It has been three days since the 2010 Youth Wilderness Leadership Program (YWLP) came to an emotional end and the flood of student and counselor testimonies in form of phone calls and emails has been overwhelming to say the least. Though spent and exhausted after yet another hectic season of guiding, speaking and YCG programming, I am riding a high after what was another moving and powerful experience with a lively bunch of Yellowstone Country teenagers.
What amazes me so much about the young people we have the privilege of working with is that they are not only profoundly impacted by programs such as this YWLP, but that they have the courage to express their gratitude in such thoughtful and moving ways. I cannot read the influx of heartfelt testimonies we have recently received without tears filling my eyes as I am so inspired by these youngsters and have such incredibly high hopes for what they have to offer as guardians of Yellowstone Country.
I hope everyone who has had the opportunity to peruse the pages of this Field Journal have enjoyed following the odyssey of these 17 spirited teenagers and mentors as it really was quite the journey. Without being there in person to witness the magic and power that spills out of each participant during the testimony it would be hard to fully grasp the magnitude of the experience we all recently shared, but rest assured that lives were changed over the course of this program.
I want to take this time to thank all of the student participants for once again joining us with an open heart and an open mind and for inspiring us to find new and bold ways to motivate young people to action.
To our sponsors and donors, thank you for helping us to create such an impactful program for each participant and for making all of this important work possible:
Park Country Community Foundation, Dome Mountain Ranch (JB and Lennae Klyap), Big Sky Youth Empowerment and Timber Trails.
Supporters and Volunteers:
The 2010 YWLP was a huge success largely because of the incredibly talented mentors/counselors we had on board this year and thus it is with lots of love, mad respect and deep gratitude that I thank Brad Bunkers (Livingston), Matt Larson (Missoula), Ashley Leach (Missoula) and Heather Laubach (Gardiner/Dillon) for giving so much of their valuable time and energy to this program and all of its participants.
I also want to thank my beautiful wife Crystal Leach for her tireless efforts and unwavering support. As all students will attest, your spaghetti was off the hook! And to our most dedicated volunteer Randy “Doons” Ingersoll, for always being there, doing the small things and of course documenting each day’s events, you are priceless.
I want to give a very special thanks to Travis Wyman and Kerry Gunther from the Bear Management Office with the NPS in Yellowstone National Park for helping us to create such a positive service learning project that each participant loved and surely won’t forget! We all loved our time with Travis.
It was a pleasure for us all to listen to the great stories of wolf expert Rick McIntyre who graciously gave us a presentation in the Lamar Valley on wolf ecology and the history of Yellowstone’s wolf re-introduction, thank you Rick. And a big with nothin’ but love shout-out to Ranger Keith Young for leading our students up the slopes of Bunsen Peak and for his highly motivational speech overlooking the expansive Swan Lake Flats, the students were very inspired by your words.
I also want to give a big YCG shout-out to Ms. Jane Cholcher from Park High’s Project 71’ for all of your tremendous support and for galvanizing so many passionate Park High students to participate in our program. And a special thanks to Julie Reinertson, Counselor at Gardiner High for her guidance and support.
I would be remised if I did not say a very special thank you to Jim and Lennae Klyap of Dome Mountain Ranch for their hospitality and support of this program. I would also like to thank YCG friends Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston of the Wildside for helping to make our wildlife watching experience so vivid.
I also have to give much love and mad respect to our friends at Big Sky Youth Empowerment for their incredibly generous support of our program through the use of their vehicles which allowed us to safely ride in style!
And finally, I want to thank all of our donors for their incredibly generous support and for helping to make these very impactful programs a reality for the deserving youth that they serve. Your generosity and commitment to Yellowstone Country’s future is an inspiration to us all!
~Michael Leach, Director
Keeping bears safe and healthy!