Leila H. ’20 Empowers Youth Through Outdoor Education at Glacier Peak Institute in Darrington, WA

Glacier Peak Institute is an outdoor education non-profit located in Darrington, Washington, a gateway to the North Cascades. Glacier Peak’s mission statement is: “Empowering youth through action based education to build resilient rural communities and ecosystems encompassing the Glacier Peak region. GPI bridges the gap between classroom lessons and real world applications. Our interactive programs combine nature-based curriculum with learner led research and problem solving.  We expand community by building relationships between schools, residents, tribes, universities, students, human service organizations, government agencies, businesses and their local ecosystems. By empowering students and community to identify, design and solve today’s problems, we all build interdependent resilience for posterity. Ecosystems spread beyond school district boundaries, opportunities often do not. While rural youth connect with the natural environment, urban youth have access to connect with the STEM industry. Through connecting the positive characteristics of urban and rural environments, we provide cultural and educational exchanges to find diverse solutions and increase opportunities for all.”

Darrington, WA is a small community with a population of 1,200 and a disproportionately high poverty rate compared to the rest of the state. In recent years, sparked by the devastation the Oso landslide caused, the community has come together and decided to invest in what has been determined to be their greatest resources: youth and the outdoors. Glacier Peak Institute is the result of that decision. An organization founded with the intent to empower youth in the Glacier Peak region through outdoor education, Glacier Peak Institute aims for its programming to help contribute to a more resilient generation, thereby creating a stronger community for future generations.

Both living in Darrington and working at Glacier Peak Institute has provided immense opportunities for personal and professional growth. As one of two summer college interns with Glacier Peak, I spend most days in the office we share with the US Forest Service at the Darrington Ranger Station. While there, I collaborate with coworkers to develop and implement programming that incorporates STEM lessons in an outdoor setting. As a small and relatively young nonprofit, capacity building is at the forefront of much of our office work. For me, this consists of researching and spearheading attainment of long-term employees and volunteers. Last week, I researched and applied for GPI to potentially collaborate with AmeriCorps to set up a few AmeriCorps position with us. While out of the office, I lead outdoor trips for local youth. Trips include day hikes, backpacking, rafting, canoeing, mountain biking, and fishing. On each of the trips are either planned or impromptu learning opportunities about expedition behavior and safety, surrounding ecosystems, backcountry survival, and plant and animal identification. Inquisitive and critical thinking and, most importantly, fun are always encouraged! While not working, I have the opportunity to explore all the North Cascades have to offer, which have provided some amazing backcountry experiences.

If you want to learn more about Glacier Peak Institute visit www.glacierpeakinstitute.org or check us on Facebook, Instagram (glacier_peak_institute), or Twitter (@GlacierPi).


Experiences like Leila’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff

One comment on “Leila H. ’20 Empowers Youth Through Outdoor Education at Glacier Peak Institute in Darrington, WA
  1. Thank you, Leila, for the difference you made in our community and all of your help. Thank you Whitman for this opportunity, our programs are only able to happen through the active contribution of partners. We greatly appreciate it.

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