CultureSeed’s flagship program is a year-round, cohort-based youth engagement opportunity for our region’s underserved youth. Youth meet for a full year of outdoor and experiential immersion and are then invited to return for continuous years until they graduate high school. Youth are recruited from their past participation in CultureSeed programming or directly through community partners. Cohorts range in size from 6-10 participants between the ages of 14 and 19. Most participants come from Klickitat County, but as the program expands, participants are joining from Hood River county and Wasco county. Youth get a yearly stipend to honor the commitment, time and effort it takes to complete our rigorous program. We work with youth in this program who have shown courage and perseverance through life’s challenges, whether it be the criminal justice system, substance abuse, abandonment or mental health. We are standing with youth as they falter, grow, change and find their way.
Youth meet regularly, experience consistent outdoor adventures, a variety of experiential programming including mindfulness training, and seasonal overnight trips. As youth develop a sense of the program’s goals, and CultureSeed develops a better understanding of their interests, they are then paired with mentors and/or placed in internships, depending on personal preferences. Each youth picks one civic engagement project to give them an immersive experience in grassroots organizing. The projects range in scope and topic; they could address a community issue, a conservation issue or something else that affects their lives. Leadership that is representative of our diverse communities is an experience deeply resonant of a healthy democratic process. As youth work on a self-selected project to make a difference in their community they develop a combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation which empower youth to be self-reliant, help them better understand social issues affecting their lives and their role in solving them.
Our year-long program curriculum has four modules, in alignment with the four seasons. Each module honors and mirrors the natural evolution and example of our earth’s cycle. Spring is for slow exploration, blooming into self as we relate to others. Summer is for vibrant adventures and growth as we shed old skins. Fall asks us to harvest our new found awareness and strength and look to how we can serve others. Winter is to go deep and inquisitive so that we can emerge ready for the next year to come. Each module is 3 months long and includes place-based outdoor recreation and education activities, civic engagement opportunities and an extended overnight retreat to allow adequate time to connect with self, peers and Mother Earth.