Yolanda Quiroga, St. Mary's Youth Group coordinator, leading the pack through the snow with Pamela and Berenice Diaz following close behind. Photo and story by Kelly Sprute

Youth Group Goes Outdoors, Learns & Helps

Seattle Youth Group Goes Outdoors to Learn and Help Others

Establishing the perfect relationship requires the right ingredients: communication, education, understanding and a touch of Mother Nature.

For kids from Seattle’s St. Mary’s Church Youth Group, a 90-minute snowshoe walk at Snoqualmie Pass in March was their first exposure to nature’s winter wonderland and the beginning of educational opportunities outdoors. The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest brings city kids out into the woods to experience nature up close and personal.

Walking in the forest can be a chore, but adding snowshoes can create a unique balancing act. While getting used to the feel of snowshoes, most of the kids began waddling across the snow; the more adventurous trying to leap into a run.

The snowshoe walk teaches youth about the winter ecosystem and wildlife. Learning the importance of the tree’s outer rings being the conduit for all of its nutrients was just one of the topics Kim Larned, Forest Service snowshoe guide, presented to the group. “How woodpeckers locate and eat bugs with their large barbed tongue was something I did not know,” said 16-year-old Taidja Desalvo. “Their tongue winds up in the back of their skulls.”

Youth Group Coordinator Yolanda Quiroga said the partnership works perfectly with the group’s purpose to take care of the land and animals. She said St. Mary’s youth program aims to provide high school youth leadership skills through social and environmental education. Last year the kids developed a community recycling and composting program and learned about water quality from Seattle Public Utilities. Annually the kids collect food and clothing, then deliver them to migrant workers.

“The children are the future,” said Father Tony Haycock, St. Mary’s Parochial Vicar. He said he feels social justice is an important component of the youth group because it teaches them to recognize the dignity of people, teenagers and children.

This summer St. Mary’s Youth Group will head back outdoors, this time to restore trails at Gold Creek Pond, a handicapped-accessible trail on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest off Interstate 90. A Forest Ranger will give the kids a tour on the trail that circles a pond, teaching them about beavers and other forest wildlife. Then the youth will go to work doing trail maintenance, trimming conifer branches that impede the views of people in wheelchairs, piling branches for wildlife habitat and pulling noxious weeds.

Further information about St. Mary’s Youth Group available at http://www.stmarysseattle.org/ or contact Yolanda Quiroga, Youth Group Coordinator 206-324-7100 ext. 29
More information about the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest partnership opportunities are available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/partnerships/.

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