Where are They Now? Alex Compeau, Youth Ambassador
Learn how a past Youth Ambassador has used his experience with WTA to further his passion for trails, outdoor recreation, and the sciences.
Since 2013, young people have been dedicating themselves to WTA's mission of protecting and enhancing trails through WTA's Youth Ambassador Program. Youth ambassadors have repaired trails, spoken up for hikers in the state capitol and spread the love of hiking to their classmates.
Now, some of our very first youth ambassadors are getting ready to graduate from college, where they're continuing to be leaders and stewards of their communities as they pursue careers in environmental science, engineering, medicine and more.
Recently, we caught up with Alex Compeau, a member of the inaugural 2013-2014 Youth Ambassador cohort.
During Alex’s youth, the outdoors played an integral role in his life through various team sports and outdoor recreation activities. However, early on he was only interested in being outdoors for the jolt of adrenaline it gave him, meaning he either had to be competing at a high level or hiking the hardest section of a trail. Things like camping and trail work seemed too slow-paced for him to enjoy. But he'd discover their appeal as a youth ambassador.
How much Brushing is too much Brushing?
Alex’s involvement with WTA started back in summer of 2010 when he volunteered on his first youth volunteer vacation at Quartz Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. While he enjoyed his first week-long volunteer vacation, he wasn’t completely sold on the idea of doing trail work. At times he found the work to be monotonous and boring. I mean how long can you brush trail for anyway?
But he did come back for more, and during his second youth volunteer vacation at Lone Fir his feelings towards trail work changed dramatically. All it took was five grueling days of learning how to build a puncheon bridge for Alex to change his mind.
Working in the backcountry, he learned new trail building skills and the importance of teamwork. Alex and his crew spent hours knee deep in the mud, leveling sills. This involved measuring, clearing material to create an even surface for the puncheon bridge to lay on, then re-measuring to ensure the final surface was level.
Towards the end of the project, Alex and other members of the crew used a grip hoist to pull huge 50-foot log stringers into place. The project demanded all nine members in his youth volunteer crew to work together and troubleshoot—by the end of it they hiked away knowing how to build a puncheon bridge from start to finish.
Alex reflects: “I remember finishing that project and being absolutely blown away by the forest engineering. It was such a satisfying project to complete.”
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The following year, because of his excitement around trail work, Alex was nominated to be a member of the first ever WTA Youth Ambassador class of 2013-14. During his time as an ambassador, Alex spent 17 days volunteering on trail, for a total of 136 hours of volunteer trail work and outreach.
His commitment to trail work carried over into 2015 when Alex applied for and was granted a position as a WTA Trail Maintenance intern. During his summer internship, Alex spent a total of 40 days on trail developing his technical trail skills and learning how to become a leader in the outdoors.
With the new skills that Alex acquired from interning, he returned for the 2016 season as an assistant crew leader (a.k.a. an orange hat) on five volunteer vacations.
Finally, in summer 2017, Alex officially became a crew leader (otherwise known as a blue hat.) He would go on to lead two youth volunteer vacations and a handful of day work parties.
Alex recently finished his final full year at the University of Washington, where he is studying Physics. In his last year, Alex made the decision to take his final Spring Term off to decompress and connect with nature, or as he put it, “THRU HIKE THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL. All the way baby.”
When he returns to Washington, Compeau plans on finishing his degree in the Fall of 2019. After graduating, Alex is thinking about getting a masters in environmental engineering, ideally to design research equipment that can be used in the outdoors.
“Thanks to WTA, I know what direction of work I want to go in, and I know I want to live in a place with trails and forests. I love being involved with WTA," said Alex Compeau.
We are excited to see where Alex’s experiences and education take him in the years to come!