For the next year, I’ll be working at Klondike Gold Rush NHP (KLSE) as their Centennial Volunteer Ambassador. KLSE is an urban park located in downtown Seattle and is part of an international park system with sister parks in Skagway, AK and two in Canada – The Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site and Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site. Seattle served as a launching point for people headed to the Klondike, which resulted in a huge economic boom in the city. Because of this, our park tells the story of the Klondike Gold Rush through the lens of those coming from and returning to Seattle. As a historical park, we’re essentially a museum with permanent and temporary exhibits, and also offer walking tours of the historical neighborhood during the summer.

KLSE

Because of its central, urban location, KLSE is considered a hub for the surrounding national parks, including Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic. As such, this park manages a youth outreach program called In My Backyard. The goal of the program is to connect urban youth with their backyard by highlighting sense of place and ownership of local national parks. Two years ago, I moved to Seattle to earn my Master’s in Museology at the University of Washington. I’m originally from Oklahoma, but travelled throughout my childhood and often visited local museums, historic sites, and national parks. Moving to Seattle was quite the adventure and was full of new and vast landscapes complete with mountains, alpine lakes, and a gamut of wildlife I had never encountered. Last summer, I began volunteering at KLSE with In My Backyard. As a part of my service, we travelled to nearby national parks in order to learn more about them so that we could determine the best way to connect urban youth with the outdoors. It was a great opportunity to further discover and experience my newfound backyard, and sparked a passion for environmental education.

As a CVA, I will continue working with In My Backyard by recruiting more volunteers to help develop and implement curriculum. I hope to further expand the program in order to inspire a new generation of NPS volunteers by encouraging interest, stewardship, and passion in our nation’s great parks.

-Jimi Hightower