The Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) Nature Connections Program is a catalyst program for young women and their adult mentors to gain valuable environmental knowledge, job and life skills. The most important outcome of this program for young women is the empowerment to move forward in their lives with confidence and passion about the outdoors.
King Conservation District supports this program with a 2018 KCD-Seattle Community Partnership Grant for $75,000. Their proposal was one of very few selected after a rigorous review process conducted by the City of Seattle. Their program addresses the natural resource and equity goals of the grant program through a variety of educational workshops, hands-on activities and field trips.
The number of opportunities this program provides is inspiring. Participants learned about race and gender in the context of environmental justice work and also about Indigenous history at the Suquamish Museum. The group isn’t working independently of other youth programs. They partnered with members of the Got Green Young Leaders program who led an Environmental Justice 101 workshop, providing an opportunity for youth to learn from each other.
Learning opportunities included a Career Day at UW Bothell/Cascadia College, STEM Exploration Day at Microsoft, their first Youth Leadership Summit at El Centro de la Raza, a trip to Olympia for Great Outdoors Legislative Day and more. Young women gained skills in creative facilitation, public speaking and leadership development.
Participants removed invasive weeds and planted native plants at White Center Park, camped at Wanapum Recreation Area, learned about the natural history of Gingko Petrified Forest. They also learned cold weather survival skills at Easton State Park as well as hiking and kayaking. Other trips and learning opportunities included building awareness about Indigenous people’s access to traditional food sources, medicinal and native plants at Magnuson Park, and habitats and ecosystems at Deception Pass.
Y-WE Nature Connections community engagement includes partnering with Seattle Parks and Recreation Urban Food Systems Program, Solid Ground and South Park Information and Resource Center’s Salsa de la Vida at Marra Farm. They hosted six community garden work parties at their 200 square foot growing area on the farm as well as two South Park Community Dinners where a total of 150 people attended. Over two hundred pounds of food was shared with the South Park Senior Center, Providence Regina House food bank and other South Park neighbors.
Of youth surveyed, 100% responded that they gained an increased sense of personal connection to the natural environment. Ninety-two percent reported an increased intention to take action to protect our environment. Ninety-eight percent of youth surveyed reported an increased sense of empowerment to pursue and succeed in a career of their choosing. Other responses to the post-activity surveys include:
“I am interested (and not as intimidated) in pursuing a career in the environmental field.”
“I am way more focused on indigenous rights and thinking about how my own experiences with nature and environmentalism interact with indigenous history and presence.”