workshops program, which partners with youth-serving agencies like Rock the Park to empower youth to feel safe and confident in the outdoors.
Mckenzie Campbell Davies Mckenzie Campbell Davies
Annual Giving Manager
August 23, 2022

Leaving the cars behind, a group of young teens were a little unsure, but excited, as they walked up the trail together. Hiking is not something that they would usually choose to do on a summer afternoon. We’re just looking at a bunch of trees? Where do we go to the bathroom? Is there even cell service up here? Jiordi Henderson, Recreation Lead at Seattle Parks and Recreation and one of the chaperones for the day, hoped that the kids would be able to unplug.

They pressed on, the adults guiding the group in activities meant to inspire their inner naturalist. They counted the rings on felled trees. They used clues to determine species of flowers. They identified traces of bugs and animals in the forest.

The most memorable part of the day happened near the end. “We were in the middle of our hike down and there was a clearing,” said Jiordi. “Without saying anything, everyone just looked out. We just stopped and really took in the nature. And it was unprovoked. We didn’t ask them to do it.”

Gazing out over the trees and rock outcroppings, the group shared an unplanned moment of silence, broken only by the hum of pollinators and the scuff of shoes on dirt. “They had passed the same view on the way up, but then they just kind of… saw it. And the whole mood shifted.” The way down was marked by different questions than the ones from the morning. What kind of bugs live in this tree? If we got lost out here how would we find our way back? What other hikes can we do?

The Mountaineers partners with Rock the Park

The youth on the hike that day were part of Rock the Park, a program created by the Magnuson Park Community Center in partnership with other organizations who have a mission-driven interest in serving youth and getting people outside. Rock the Park primarily serves the low income and formerly-homeless families living at Mercy and Solid Ground Housing in Sand Point, just down the road from The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center.

Through our Mountain Workshops program, The Mountaineers provides summertime activities for youth in Rock the Park that range from rock climbing to outdoor cooking to navigation. Kids ages 7-14 come to The Mountaineers to participate in upwards of 50 hours of structured outdoor activities throughout the summer. By returning every week, they build their skills and develop relationships with the staff and volunteer leaders. This partnership empowers new adventurers, trains future conservationists, and breaks down barriers to equity and inclusion in the outdoors in our home community and beyond.

Jiordi has helped to manage the partnership for over a decade. He has countless stories of kids connecting with nature, with each other, and with their own inner strength and confidence. “When they start out in the summer they see the tall rock walls and say ‘I could never climb that.’ If it's their first time climbing, their first time touching a harness, they have a lot of fear. But over the course of the summer they’re willing to climb higher and higher. Once they are able to complete the whole thing, their confidence just skyrockets. And they 100% take that perspective to the rest of their lives at home and school.”

The older kids come back as junior counselors, helping to coach the younger kids. I was in this program too, they can say. Trust me. The ropes will hold you. I won’t let you fall. As many of our readers will attest, something about having meaningful outdoor experiences urges us to share it with others. “They were able to grow and overcome something for themselves and then turn around and talk someone else through the same challenge,” Jiordi said. “It helps them problem solve and understand the frustrations of others.”

Rock the Park is a homerun for the agencies that serve the families who live at Sand Point. But it’s also in line with our mission, and what we envision for our outdoor community. At the very heart of The Mountaineers is the understanding that connecting with the natural world is valuable - if not essential - to a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle. From hiking to learning about birds and bugs, we believe in the unwavering power of being outside. And we do everything we can to empower more people to feel belonging when exploring, enjoying, and protecting our parks, forests, and waterways.

rock the park.jpgJiordi Henderson with youth on the south climbing plaza of the Seattle Program Center. Jiordi Henderson with youth on the south climbing plaza of the Seattle Program Center.

Mountain Workshops

The Mountaineers support of Rock the Park is just one example of what we offer through Mountain Workshops, a partnership-based program at The Mountaineers helping kids and teens get outside who otherwise might not. Many youth in our region experience significant obstacles to accessing outdoor recreation or education. Transportation, gear, clothing, expertise, and other cultural and economic barriers can make something like a snowshoe trip - or even a walk in the woods - inaccessible or impossible.

We partner with youth-serving agencies, schools, co-ops, and nonprofits to design outings and curricula to break down those barriers. This can look like multi-year partnerships, season-long, curriculum-based workshops, and one-off excursions that help young people connect with the natural world. By leveraging grants and donations, we’re able to provide meaningful outdoor experiences for upwards of 1,500 kids and teens a year!

The moment of silence Jiordi shared happened several years ago, before the pandemic. The kids are older now. They’re driving, starting jobs, and figuring out young adulthood. Some of them went on to try bigger trails, such as Mount Si and Mailbox Peak, and some still get out on hikes on their own and with their friends to this day.

The kids attending Mountain Workshops today are going to be exploring, conserving, learning, and advocating alongside us in no time at all. By reaching past barriers to connect young people with the outdoors, we are building the inclusive and equitable Mountaineers community of our future.

ACCESS FUNDED BY PHILANTHROPY

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, The Mountaineers relies on philanthropic support for our work around access, equity, and inclusion in the outdoor community. Roughly half of our programming for youth is funded through charitable donations, and most Mountain Workshops partner organizations are able to participate at a greatly reduced cost thanks to grants and donor funding.

Mountain Workshops are made possible thanks to our expertise, program and outdoor centers, dedicated staff, trained volunteers, gear library, grants, and donor-funded scholarships.

We are so grateful for the generous donors and volunteers committed to expanding our community and engaging future Mountaineers. Invest in our community with a monthly donation or learn more about volunteering with Mountain Workshops in Seattle, Tacoma, or Olympia by visiting our Partner Programs webpage. If you’d like to learn more about supporting our Mountain Workshops Program as a donor, please reach out to development@mountaineers.org.

We are also always looking to build new relationships. Our youth team is hard at work finding ways to get more kids outside. To learn more about Mountain Workshops and how you can get your youth group involved, visit our Mountain Workshops webpage.

Lead image of Mountain workshops participants on a hike. Photo by Mountaineers staff.

This article originally appeared in our summer 2022 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our  magazine archive


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