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.
Beginning in 2012, Voyageurs National Park Association partnered with the National Park Service and Wilderness Inquiry to create the National Park Teen Ambassador program. This project brings together a group of Minnesota high school students on a multi-day outdoor learning expedition in Voyageurs National Park and on the Mississippi River.
Teen Ambassadors take an online college course, camp, paddle, hike and explore topics including air and water quality, wildlife research, cultural and natural history, Park Service careers, and conservation and stewardship.
The goal is to give the teens an enduring and transformation outdoor experience and empower them with a sense of pride, awareness, ownership and responsibility for national parks and our natural world while earning college credit in the process.
What the Ambassadors had to say about their experience:
“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.”
Thank you to our program partners: