National Park Teen Ambassador Program
National Parks are outstanding outdoor classrooms that offer opportunities for students of all ages to make lasting connections to the natural environment. But not all young people have the opportunity to visit them.
In 2012, Voyageurs National Park Association partnered with the National Park Service and Wilderness Inquiry to create the National Park Teen Ambassador program. Each summer, the program introduces at least twenty Minnesota high school students to camping, hiking, paddling, and environmental stewardship through adventures in Voyageurs National Park and along the Mississippi River.
The program seeks to empower future environmental champions in diverse communities and engage youth as Ambassadors to both the Park Service and the public. We seek to inspire Teen Ambassadors to share the Voyageurs story with their community and peers, and to become lifelong conservationists.
Teen Ambassadors Reflect on Their Experiences
“I use[d] to feel like it takes a lot of work to connect with the environment and to interact with it. It doesn’t take a lot to unplugged and just enjoy being outside. Also knowing that a lot of people put work and time in [p]reserving the environment have inspire me to try to do more.”
“This park makes you feel connected to history in a more meaningful and profound way. We got the privilege to camp/sleep/eat/converse/laugh at the same spot where the natives of this land used to be. It makes me more more curious, it makes me want to learn more.”
“This program is important so that generations to come will also understand how important and special our national parks are.”
“I think that National Parks are important because they preserve places in nature so that generations to come can still be in touch with their ancestors and the world’s history. They tell stories that otherwise would be bulldozed over or forgotten.”
“It means a lot when you realize the value of nature - even if it is just a rock, I have learned that anything and/or everything is important.”
“Nature offers endless points of view that we’ll never get to see. National Parks are important because [they take] all things you never get to see and make them accessible, put them in one place.”“I personally respect a lot all those amazing natural things around me. I am very thankful to be part of this team because from last night to this moment, I am thinking more about how I can help to keep this amazing forest clean…”
“I enjoyed everything. The outdoor experience was incredible. We got to see a beautiful natural environment that I never saw before and I’m so thankful for this great opportunity. I learned so much, but I can say my favorite part was swimming to an island on Kabetogama [Lake]. I was afraid but the group motivated me and the staff kept me safe.”
“I think it’s important for our National Parks to have Teen Ambassadors because we can go out and experience the park and tell other young people about it to get them interested too. Considering that young people are the future caretakers of every aspect of the country, you want to get them to care more about our national parks so they will always be around.”
“Going out canoeing, camping, sleeping in a tent, campfires, fishing and stuff really modeled me into an outdoor person.”
“My favorite part about the program was meeting new people and experiencing something I thought I would never experience.”