Participants in the Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program in 2018 pose in a scenic spot while backpacking through Baxter State Park. Credit: Courtesy of Anna Jackson

The application deadline is swiftly approaching for the Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program, an opportunity for Maine high school students to backpack through Baxter State Park, accompanied by experienced wilderness leaders.

The program, organized and funded by Friends of Baxter State Park, is free to participants. Held each August, this will be its 12th year.

“The goal of this program is to cultivate the next generation of Maine’s wilderness leaders,” said Aaron Megquier, executive director of Friends of Baxter State Park. “We’re trying to find people who have already shown some leadership potential and help support them and give them a really incredible experience with their peers, excellent leads and guest instructors.”

There is a competitive application process to be accepted into the program. Only students who are currently enrolled as a sophomore or junior in a Maine high school are eligible to apply. Applications must be submitted online by Feb. 8.

The 10 students selected for the program will backpack for nine days from one side of the park to the other in early August. The group will be led by educators from the Chewonki Foundation, a nonprofit institution based in Wiscasset, Maine, that runs educational programs with an environmental focus.

During the trek, the students will meet with educators with different expertise to study the wilderness through science, art, storytelling, photography, writing, history and recreation.

“They spend a full day painting with a watercolor painter,” Megquier said. “They do workshops on geology and botany, and learn about history and native culture. We try to provide lots of different ways for participants to connect with the wilderness.”

[Watch: Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program hikes to Katahdin Lake]

The program also includes readings and assignments in preparation for the field experience. And after returning home, each participant gives a public presentation in his or her community.

This year’s 10 participants and six alternates will be selected by early April.

For more information visit www.friendsofbaxter.org or contact Friends of Baxter State Park at P.O.Box 322, Belfast, ME 04915.

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Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.