Youth Outside | Becoming the Leaders Our World Needs

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we revisit the powerful speech that Y-WE Nature Connections and Mountain Workshops participant Jaydalen Blossom delivered at our 2019 Gala.
Jaydalen Blossom Jaydalen Blossom
Y-WE Nature Connections and Mountain Workshops Participant
June 25, 2019

A hush spread over the crowd of 500 well-dressed Mountaineers, all eyes on the stage in anticipation. From behind the curtain emerged Jaydalen Blossom, a 14-year old outdoor enthusiast and participant with Young Women Empowered (Y-WE), a youth-serving mentorship and empowerment organization we partner with as part of our Mountain Workshops program. Jaydalen joined us to speak about the connection to people and place she feels in being outside, and to offer a fresh perspective on why protecting these places and experiences is more important than ever.

Jaydalen’s speech was incredibly powerful – interrupted multiple times by rounds of applause – and her poise and selfconfidence was laudable, inspiring our community to give a record-breaking $140,000 in raise-the-paddle donations.

In his opening remarks our CEO Tom Vogl quoted a proverb: “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” I am reminded every day, in big and small ways, about how fortunate I am to share the same space with youth like Jaydalen who are thoughtful, kind, compassionate, resilient, and inspirational. In an evening that included famous climbers and legendary Mountaineers, Jaydalen was the most uplifting of all. She truly embodies the traits that will make this world a better place, and I’m honored to share her beautiful speech with you today.

-Andy Bassett, Youth Education Manager

My name is Jaydalen Blossom - I am 14 years old and I live here in Seattle. I love nature. I love to move my body. I breakdance and do parkour and have lots of fun adventuring outdoors. My family consists of my mom, dad, and little brother, who are sitting right over there.

If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be standing in front of 500 people and sharing my personal story, I’m not sure that I would have believed you! I feel truly honored to be here tonight.

I am a participant in Y-WE Nature Connections, which is a program of Young Women Empowered, one of the many nonprofits that The Mountaineers works with through their Mountain Workshops program. If you aren’t familiar, Mountain Workshops partners with over 30 nonprofits a year to help more than 1,000 youth have outdoor recreational experiences.

In the past few months, in Y-WE Nature Connections activities in partnership with The Mountaineers, I’ve had experiences that I’ve never had before in my life. We have come together with youth and mentors from all walks of life to try new things, to connect with nature, and to connect with one another. I’ve gone snowshoeing at Mt. Rainier National Park, cross country skiing at Lake Easton State Park, hiking at Dash Point State Park, and camping at Wanapum Recreation Area in Vantage.

I feel so grateful to experience these places. I’m sure you know this feeling, but connecting with nature... it really taps into my mind, body, and spirit. When I am outside in these wild places my mind feels at peace and I am able to let go, my body feels rejuvenated and energized, and my spirit is humbled and free.

And it’s not only the places that have an impact on me. The recreational experiences do too. I have always felt supported in trying something new, like rock climbing and cross-country skiing. I have been held capable, and I feel good when I’m cheered on by my supportive community of peers and mentors.

There are so many things that I love about Y-WE Nature Connections and Mountain Workshops, but the thing that I think is most important is the sense of community that programs such as these instill in young people like me. I have a sense of belonging. It supports me and encourages me in outdoor adventures, and in all areas of my life. I know that these are building blocks that will stick with me, even into my adult years. 

This past weekend was a really great example of that.

A group of us young women and our mentors went on a camping and hiking trip to Vantage. The opportunity to stay overnight in a new place, removed from the city, brought us closer as a community. We had the chance to learn people’s stories and share our own, and to laugh and play together. On Saturday night we gathered around the campfire to share about the advice we would give to our younger and future selves.

It became so clear to me then...

We need to provide all youth with access to our wild places, as well as opportunities to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. It is up to us to create a future that is better for ourselves, better for our communities, and better for the world.

Programs like Y-WE Nature Connections and Mountain Workshops support youth in developing important leadership skills and a stronger belief in themselves. Problem solving, trust, respect, communication - we’re becoming the leaders that our world needs. And now more than ever before, with the current state of global politics and the environmental climate, the world needs our voices... and our hearts.

You’re sitting in this room tonight because you care about the future of our natural world. And I thank you for being here because I care, too.

I can confidently tell you that if you’re concerned about the future of our wild places – if you care about what we’re leaving behind for the next generation – then you need to care about experiential outdoor education programs. Programs that provide youth with opportunities to build a strong community with one another and to grow with one another. Programs that provide youth with opportunities to find their sense of belonging in our wild places and strengthen their connection to our natural world. Programs that bring to life the significance of our actions and promote the respect of all people and all places.

Programs like Mountain Workshops at The Mountaineers – that’s where magic happens.

Our futures depend on how we prepare today’s youth to be the next great leaders. The next great leaders who will also become the next great stewards and fierce protectors of the people, places, and experiences that we all hold dear.

In a minute you’re going to be asked to raise your paddle, and I challenge you to raise it boldly to celebrate and share the outdoor experience, so that more youth can feel how I feel.

Give tonight, and you’ll give hundreds of young people like myself the opportunity to hike, rock climb, snowshoe, and crosscountry ski.

But it’s bigger than that.

Give tonight, and you’ll support young people in developing their own personal relationship with our beautiful natural environment.

But it’s even bigger than that.

Give tonight, and you’ll help build a sense of community and belonging for many more young people in the Pacific Northwest, so that they can grow into the leaders that our people and our places so desperately need.

Our futures depend on it. Thank you.

Y-WE Nature Connections cohort camping at Vantage in partnership with Mountain Workships. Photo courtesy of The Mountaineers.


Our Mountain Workshops program was established in 2011 by investing in strategic partnerships with local organizations serving underrepresented youth. Participants engage in outdoor activities, including climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, while learning transferrable life skills like communication, confidence, trust, and perseverance. Through experiential learning, young people build strong communities and connections to our public lands.

In the past eight years, we have partnered with more than 45 Youth Serving Organizations, served 8,500 students, and delivered 15,000 Youth Experiences. More than 50% of our Mountain Workshops youth are able to participate thanks to scholarships made possible by Mountaineers donors.

Our youth partners include Young Women Empowered, Aki Kurose Middle School, Interagency High School, SheJumps, Big City Mountaineers, Franklin-Pierce High School, Solid Ground Broadview Shelter, and many others. For more information about the program or to volunteer, please contact Danielle Lietao at daniellel@mountaineers.org. To support this program, visit mountaineers.org/donate.


This article originally appeared in our Summer 2019 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.