Monday, February 2, 2009

Today's Youth Going WILD

AAI just received this email from Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest:

WILD has a new meaning. It no longer means out of control but rather growing, with an understanding for the environment, community and elders, while learning leadership skills for the future.

Kids going WILD leave you with images of teens running rampant through the streets, misbehaving, and not respecting elders. For the International District Housing Alliance (IDHA) going WILD is the preferred choice.

“WILD or Wilderness Intercity Leadership Development is a youth program for Asian and Pacific Islander students new to the states and have limited English skills and knowledge of local customs,” said Quyet Huynh, IDHA support services coordinator. “They come and learn English but also learn to understand their language better so they can interpret,” said Huynh.

WILD is also a way for youth to advance leadership skills based on environmental justice, outdoor recreation, job training and career development.

According to Huynh, and example of an environmental justice issue is how water and air quality can encompasses the human element of public safety. “We do a lot of environmental justice projects in the community,” said Huynh. “It is important how they feel in their neighborhood from personal safety as well as community safety.”

To accomplish their environmental justice goals they partner with different organizations that specialize in areas such as air quality. “In the past we have worked with Puget Sound Clean Air and American Lung Association of Washington to teach our interns and staff what they need to know to keep our residents safe,” said Huynh. The youth then translate the material into Chinese, Vietnamese, or whatever language needed to get the message out to the community.

IDHA became a partner with the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to gain wilderness experience. “Getting the youth out on the forest camping was my first goal,” said Jim Chu, Forest Service biologist. Chu started the partnership in 2002. “The youth participate in many forest activities like Eagle Watchers, trail restoration and learn the importance of forest ecosystems,” he said.

WILD schedules multiple campouts throughout the year. Part of the focus is on trail improvements. “The trail work we do restoring the paths makes it easier for hikers to use,” said Henry Situ. “There is satisfaction in a job well done. Hikers see us restoring the trails and they thank us,” he said.

Learning about the forest ecosystem is another aspect in the WILD experience. Youth spend a day along the Skagit River looking for eagles, visiting a fish hatchery learning about river ecology, salmon and eagle biology while practicing public speaking and interpretation skills. According to Huynh, they visit the eagles twice in a two-week period. The first visit youth learn about salmon and eagle habitat. They interpret what they learned into Chinese or another language and come back the follow week to teach the elders.

“Each year we come here to enjoy the environment,” said Tay Quach, IDHA translator. “It is just so different, far away from people, very relaxing.”

Another part of IDHA is their intergenerational program where elders come to learn English. Their goal is get everyone comfortably speaking both languages while maintaining their distinctive language.

“The youth come to learn as well,” said Huynh. “They may feel comfortable speaking in social settings but have trouble interpreting from English to Chinese or Chinese to English.” She said the WILD and the intergenerational programs create a unity between the two generations.

“They learn the best from each other,” said Quach. “The youth learn the experienced views of the elder and the elders stay more active.”

According to Chu, WILD creates leaders and along the way they develop career opportunities. Many of the youth have interned with the Forest Service.

For more information about the International District Housing Alliance call 206-623-5132 or go to <> .

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