This summer has been an adventure and a learning experience. As an avid hiker, spending my summer exploring and researching National Parks and other natural and cultural sites in Washington is a dream come true. I was not only fortunate enough to travel to multiple parks and sites in Washington State, but also gain a thorough understanding of the opportunities available for youth in the Evergreen State (most of which I did not know about when I was a “youth” myself). Although the number of opportunities that were available at parks and cultural sites amazed me, I realized that there are several components that hinder middle and high school-age students from accessing these opportunities.
One of the main obstacles I noticed that is preventing teens from reaching many of these awesome sites is lack of public transportation. Getting to the museums and cultural sites in the Greater Seattle area is relatively easy thanks to the Link light rail, King County Metro and Sound Transit. Unfortunately, getting to most National Parks, including the most well-known ones such as Olympic, North Cascades, and Mount Rainier, is nearly impossible without a car. Not all teens in Seattle have driver’s licenses and an even fewer percentage actually own cars. Although carpooling is an option, coordinating road trips is difficult, and not to mention, pricey. Paying for gas comes out to be a lot when you’re travelling more than a couple hours out of the city.
The other interns and I discussed possible solutions to this problem and one idea we had was a bus route that took students to National Parks in Washington. However, before this idea is set into action we need to get more teens interested in going to these places. Currently, there really isn’t a large population of teens that are interested in going to National Parks so before we can even think about proposing this idea, we need to reach out to teens and schools in the Seattle area and build an interest base. Most teens aren’t really thrilled by the idea of volunteering or interning, and many even dread fulfilling their high school’s volunteer requirements. I don’t think many teens realize how great some volunteer opportunities can look on college application and/or resumes. It is my belief that once teens learn more about these volunteer/job opportunities, some of these opportunities may catch their eye and appeal to them. From trail work to graphic design, the vast range of opportunities we discovered while completing our internships this summer could appeal to many youth’s interests and even be fun!
Throughout the course of this project, I’ve realized that our mission is not to force teens into doing activities that are beneficial to their college applications, but to at least begin the process and introduce them to said opportunities. If they are intrigued, great, they’ll be looking forward to a summer or school year full of meaningful, educational experiences; if they are not, at least they are aware of the opportunities that they may come back to someday.
~Sophie, SCA Intern