Columbia Gorge Youth Explorers on Mt. Hood

Editor’s note: Columbia Gorge Youth Explorers engages local youth in conservation education, environmental stewardship and outdoor recreation activities on public lands. Adult mentors help create and facilitate monthly activities that promote the development of positive life skills.  The program is a collaboration of The Next Door, Inc’s Independent Living Program and Mt. Adams Institute.  Is is generously supported by The North FaceContinue reading to learn one participant’s reflection on a weekend spent in the snow on Mt. Hood. 

The Independent Living Program for foster youth is one of my favorite things about foster care. The things I’ve learned at ILP meetings and group trips have helped me move towards living on my own. My ILP teacher, Jenny, is amazing, and I am just so blessed that she is someone I can count on for just about anything.

This last weekend my group and a few other ILP groups got together at Mount Hood for a snow trip. The lodge was fantastic. The fireplace kept the whole place warm and comfortable. There were couches and chairs to sit and relax in. The kitchen was small but easy to use. The upstairs had a pool table and hang out area, and the dorms were kept warm twenty-four seven. However, outside was another story. There was snow everywhere you looked. It was cold but very beautiful. When it snowed it was like adding to the beauty of it all.

CGYE on Hood.1

 

At first, everyone kind of stayed within their groups.  I was a little bummed that one of my friends from another ILP group couldn’t make it. Mike, one of the leaders during the trip, got us all together in a circle to introduce ourselves. It was a good ice breaker. Soon after that everyone was mingling and laughing. We all went out into the snow with inner tubes and used them to go down snow hills. I loved hearing the laughter and seeing the smiles as everyone had a blast playing in the snow. A lot of the guys enjoyed going as high as they could on a hill and sliding down it with a tube or sled. There were a couple big bumps down that hill that made me a bit skeptical. It’s beyond me how guys can be so cautious free. After playing in the snow, we made lots of hot chocolate (and coffee, mind you) and chilled. During meal times everyone would take turns either cooking or cleaning. There was plenty of team work during the trip. During the evenings we would play group games. I was given the great privilege to lead the evening games the first night. I love leading, and I enjoy helping people smile and have a good time. Mike introduced the group to a documentary film called “Louder Than A Bomb”. The film was very inspirational and well made. I’m so elated to have watched.

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The trip wasn’t just fun but educational. We had group discussions about wisdom. We were encouraged to step out of our comfort zones whether that be speaking in front of people or doing the trust fall activity. We went on a hike and saw a very pretty waterfall. The hike was gorgeous and well worth it. We also got to learn from outdoor experts. We went snow shoeing with them and learned how to build an igloo. I had never known how to make one until that day. I was pretty surprised to hear how warm it can be in an igloo.

Igloo building.1

All in all, the trip was a great experience that I won’t ever regret having. I really value trying new things. Now I can say I’ve gone inner tubing at Mount Hood, hiking in the snow, and snow shoeing. To everyone who helped organize and pay for this trip, THANK YOU North Face, Next Door Inc. and Mt. Adams Institute!

Mt. Adams Institute Helps Replace Historic Peterson Prairie Cabin Lost to Fire

September 10, 2012 was a sad day for the Mt. Adams Ranger District and Gifford Pinchot National Forest as a fire destroyed the historic Peterson Prairie Guard Station.   The 86 year-old structure was a public favorite that was available for rent for those seeking a rustic, out-of-doors adventure.

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But the Forest Service will not allow the loss to go without response.  It recently unveiled plans to move another historic structure to the site. “We’re trying to make something good out of an unfortunate situation.  While the Peterson Prairie Guard Station is lost forever, we can save another historic structure that was slated for demolition.  By moving and restoring the Willard Tool Shop, we will preserve a piece of American history and replace a rental option that allows the public a unique way to experience the national forest”, said Nancy Ryke, Mt. Adams District ranger.

The project will occur in stages beginning this spring with the on-site restoration of the Willard Tool Shop at its current location.  The next step, which could happen as early as this fall, will involve moving the building 20 miles to the Peterson Prairie site.  The final stage will involve the construction of a new foundation and finish carpentry work.  The estimated finish date is 2015.

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Nearly 1/3 of the $75,000 budget has been secured. Mt. Adams Institute, a non-profit partner of the Forest Service, has come on board to help raise additional funding for the project.  “The Institute is excited to offer its services to the project.  The old guard station allowed many people to explore the forest.  We want to help bring that option back”, said Brendan Norman, Mt. Adams Institute Executive Director.  Donations of materials and money can be given through the Mt. Adams Institute website

Read the Forest Service’s press release about the project.

Three Great Jobs in the Outdoors

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It’s that time of year! Outdoor jobs are starting to get posted.  Check out these opportunities with two great organizations:

Student Conservation Association is looking for a Project Logistics Leader to assist with four weeks of programming in the Santa Monica Mountains in California.  The bulk of this position revolves around feeding large groups of people in a front country camp.  Learn more about the Project Logistics Leader position.

Our partner, Mount St. Helens Institute, is also looking to hire several positions. A Seasonal Program Coordinator will support hands-on-science and environmental education programs.  The Seasonal Program Assistant will assist these activities.

Don’t delay.  These jobs close soon.

 

 

Join MAI at the Snow Ball on February 9th

Need to kick the winter blues?  Or a reason to celebrate the great sun and snow that the Cascade Mountains have experienced so far this season? Then come join your friends at MAI at the Snow Ball — February 9th at the Trout Lake Country Inn.

Wear your best costume that celebrates winter.  Shake your thang to the music of the Shed Shakers. Win prizes in the Dance Competition. Help raise money for the Nordic Fund to promote winter recreation for youth.

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2012 Accomplishment Highlight: VetsWork Program

As the year ends, we are looking back at what MAI has done in its first year of operation.  It’s important to note that much of this work was accomplished due to the generous support of our fans, the donated time of the MAI Board and the hard work of the MAI staff.  If you like what you read, consider a donation to the Mt. Adams Institute fund (hosted by our partner: Mount St. Helens Institute).  It will keep us moving forward in 2013!

The last several weeks have kept us busy with the VetsWork: Environment program, which will place veterans in internships with natural resource agencies throughout the region beginning in January of 2014. Here are some of the highlights:

  • MAI will be hosting an open house for veterans and community members who are interested in supporting veterans as they transition back to civilian life. We are looking for people who are interested in serving as mentors, being on our board, weighing in on program design or who are interested in supporting the program in other ways. For those interested in learning more about VetsWork and connecting to other veterans in the Gorge, please join us on January 8 at the White Salmon Library between 7 and 8 P.M. ( 77 Wauna Ave, White Salmon) or on January 10 from 12-1 at the Hood River Port Office’s Board Room (1000 E. Port Marina Drive in Hood River). Light snacks and refreshments will be provided.

 

  • Over the past months we have been meeting with veterans groups, natural resource agencies and other non profits throughout the region to develop partnerships and strengthen our programming. We have made some great connections and we are always on the hunt for more. If you have ideas, send them our way.

 

  • We are in the process of perfecting the draft of our AmeriCorps grant that is due in February. We will find out in June of 2013 if the VetsWork: Environment  program will be funded by AmeriCorps. If you are interested in being one of our grant readers, please contact Amanda by the January 1st.

 

  • At the beginning of December Amanda attended the National Disabilities Inclusion Conference in Virginia. She made a lot of great connections and gained some valuable tools for the VetsWork Program.

MAI 2012 Accomplishment Report Highlight: Outdoor Adventures Hook 150+ Kids

As the year ends, we are looking back at what MAI has done in its first year of operation.  It’s important to note that much of this work was accomplished due to the generous support of our fans, the donated time of the MAI Board and the hard work of the MAI staff.  If you like what you read, consider a donation to the Mt. Adams Institute fund (hosted by our partner: Mount St. Helens Institute).  It will keep us moving forward in 2013!

As I look back at the past year, some of MAI’s best days were spent in the company of kids.  Through a unique partnership with five local schools, MAI and the Cascadia Adventure Education School staff introduced over 150+ local youth to the wonders of the natural world and the excitement of outdoor recreation.  We were climbing, boating, caving, firing arrows, building fires . . . but enough with words, let these pictures tell you the story:

[gdl_gallery title=”Outdoor Adventures” width=”130″ height=”130″ ]

MAI Receives The Northface Grant

We just got word that The North Face is going to support our Columbia Gorge Youth Explorers (CGYE) program!


 

 

MAI board member, Mike Gundlach, started the program this summer in collaboration with local nonprofit, The Next Door, Inc.  CGYE participants travel the Gorge in search of community service and outdoor  recreation activities that teach them about the natural world and their place in it.  It’s really cool! To learn, more read the full press release  Mt. Adams Institute Receives Northface Grant.1

2012 Accomplishment Report Highlight: MAI Earns 501(c)(3) Status

As the year ends, we are looking back at what MAI has done in its first year of operation.  It’s important to note that much of this work was accomplished due to the generous support of our fans, the donated time of the MAI Board and the hard work of the MAI staff.  If you like what you read, consider a donation to the Mt. Adams Institute fund (hosted by our partner: Mount St. Helens Institute).  It will keep us moving forward in 2013!

We did it!  After nearly a year, MAI received notification yesterday (December 5) that we have been recognized as a 501 (c)(3) non profit organization by the Internal Revenue Service.

Acquiring non profit status was one of several strategic goals that the MAI board established for 2012.  It allows us to be a more effective organization that can operate independently and/or in partnership with other organizations.

Special thanks to the Sportsgrants Foundation for funding this initiative.

 

2012 Accomplishment Report Highlight: Forest Youth Success

As December nears, we are looking back at what MAI has done in its first year of operation.  It’s important to note that much of this work was accomplished due to the generous support of our fans, the donated time of the MAI Board and the hard work of the MAI staff.  If you like what you read, consider a donation to the Mt. Adams Institute fund (hosted by our partner: Mount St. Helens Institute).  It will keep us moving forward in 2013!

Forest Youth Success is a youth employment program in Skamania County, Washington that engages local youth in summer work on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  In 2012, 48 kids spent their summer weeks working on projects such as trail building, fish hatchery maintenance, non native weed mapping and removal, road corridor brushing and boundary surveying.

In addition to earning a well deserved paycheck, participants benefited by:

  • Career path exposure to natural resources management jobs
  • Weekly classes that explored team building, resume writing & interview skills, financial management and goal setting
  • Being engaged in a successful community program during the summer
  • Interaction with positive adult mentors that supervised the crews

 

MAI helped administer the program by securing the project agreement with the Forest Service, scheduling the work for the eight crews, securing new funding sources and reporting on its success.  All and all, it was a very good season for Forest Youth Success.


To learn more about the 2012 season, read the FYS2012 accomplishment report.

Columbia Gorge Youth Explorers Build Connections (and Trail) in Mosier

MAI board member Mike Gundlach spearheads the Columbia Gorge Youth Explorers program, which promotes the development of life skills through community service, outdoor recreation and strong connections to the social and natural landscape of the area.  Youth Explorer participants include the recently adjudicated, those in the foster care system and other young people that can benefit from interaction with positive role models like Mike.  Read about Mike’s latest adventure.

Recently, I have been partnering with the Next Door Inc. and Friends of Columbia Gorge (FOCG) to connect youth with a visionary project launched by FOCG. The project is dubbed “Towns to Trails.” It’s a 20 year vision to connect towns throughout the Columbia River Gorge with trails between each of them.

This past week youth from the Next Door Inc. helped break new trail on part of this historic project located on a beautiful plateau rising above the town of Mosier. FOCG purchased this property due in part to its proximity with another local trail that connects downtown Mosier with the Mosier Falls swimming hole. Eventually this trail will connect the town of Mosier with The Dalles.

This was the youth’s first introduction to FOCG. The manager of the Towns to Trails project, Renee Tkach, provided them with an outstanding opportunity to learn about the local area, hear about conservation efforts of FOCG, gain trail building skills, connect with the natural environment and sip hot chocolate during their lunch time break. In addition, the youth were able to connect with a representative from Northwest Youth Corps (NYC) and learn about summer opportunities and careers in the outdoors.

The group finished the day exploring the lower trail and the Mosier falls. As they walked down the trail joking around and tell stories one might envision them coming back to this trail 20 years from now with their kids to take a swim in the cool waters of the creek and hike up to the plateau to share their story of how they helped build this trail to pass on to future generations…

A big thanks goes out to those that made this day possible. Renee (FOCG), Livia (NDI) and Brian (NYC) – you guys are awesome!

Meet the MAI Board: Jeanne Bennett

Editor’s note: the MAI Board plays many important roles in the organization.  It sets policy, oversees our financial health and strategically orients our programming.  Meet our Board President, Jeanne Bennett.

 

Jeanne Bennett is the Executive Director of the SW Washington Workforce Development Council (SWWDC).  The Council is responsible for managing, promoting and supervising the region’s workforce development system.  To that end, Jeanne and the Council work closely with business, education, social service, state and federal agencies and others involved in creating a well-trained workforce.

Before joining the SWWDC in 2012, Jeanne Bennett was the Executive Director of the Mount St. Helens Institute where she created science education and conservation opportunities throughout the region.

Prior to this, Jeanne served for five years as Director of Workforce Programs for southwestern Washington counties, an $8 million, multi-year grant program to prepare students for the working world. From 2000 to 2004, she worked for U.S. Representative Brian Baird as District Director and Casework Supervisor. In 1994, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in history from Portland State University, she worked in Portland, Oregon as a congressional caseworker for former U.S. Representative Elizabeth Furse.

Columbia Gorge Youth Find Success on the Mt. Adams Institute Challenge Course

Editor’s note:  MAI Board Member and Youth Programs Volunteer, Mike Gundlach, is dedicated to mentoring young people through the exposure to the natural world.  Mike finds success to be the blending of People, Passion & Planet.  Enjoy Mike’s account of hosting a group of young men from The Next Door Inc.’s Independent Living Program (http://www.nextdoorinc.org/category/independent-living-program/) and WING’s (http://www.getwings.net/index.html) on the Mt. Adams Institute Ropes Course.

What is a successful day of experiential learning?

Is it the sincere “thank you” and a firm handshake from a young adult who said “I thought this was going to be a crappy day and I almost didn’t come but I’m glad I did.”

Is it seeing a bit of fear in someone’s eyes before doing a trust fall and then witnessing them bursting with a smile when they overcame that fear?

Is it sitting in silence deep within the darkness of a lava tube with an energetic group of young men that are rarely silent who afterwards tell you, “I really enjoyed the silence.

Is it having a participant write down on a feedback form that one of the most valuable things they learned during the day was to “Trust people more” or another who wrote that his most valuable lesson was “learning about how we can work towards solutions that benefit the greater good.”

Is it working together on a community service project that everyone participates in and understands the importance of the work and the benefit to the community?

Is it having a participant rate the day a “10” on a 1-10 scale?

Is it knowing  that a group of young adults had a brand new and unique life experience that will help positively shape their life as they move into full adulthood?

Is it educating young men about new career opportunities that they didn’t know existed and were excited to learn more about?

Is it watching a participant “step up” and take on a leadership role within his peer group?

Success shows up in a variety of ways, all of which are highly dependent on numerous variables. Many of those variables are beyond our control, yet nature is the one consistent variable that never fails to provide endless opportunities to help all of us grow regardless of our age. Webster’s attempts to define success as a “Favorable or desired outcome.”  One could say that the outcomes we experienced today meet the definition of success. However, that doesn’t come close to touching the true depth and significant impact a positive and rich emotional/physical outdoor experience can have on a young adult. I continue to be amazed and grateful for the transformational power of outdoor experiential activities.

Much gratitude goes out to all those that made this day possible: Livia, Shawn, Brendan, Jim, Allyson and Bill and most importantly the young adults that made the effort to show up: Abben, Brandon, Cody, Jason, Richard and Trenton.

Wildlife Tracking Workshop

MAI, in conjunction with our partner Mount St. Helens Institute and the CyberTracker Conservation, is hosting a wildlife track and sign certification workshop on October 27-28, 2012 at our base camp.

The Track and Sign Certification is a two-day practical field test that emphasizes open, honest dialogue and real learning. The tracks and sign of any and all species encountered in the field may be asked, whether big or small, clear or obscure. After participants give their answers, a dialogue ensues between the evaluator and participants to provide the opportunity for everyone involved to learn and for each of us to internalize the field marks used for identification.

To learn more and/or register, click here

 

MAI Heads to DC to Garner Support for its New Veterans Program

Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) staff headed to Washington, D.C. last week to raise awareness about Veterans Environmental Transitions (VET), its new AmeriCorps internship program that is being developed for Military Veterans.

VET is designed to help returning Veterans transition to careers in natural resources management. Why are we focusing on Veterans? Check this out: In May of 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the national unemployment rate rose to 8.2%. However, the unemployment rate for young veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan rose to 12.7%, over four percentage points higher than the national average. And these stats aren’t unique to that month; they are indicative of a growing problem the country has been facing as Veterans return from war and attempt to re-assimilate to civilian life.

That’s where the MAI comes in. In January of 2014 we plan to place 25 Veterans in internships with state and federal land management agencies throughout the Northwest. These internships will expose Veterans to the various types of work the agencies do while giving both groups, the agencies and the Veterans, the support they need to be successful. While in these positions, Veterans will help address public lands issues and recruit community volunteers.

The program is being designed to address several barriers that are affecting Veterans’ successful re-entry into the civilian world. One issue employers and Veterans face are the cultural differences between the military and the civilian workplace: the chain of command can be different, the sense of camaraderie among coworkers varies and even the language can be dissimilar. VET program staff will focus on educating Veterans and the agencies they serve about these differences and will help them bridge the differences through trainings and on-the-ground support.

In addition to their internship, VET program participants will meet monthly to attend natural resources management courses at a local college. This educational component is designed to prepare Veterans for the new Federal Pathways Program — an employment path for students and recent graduates interested in jobs with federal agencies. It also will engage or re-engage them in the process of working towards a college diploma; the lack of which is an additional obstacle to employment.

We are excited about the program and made significant progress as we met with our states’ staff representatives: Murray, Cantwell and Wyden, agencies staffs: BLM, Forest Service, Department of Interior and Veterans Benefits Administration and our AmeriCorps program staff.

If you would like to learn more about the program or would like to support our efforts through a donation, contact us through our new website – www.mtadamsinstitute.com.