Project goal: Provide opportunities for teens in Yosemite’s neighboring communities to experience wilderness, see the value of public lands and see themselves in national parks.

Why this work matters: Many young Californians don’t have the opportunity to experience Yosemite, despite living nearby. WildLink, a partnership between NatureBridge and the National Park Service, gives teenagers from Yosemite-area communities the chance to spent time in and learn from the park.

WildLink offers a variety of ways for participants to connect with the natural world:

  • Five-day backpacking expeditions in the Yosemite Wilderness, during which they learn outdoor skills and help rangers with restoration activities.
  • Community-based ambassador projects, through which they apply what they’ve learned in the park to stewardship work and educational presentations back at home.
  • Family weekends in Yosemite, which give participants the chance to share their park-based learning experiences with loved ones.
  • Career Connection, a two-week program in Yosemite open to WildLink alumni that serves as an introduction to park-based careers.

Each element of a WildLink experience reinforces connections to nature, encourages participants to take care of the environment in national parks and in their communities, and empowers them to feel a sense of belonging in public lands. Graduates of WildLink, a longtime Conservancy grantee, have gone on to NPS careers.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WildLink adjusted its programming for 2020. While spring and summer in-person activities were canceled in the interest of staff and participant safety, the program is staying connected with students and partner schools during the fall semester through online programming.

How your support helps: Your gifts help provide WildLink programming free of charge to teens in Yosemite’s neighboring communities. With your support, WildLink helps participants develop and share an appreciation for outdoor spaces and become active stewards and champions of the natural world.

Partnering with Yosemite National Park and NatureBridge.

Elissa Kretsch

Wilderness Education Coordinator, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

"Through a partnership between the National Park Service and NatureBridge, this grant will continue to help provide cost-free Sierra wilderness experiences to the multicultural populations living in Yosemite's neighboring communities, and demonstrate the relevance and benefits of wilderness and public lands to all."