Fresh Tracks at the Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Forum Spring Convening

Leaders Ascending 

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Recently, Fresh Tracks went to Seattle for the Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) Spring Convening, a three-day event that brought together leaders from around the country who share a commitment to improving outcomes for opportunity youth through collective impact. Fresh Tracks, now officially a program of the Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute, led two OYF sessions: a rock climbing experience at the REI flagship store in Seattle and a panel discussion about the ways the outdoors can unite and inspire young leaders from different cultures.

A sense of accomplishment 

The Seattle REI Climbing Pinnacle stands 65 feet tall in a sun-lit, glass-walled room. On Monday, May 14th, the Pinnacle was not just a rock. It was an opportunity for young adults from Boston, Denver, Chicago, Alaska, and other regions of the United States to connect, to develop outdoor skills, and to challenge themselves to go higher than they thought possible. 

One Fresh Tracks highlight for me this time
was rock climbing. First, understand, I have a fear of heights. But after trying once, I challenged myself, and I got to the top, and felt a sense of accomplishment when I did it. Just overcoming that fear was exhilarating.
— Jarrett Jones, Chicago

IT felt like home 

Two days later, in a panel discussion on the south shore of Lake Washington, three Fresh Tracks leaders shared how exploring the outdoors with peers from other cultural communities has impacted them personally. Kimberly Pikok, a Fresh Tracks leader from Barrow, Alaska, recalled a memorable 2016 hike near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.“It felt like home,” Kimberly said.“I walked with Charlie, a Gwich’in elder from Arctic Village.“Listening to Charlie, I learned that his people also had subsistence challenges and that cultural preservation was an issue for the Gwich’in, just like it is for my community.”