50 Years of AMC’s Youth Opportunities Program

August 27, 2018

Anniversaries have been on a lot of minds at AMC all year. They come in thoughts that are hard to shake, bearing meanings that aren’t always easy to parse. On this page in the previous issue, I was excited to call out the White Mountain National Forest’s centennial celebration while looking ahead, to next spring and 200 years on the Crawford Path. We toasted 50 years each of the National Trails System and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System here in January. Our Youth Opportunities Program (YOP) also celebrates a golden anniversary this year, and AMC on the whole is already thinking about what a 150th birthday in 2026 will look like, what it might portend, and what it ought to bring along with it.

None of these are deadlines, of course, but we do tend to humanize things, even places and programs, when we’re contemplating age. The reckoning of legacies is always there in the background: What did we do that truly mattered? In this country, in this moment, it’s fair to say the question is growing in importance. And it’s bringing young people to the forefront in inspiring numbers.

It’s our privilege as an organization to meet them with something of value. YOP is just one great offering, hardened in the forge of the 1960s into a conduit that, for a quarter-million kids at last count, remains a primary and often first point of entry to all things outdoors today. Hopefully you’ve also read online about AMC’s first paid teen trail crew in Massachusetts, which last month wrapped up eight weeks of crackerjack work on the New England Trail. We’ve long hosted trail crew experiences that teens (and their parents) can pay into; flipping the model is a necessary move for equity and inclusion. 

We already know that young people who have these kinds of opportunities are more likely to go on to higher education and careers involving the environment. That’s great for you and me. We’ll need all the help we can get to stop powerful forces in Washington from gutting protections, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund. But somehow I take even more comfort in knowing that during my next hike, paddle, or walk in the park, there will be more people, not fewer, enjoying the same freedom.

Robert Frost dedicated A Further Range, in 1936, to his wife, Elinor, “for what it may mean to her that beyond the White Mountains were the Green; beyond both were the Rockies, the Sierras, and in thought the Andes and the Himalayas—range beyond range even into the realm of government and religion.” I think AMC members are better than most at considering what those mountains may mean to them. When you get a moment—summits are perfect for this—don’t forget to ask young friends what it means to them, too.


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John Judge

Chief Executive Officer, Appalachian Mountain Club