The Mt. Adams Institute mission is to strengthen the connection between people and the natural world through education, service learning, career development and research.
Founded in 2011 by current Executive Director Brendan Norman and Board Members Jeanne Bennett, Heather Weisfield, Mike Gundlach and Amanda Lawrence, MAI offers programs that connect people of all ages to the natural world including kids learning about the ecology of the forests and mountains of Mt. Adams alongside scientists, young adults & military veterans building skills that lead to jobs in the public lands and natural resources sector, and volunteers of all ages supporting the management of public lands. A core value of the organization is that relationships matter and thus we focus on building strong ties with our participants and partners.
The groundwork for MAI was laid many years before its official start.
Founder and current Executive Director, Brendan Norman, grew up on an old farm in Michigan – 7 acres of feed corn and 33 acres of swamp hardwood forest. As one of 8 kids, his parents utilized the farm as a child rearing tool. The kids were expected to do daily chores that ranged from feeding animals to cutting firewood. On top of that, the standing rule in the summer time was that kids were not allowed indoors between breakfast and dinner. So while his friends were racking up hours on the Atari and getting their first glimpses of MTV, Brendan was forced outdoors. Needless to say, he developed a strong distaste for anything associated with nature.
However a funny thing happened as the years passed …
… and Brendan grew into his adult years, he actually discovered that the outdoors were important to him. His free time was spent exploring the Pacific Northwest in the company of family and friends via foot, bike, boat or other means. He found himself seeking out jobs that took him outside, especially those that involved working with others on public lands. Those experiences taught him that a strong connection to the natural world benefited people in a number of ways. It made them stronger, it helped define their sense of purpose, it inspired them to try new things and it helped life-long friendships with others that shared those moments.
Brendan’s story is similar to many of our staff, board members and participants. At MAI, we see our mission realized on a regular basis. A veteran finds employment with the Forest Service as a result of our VetsWork program that helps her both secure a good job and define her sense of purpose in the civilian world. A kid who is normally glued to a screen is inspired to sleep under the stars because of his Cascade Mountain School camp. A patch of wilderness stays wild due to the cleanup efforts of our volunteers.
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