Our national parks are outstanding outdoor classrooms that allow students of all ages to make lasting connections to our natural world. This July, Voyageurs National Park Association worked with the National Park Service and Wilderness Inquiry to send 16 National Park Teen Ambassadors to Voyageurs for a five-day learning expedition.
Most of these young people, who are from the Twin Cities and communities near the park, had never had the opportunity to paddle, camp, or visit the park before.
They had so much fun, gained great confidence, and returned home excited to share their stories and their love of this incredible place. It’s amazing to see how the experience enriched their lives – and it’s our hope that among this group may be the park stewards of the future.
Voyageurs is best experienced on the water, and these teens spent many days on or in it. Whether paddling to their campsite or to see a giant floating bog, the large Wilderness Inquiry canoes were their primary mode of transportation, not unlike the park's namesake Voyageur canoes hundreds of years ago.
And while their days were busy meeting park staff and exploring, back at camp, time was always left for a dip in Kabetogama Lake at the end of the day.
As Ranger Melissa Carlson observed, "I enjoyed hearing about their evenings in camp. They heard loons and owls calling, went swimming, played games, star gazed, and even had a black bear visit camp. Watching this group of strangers come together over the week and see them head home with new friends and great memories was inspiring. The power of nature and being unplugged is undeniable."
Exploring the park was just part of the experience. The teens were able to connect with each other as well. "Some of the people I met, they were pretty extraordinary. And the things we did in camp, like the games and everything," said Angel Anderson.
"It's fun and you get to meet interesting people from all over the state and you get to watch the pretty view and scenery and you get to see animals," said Maly Lee.
To be successful for years to come, we know that it is crucial to engage young people in our National Parks. We want to be sure that young people from Minnesota who have never had the opportunity to paddle, camp, or explore our park have the chance to do so.
This program is made possible by the generosity of our program partners and supporters. You can help, by making a gift to support the Teen Ambassador program.
Click here to see more photos from the 2014 Teen Ambassador trip.
Contact our office to learn more about this program at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 612-333-5424 (or sign up for our email newsletter.) We'll let you know when we are recruiting students for next summer's program.