Despite living near Yosemite, many young Californians lack access to the park, facing barriers related to transportation, income or community perceptions. WildLink, a NatureBridge and National Park Service program, breaks down those walls to give underserved teens the chance to experience and learn from the wilderness.

During five-day backpacking expeditions, WildLink participants learn outdoor skills, help with ecological restoration and meet with park professionals. Later, they share what they’ve learned about the value of public lands through community-based stewardship projects and presentations, and through WildLink’s family weekends in Yosemite. After the academic-year program, a select group of alumni spends two weeks exploring careers in Yosemite. Graduates of WildLink, a longtime Conservancy grantee, have gone on to work in the National Park Service.

In 2018, five WildLink alumnae had the opportunity to learn from more than 30 park professionals through the 14-day Career Connection program, and 79 students experienced the park through WildLink expeditions to places such as Little Yosemite Valley, Rancheria Falls, Mount Hoffmann and Ostrander Lake. Back at school, the WildLink students completed a variety of ambassador projects, including organizing an on-campus recycling challenge, planting milkweed for pollinators, leading local day hikes, and teaching peers about wilderness skills and Leave No Trace ethics.

Your gift supported life-changing programs that connect youth to nature in a national park — and in their own neighborhoods.

Completed in partnership with Yosemite National Park and NatureBridge.

Lissie Kretsch

Wilderness Education Coordinator, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

It has never been more relevant for our agency and its partners to share the value of public lands with both younger and more diverse populations.