Our flagship program for youth, the Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program is designed to cultivate and inspire the next generation of Maine's environmental leaders. Friends of Baxter State Park has offered this program annually since 2009. The program includes a nine-day wilderness experience in Baxter State Park. This 200,000+ acre preserve serves as an outdoor classroom as participants backpack from one end of the Park to the other, working with a variety of specialists and Park staff to understand the wilderness through science, art, storytelling, photography, writing, history, and recreation. Alumni of the program continue to describe the MYWLP in superlatives such as “life-changing”, “amazing” and “unforgettable.”
Current Maine high school sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply. The annual application deadline is February 8. Ten participants and six alternates are selected in March. The program begins in April when participants receive required reading materials and other assignments. They then participate in online discussions and do individual research before going to the Park. After the trip, participants give public presentations to share their experience in their schools and communities.
Thanks to support from generous donors and members of Friends of Baxter State Park, there is no direct cost to the students. Trip leadership and logistics are provided by the Chewonki Foundation, one of the most highly respected environmental education organizations in the United States.
In late May 2020, we made the decision to cancel the 2020 Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We had already accepted 10 applicants into the program from our 2020 application process. Since last year's program was canceled, we have offered those 10 applicants the chance to defer for a year and participate in the 2021 Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program.
As of early February 2021, we are moving ahead with planning for this summer's program and hope to be able to offer it safely. We are not accepting applications or conducting an application process in 2021 since we expect the program to be filled by last year's accepted applicants. If that situation changes, we will post updates here as soon as they are available.