Where are They Now? Simon van Tulder, Youth Ambassador
Learn how a past Youth Ambassador is using his leadership development to further his passion for engineering.
Since the beginning of WTA's Youth Ambassador Program in 2013, youth ambassadors have been dedicated to WTA's mission of protecting and enhancing trails. 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 Simon van Tulder, who was a member of our inaugural class of youth ambassadors. Here's what he's up to now.
Dedication to trail work
“I love this organization and the opportunities it gives people to explore their backyard. It makes it easy for enthusiasts, especially those who give back, to discover hidden gems in Washington,” said Simon. Simon became a member of the Youth Ambassador Program in the summer of 2013 after being nominated by a WTA crew leader for his enthusiasm and dedication to trail work.
For Simon, getting outside has always been about experiencing the beauty of the natural landscape while creating lasting memories with his friends and family. While growing up, Simon and his family spent several weekends throughout the summer camping and hiking in the Olympic Peninsula. It wasn’t until he joined WTA, however, that he gained a true appreciation for public lands and the people that work to maintain them. Trail work has given Simon the opportunity to discover new regions of Washington, while simultaneously being able to develop relationships with folks from across the state.
“Volunteering with the WTA made me realize the importance of environmental stewardship and the importance of giving back to a community that I directly benefit from,” Simon said.
One of the ways that Simon has been able to share his experiences with friends and family is through his photography. After every volunteer vacation, Simon shares a slideshow of the work he has proudly completed while volunteering with WTA. He also manages to capture some spectacular shots as seen below.
Since Simon’s first day volunteering on trail with WTA, he has volunteered on five volunteer vacations, both in the front country and backcountry, totaling 29 days on trail. While volunteering with WTA he has worked on brushing miles of trail sections, installed countless drain ditch features, constructed new trail sections and reroutes, as well as complete rebuilds of puncheon bridges.
“Working on these projects with other volunteers gives me a great sense of pride and accomplishment,” Simon said.
Projects like these have taught Simon the importance of problem solving and teamwork, both skills that he has been able to apply to his education and career pursuits.
College and career
While he still tries to get out on the trails with WTA whenever he can, most of his time is taken up by school and internships. Simon is currently studying bioresource engineering at the University of Washington, with a focus on production of biofuels and renewable materials. Last summer, Simon interned with Domtar, a sustainable pulp and paper manufacturer. During his five-month internship, he worked on making ethylene and propylene glycol from non petroleum based substances such as lactose, glucose and fructose. It's projects like these that Simon hopes to work on in the future—ones that are working to develop sustainable solutions to improve efficiency, reduce safety hazards and combat environmental degradation.
After graduating, Simon plans to work as a safety engineer—focusing on leading safety protocols that help identify and fix potential hazards before they result in injuries or environmental mishaps. His goal is to work for a firm that creates reliable and sustainable products and solutions.