2019/2020 YMCA Earth Service Corps Year In Review

Last updated: December 4, 2020, at 12:25 p.m. PT

Originally published: June 23, 2020, at 3:09 p.m. PT

seattle ymca earth service corps

As an unprecedented school year ends and YMCA Earth Service Corps (YESC) celebrates its 30th anniversary, we wanted to take a moment to share some highlights and accomplishments with you. Despite a pandemic, social distancing, and so much more, youth have been driven more than ever to address environmental issues and make our community a better place.


  • 6,761 service hours were logged
  • 1,068 teens participated in YESC 
  • 54 School were involved


  • “I've been able to gain so much more perspective about all sorts of things, and I have been given the tools to understand how I can make a positive impact on the world around me.”
  • “Through YESC, I went out of my comfort zone and being a part of it helped me get leadership in a club that I was really passionate about.”
  • “I think that it’s opened my mind up to how the world is changing and what we can do as young people to help. I’ve felt like I’ve had an impact by attending YMCA events.”

Here are some of their proudest achievements this past year:  


YMCA Earth Service Corps’ 2019 Annual Environmental Leaders Summit brought together 250 youth from across Western Washington to discuss current environmental issues. Youth addressed a broad range of topics and had engaging conversations, but perhaps most importantly they discussed how they were addressing these challenges in their communities and schools. Since youth who participated in this event came from areas as different as Bellingham, Darrington, Concrete, Renton, Seattle, Bellevue, and Gig Harbor, just to name a few, they were able to collaborate and bring fresh ideas into the mix. 

During the Town Hall, youth could share insights from their conversations. One high school senior explained why the event was so meaningful to her: “Something that really inspired me today was just sitting here and having a conversation with youth and adults from all sorts of high schools all around the area and just seeing the passion…it really inspired me to keep doing what I’m doing.” Another youth commented on the importance of having what may seem like tough conversations: “A lot of times we are quick to call out people on their stuff like waste, like you don’t do this or you don’t do that well enough instead of calling in people, making it more of a heart-to-heart matter.”

These youth comments showcase what the Environmental Leaders Summit is all about. This event calls people in to a conversation about Puget Sound local issues as well as issues around the globe, and it inspires and further enables youth to continue their activism by connecting them to resources and each other. This event is vital to the mission of YMCA Earth Service Corps, and it provides an important platform for youth to exchange ideas and learn from each other and local organizations. 

yecs meeting



In 2019 YESC celebrated its 30th anniversary. To celebrate, youth hosted a tree planting and habitat restoration event centered around bringing back YESC members old and new, at Garfield High School, the school where YESC began. Officers of the Garfield Green Team, Shannan Leitner, Flora Wright, Gemma Walker, Izzy Wang, and Ruby Kaill spent countless hours thinking of ways to celebrate the history of YESC, to reconnect and reflect on the impact YESC has had on their communities over the years. While planting over 100 trees, alumni, founding members, and current YESC youth bonded over their experiences with Earth Service Corps. Common themes emerged from reflections: Leadership development, community building, environmental education, and so much more! This event was the perfect way to honor the YESC legacy because it allowed current youth participants to share their vision and passion to reconnect community through story sharing and hands-on habitat restoration. 

“YESC has not only taught me about how to help the earth, but also how to be a more respectful and responsible person. I really appreciated the focus on community and caring for other group members.”

yesc seattle



The quarantine that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented event that has had a significant impact across the world. In YESC, the effects of the quarantine have especially been felt by youth as they transitioned from a traditional in-person classroom learning to an unfamiliar online model. Through this, they lost a lot of what instilled normalcy in their lives, like seeing their friends, interacting directly with teachers, and attending extracurriculars. As program instructors, we also lost our ability to interact directly with youth through green team meetings and YESC events such as habitat restorations and hikes. Our passion to serve with the youth we have bonded with over the year led to the decision to continue green team meetings the way many people were staying in touch: virtually.

Youth YESC green teams were enthusiastic about transferring their clubs online. Most had projects planned for this spring that had to be modified, delayed, or published online, like transforming an in-person green week celebration to a virtual celebration and challenge. In addition to club meetings, YESC hosted youth-led article clubs and community meetings for all YESC participants. While it has been a dream of YESC to put on these types of meetings, accessibility had been an issue. YESC serves youth all over the Greater Seattle Area with varying commitments and transportation options, so there was no possibility of fairly choosing a location to accommodate all youth. Quarantine gave us an opportunity to execute these meetings virtually which were a great success, seeing 15-20 youth attending regularly. In article clubs, youth discussed environmental issues they were passionate about, and community meetings focused on sharing projects, ideas, and plans between green teams to foster connections between youth that go to school 20 miles away from each other in separate school districts. We at YESC are incredibly proud of the youths’ eagerness, passion, innovation, and knowledge shared at these virtual meetings, and we cannot wait to see what virtual meetings will help us accomplish, even in a post-quarantine world.

“I believe that it is making a positive impact on my life because it has given me a lot of new leadership skills and provided a place for me to practice and develop these skills. It also has been a lot of fun to learn and discuss environmental issues with students who are also passionate about them and I think this has had a very positive impact on my life by showing me how much fun and interesting this kind of collaboration can be.” – YESC Participant

Year In Review Video

To learn more about YMCA Earth Service Corps visit us at our website, Facebook, or Instagram


Teacher Advisors

  • Aaron Jefferson
  • Alexia Katzaroff
  • Alisan Giesy
  • Andy Tuller
  • Ashley Grant
  • Casey Pearson
  • Chris Foley
  • Diane  Nielson
  • Dwayne Olson
  • Gordon Black
  • Heather Henchen
  • Jack Thompson
  • Jaimi Doran
  • Jamie Gephart
  • Jason Wessels
  • Jennifer Hall
  • Jenny Lutz
  • Jim Clark
  • Joelle Nelson
  • Julia DeBroux
  • Ken Abraham
  • Kurt Weiland
  • Linda Wilson
  • Lisa Lindholm
  • Lisa Neshyba
  • Lisamarie Mandapat
  • Macy Zwanzig
  • Nick Verbanic
  • Noam Gundle
  • Rachel  Petrik- Finley
  • Robyn Issak-Kwon
  • Sarah Ealey
  • Stacia  Tellefson
  • Steve Pratt
  • Timothy McFaul
  • Tracy Landboe 

YESC Advisory Board

  • Catherine Gowan
  • Casey Ralston
  • Chris Liu
  • Courtney Bobsin
  • Dallas Artz
  • Irene Munger
  • KayLani Siplin
  • Melissa Chance
  • Monali Patel
  • Randi Eseltine
  • Stephanie Ung
  • Tim Ichien
  • AmeriCorps Volunteers
  • Jessie Dirks
  • Miguel Sotelo
  • Monica Mueller
  • Tessa Nania