North Country Trail Association

Next Generation Coalition


Join the North Country Trail Association’s Next Generation Coalition, a group of young leaders dedicated to sustaining and promoting the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Would you like to empower all to enjoy, share, and preserve the hiking experience?

The Next Generation Coalition program is dedicated to welcoming, training, and supporting the next generation of trail volunteers with a two-year, cohort style program of advocacy and stewardship to protect the North Country Trail.

As the popularity of the Trail grows, it is vital that future generations of trail stewards are given the opportunity to experience, work on, and fall in love with the beauty of the North Country Trail. Through the NCTA, coalition members are the voice of young hikers who will speak out to elected officials and the public on the need to develop, maintain, protect, and promote the North Country National Scenic Trail, and build more inclusive outdoor recreation opportunities. Over the course of two years, coalition members will receive advocacy and communications training to be effective advocates and leaders, meet with elected officials at Hike the Hill, contribute sweat equity to the trails through North Country National Scenic Trails Day, and work together to inspire and mentor the next generation of outdoor leaders and volunteers.

Benefits and Expectations

  • One-year membership to the NCTA
  • Prerequisite to either live in a Trail state (ND, MN, WI, MI, OH, PA, NY, or VT) or willingness to travel to the Trail for volunteer opportunities
  • Advocacy and communications training and support
  • Invitations to exclusive events, hikes, and other activities, including the annual Next Generation Coalition Summit
  • Scholarship to attend events, including complimentary registration for Virtual Hike the Hill and a partial stipend for travel
  • Networking opportunities with leaders and other professionals in the outdoors community

Applicant Requirements

  • Between the ages of 18 and 35
  • Passionate about the North Country Trail and the outdoors
  • Excellent communicator
  • Available to engage regularly throughout the year on social media and through NCTA communications

The application for our next cohort of Next Generation Coalition leaders is now closed. But please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, or keep in touch via social media!


What are the requirements to join the Next Generation Coalition?
Members are between the ages of 18 and 35, and show interest in the North Country Trail. No previous hiking/outdoor experience is required! New members of all backgrounds and from any location are welcome to join and applications open once a year.
Is this a paid position?
This is an unpaid volunteer position, but offers great experience with trail personnel and stewardship, nonprofit work and increasing outdoor activity and participation within local communities.
What if I'm older than 35?
Your local Chapter is an excellent resource for volunteer and outreach events, training on the Trail, group hikes, and much more. We encourage you to contact a Chapter near you to learn about local events and activities, and for help planning and organizing your own.
Where does the Coalition meet?
Because our membership is spread out across multiple states, most of the Coalition’s communication is conducted via email, social media and phone call. However, members often meet regionally at Chapter events and other local gatherings. Additionally, all Coalition members receive an exclusive invitation to attend the NCTA’s annual Celebration and Next Gen Summit.

Meet the Current Cohort!

Felicia Hokenstad, the Next Generation Coalition Lead, has been involved with the Coalition for several years and is a board member of the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter (Michigan). She is already involved in outreach, volunteerism, and advocacy for the NCTA (the Coalition’s three “pillars”), and is a great fit to brainstorm ideas on how to connect more young people to NCTA’s work at both the national and local level. In addition to Felicia, there are 11 other members to introduce:

Near the western terminus of the Trail is Courtney Schaff, a lifelong North Dakotan who has deepened her relationship to the Trail in order to safely recreate and connect with nature. With her professional experience as an organizer, she is excited to give back what she can to the protection and promotion of the Trail in her state and beyond.

In Minnesota are Charles Soqui and Dennis Olson. Charles (Charlie) is a California native who relocated to the Midwest after college. He has been an active volunteer in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, working with the Kekakabic Trail Chapter, and is a Trail Leader on the Border Route Trail. Dennis was born and raised in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and discovered the Trail at a very young age when he started doing overnight trips. Now backpacking and preserving the Trail are his passion, and all of his time is spent in the woods.

In Wisconsin, we welcome Lisa Szela to the team. Lisa is particularly passionate about increasing access to the outdoors, and creating strong and welcoming outdoor communities. In her free time, she leads a women’s outdoor meetup and volunteers with a number of local organizations to help maintain parks, trails, and climbing areas in Wisconsin.

Michigan is the state with the most miles and the most Cohort members. In Marquette, along with Felicia, are Katie Cothran and Brianna Elizondo. Brianna is originally from the Lower Peninsula but moved to the UP in 2020 to attend Northern Michigan University (NMU) for a biology degree. Since moving to Marquette, she has fallen in love with all that the NCT has to offer and looks forward to learning how to more effectively preserve its beauty for future generations. As a Co-Leader of NMU’s Conservation Crew, Katie has volunteered for the NCTA North Country Trail Hikers Chapter since 2018. Some of her favorite activities include mountain biking, organizing community cleanups, and gardening. Lacie Tryan is in Bark River, and is a seasoned member of the Next Generation Coalition. She’s a new Trail Adopter for the Western Michigan Chapter, and in her free time, you can find her backpacking or car camping, biking, hammocking, or catching a sunset. Sara Dudzik resides in Fort Gratiot, where she and the dogs are always out exploring all types of trails or the next trendy craft brewery. After living out West for a few years, she is excited to re-establish herself in Michigan and with the North Country Trail community. In Wayland is Stephanie Sleda, who helps manage her Chapter’s social media in West Michigan. She has a background in volunteering and advocacy, and is a passionate hiker. She hopes to educate more young people about the importance of preserving and protecting the Trail and the outdoors.

Heather Johnson is in Ohio, though she grew up in eastern Pennsylvania. She has volunteered for an impressive amount of summer trail work crews, which led to her passion for conservation and environmental stewardship. Heather is optimistic about joining the Coalition to be part of the voice that continuously advocates for environmental protection.

On the eastern side of the Trail, we welcome back Chase Gregory from Buffalo, New York. Chase is a hiker, software programmer, climber, business owner, cyclist, and volunteer. He has been a long-time member of the Coalition, and has attended Hike the Hill many times to represent the NCTA and Finger Lakes Trail Conference.

Learn More

Email for more information. Follow the Coalition on Instagram to see what our current members are up to: @nctanextgen

Header photo by Emily Rodriguez