Marika Kitchen can’t remember a time when she wasn’t environmentally conscious. She grew up with parents who led a low-impact lifestyle and took her camping as a kid. That, she said, influenced her views as an adult and that’s what led Kitchen, 19, to the Canadian Conservation Corps (CCC). CCC is a nine-month program, created by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and offered by the Canadian government, to youth aged 18 to 30.

The program consists of three stages—an Outward Bound-led wilderness adventure, field work and outreach. At each stage, participants learn team building, leadership skills and more. Kitchen said she heard about the program when she was working at Yukon Youth Conservation Corps.

“I was finishing up that job and it was a good time to kind of start something new and it was definitely something I was interested in. I’ve been interested in it my whole life.”

“Just kind of with it being a new experience and a new program, it has a lot of different things that you could get out of it and learn,” she said. “I’m at that stage in life where I want to be learning and developing different skills.”

Last fall, Kitchen jumped into a month of training, including leadership and first aid. After that, she spent roughly two weeks with a group of 10 other program participants, kayaking around Vancouver Island. As a team, they worked on navigational and safety skills while paddling Hornby Island, Tofino and Comox.

“I think there are a lot of things that are important that I learned. One is gaining a lot of confidence in how I present myself and do things. Just because you’re put in situations you’re not used to and you’re forced out of your comfort zone, you kind of learn a lot about yourself because of that.”

Following that, Kitchen spent three months in Ottawa, where she worked with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, researching the American eel in Ontario waterways.

“Eels get chopped up in the turbines along the dams on rivers. It’s one of the reasons they’re endangered,” she said. “My research was to go and catch eels and try to figure out tracking migration patterns to see if the eels were using a bypass in the waterways.”

Right now, Kitchen is on a break, visiting her sister in Thailand. Before she left however, she had started her stage three with CCC, including completing volunteer hours with different conservation organizations in the Yukon, such as CPAWS, Yukon Energy and Zero Waste Yukon.

When she returns, she’ll continue with that and with outreach work, she said. She wants to bring awareness to issues of conservation. It may be second nature to someone like Kitchen, whose mother has long been involved with the Caribou Recovery Project, but there are people for whom conservation isn’t part of an everyday conversation. Just making them aware and showing them how they might get involved is really important to her.

“It’s just being mindful of what you use and taking small steps toward helping a big overall change.”

To that end, when she comes back to the Yukon this spring, she’ll be presenting in local schools. She wants to organize a youth forum to get youth together and have elders come in and discuss the environment.

To find out more about the program Kitchen is finishing, visit cwf-fcf.org.