Youth LEAD Program

“During my ETC journey, I began to feel free again. Waking up to blue skies with the sun on my skin and falling asleep with the twinkling stars overhead ignited a childlike curiosity in me. While backpacking at Point Reyes, I not only grew in physical strength, but I also gained knowledge of ecosystems and the human impacts on our coastal ranges and waters.


Throughout my ETC adventure, I was reminded of the vastness of our world and the endless opportunities to protect it. I’ve become more conscious of my actions, how they impact our Earth, and what I can do at home and school to protect our water from contamination and our native flora and fauna from extinction. With the right attitude and tenacity, I can accomplish anything. In life, just like the ocean, tides will change and winds will shift, but with the right effort and state of mind, we can make the world a better place!”


– Luna Buoncristiani, ETC Youth LEAD Young Womens’ Course

ETC’s Youth LEAD Program (YLP) provides life-changing outdoor experiences for youth from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. Our program offers 2-3 week summer wilderness courses, and a school-year Fellowship Program for selected summer course alumni. During their YLP journey, students experience exciting outdoor activities which empower them with new leadership skills and broaden their connections to the natural world. Outdoor components include sea kayaking on San Francisco and Tomales Bays, backpacking in the Sierras, and whitewater rafting on the South Fork of the American River or Oregon’s Rogue River.

Youth LEAD trips have a powerful impact on our students. The challenge of backpacking while carrying only essential needs, kayaking in open water, or navigating the rapids on a whitewater river provides young people the opportunity to gain confidence and feel empowered, as well as the chance to experience solitude in nature. Participants build leadership skills while working together, develop communication and decision-making skills, increase their self-awareness, and translate course plans into action. Along the way, students step out of their comfort zone to try new things, learn from their challenges, develop new technical skills, expand self efficacy, and build lifelong friendships!

2024 Youth LEAD Program Summer Courses!

14-Day Access to Adventure Course (All Gender)

This 14-day adventure offers teenagers of all abilities and backgrounds an inclusive environment to experience the natural beauty of northern California wilderness while learning about the natural world, outdoor leadership, and environmental stewardship! Students will explore San Francisco Bay and Angel Island via kayak, and learn to navigate whitewater rafting on the South Fork of the American River.

Course Dates: June 15 – June 28, 2024

14-Day Young Womxn's Course

This 14-day wilderness adventure offers teens of all backgrounds the opportunity to navigate whitewater, go expeditionary backpacking, learn primitive camping skills, and form incredible new friendships with a cohort of peers!

* The Young Womxn’s Course is open to youth who self-identify as belonging to marginalized genders, including female, genderqueer, trans, non-binary, and femmes comfortable in female-centered spaces.

Course Dates: July 28 – August 10th, 2024

21-Day Sea to Source Course
(All Gender)

This 21-day adventure offers teens of all backgrounds a thrilling and educational journey along some of the most scenic landscapes California has to offer. Students will explore our coastal waterways via kayak, navigate whitewater rafting, go expeditionary backpacking, learn primitive camping skills, and form incredible new friendships with a cohort of peers!

Course Dates: June 25 – July 15, 2024

14-Day Adventure Course (All Gender)

This sea kayak and backpacking expedition offers youth of all backgrounds the opportunity to explore the wilderness and themselves through the joys and challenges of the outdoors. Through sea kayaking on Tomales Bay and backpacking in the iconic Sierra Nevadas, the group will co-create an inclusive environment and long-lasting friendships while learning about the beautiful California wilderness, outdoor leadership, and environmental stewardship. 

Course Dates: July 7- July 20, 2024

Youth LEAD Fellowship Program 2024

ETC’s Youth LEAD Fellowship is a school year opportunity for selected graduates of our summer courses to further develop their leadership skills through camping, weekly meetings, workshops, activities, and training as Assistant Sea Kayak Guides.

A Note to Potential Participants:

ETC’s Youth LEAD Program is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and our courses travel throughout the Bay Area and Sierra Nevada Foothills.  While we welcome applications from out of the area, the following must be true in order to participate:

1. Families provide transportation to and from San Francisco, where all courses begin and end.  Courses begin between at 8-9 a.m. on the first day and end at our Graduation ceremony between 5-7 p.m. on the last day.

2. At least one adult parent/guardian or emergency contact must accompany the youth on the first day, pick them up on the last day and remain available by phone in the Bay Area for the duration of the course.

3. Proof of a negative Covid-19 at home test is required for participation (Vaccination of all ETC staff is required and strongly encouraged for all students).



Questions about ETC’s Youth LEAD courses?
Checkout our Frequently asked questions:
English FAQ’s
Spanish FAQ’s

Please contact Youth LEAD Program Manager at or call 415-474-7662 ext. 16.

If you are interested in being a YLP Field Instructor or joining our YLP staff team, please click HERE to see our current position offerings!

For more information regarding scholarship options including examples of student scholarship scenarios click HERE