North Country Trail Association

Next Generation Coalition

If you would like to join the next generation of trail stewards on the North Country Trail, you have come to the right place.

As the popularity of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) 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 Trail. The Next Generation Coalition (NGC) is a program aimed at increasing youth engagement along our eight trail states via networking and mentorship opportunities. Every April, the NGC will recruit a new cohort of volunteers to participate in training related to trail building and maintenance, marketing, outreach, and advocacy. A two-year commitment from each NGC cohort will allow members to build relationships with each other, and gain the knowledge and abilities necessary to fulfill the program expectations.

The application for the next cohort of Next Generation Coalition leaders is closed as of April 30, 2022.

Application Requirements

  1. Must be in the age range of 18-35 with an interest in volunteering for the North Country Trail Association (NCTA).
  2. Prerequisite to either live in a NCNST state (North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, or Vermont) or willingness to travel to the Trail for volunteer opportunities.
  3. Submit your online application by April 30.

Program Expectations

  • The NGC will participate in a virtual orientation session each June following induction of new cohort members, where they can meet each other, engage with NCTA staff members, learn about the program objectives, and create a work plan with goals, objectives, and tasks which feed toward measurable outcomes.
  • The NGC will work closely with the NCTA’s Trail Management staff to become familiar with local Chapters and Affiliate organizations to learn about trail development and maintenance.
    • Complete and report 100 hours of volunteer work within the two-year commitment.
      • Join annual National Trails Day event(s) in June as a host or participant.
      • Join annual NCNST Day / National Public Lands Day event(s) in September as a host or participant.
  • The NGC will work closely with the NCTA Marketing staff and Annual Events Coordinator to contribute content for fundraising appeals, and assist in planning for the NCTA’s Annual Celebration event.
    • Create one video message to be used during one of the NCTA appeals: Spring (April-May), fall (September-October), and/or end-of-year (November-December).
    • Provide two pieces of content during the calendar year for NCTA e-communications related to NCTA programs, volunteer, or advocacy efforts.
    • Provide content to at least one issue of the NCTA’s quarterly membership magazine, the North Star, during the calendar year.
  • The NGC will work closely with the NCTA’s Advocacy Committee to learn the basics of building relationships with policy makers to positively affect the NCNST and trail users.
    • Participate in annual Hike the Hill® with American Hiking Society and Partnership for the National Trails System, and/or take part in the NCTA Leadership Summit.
  • The NGC will participate in monthly workshops via Zoom that feature presentations from leaders and professionals to learn about different employment and volunteer opportunities in the outdoor community. This will also be a time to go over upcoming opportunities and events, needs for volunteers, and share about individual goals to encourage accountability.
  • The NGC will be committed to a more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive hiking community.

Program Benefits

  • Camaraderie with other North Country Trail volunteers and users, including a complimentary one-year NCTA membership to a Chapter of your choosing.
  • Invitations to exclusive events, hikes, and other activities, including the Next Generation Coalition Summit and the NCTA Annual Celebration.
  • Scholarship to attend events with NCTA and across the National Trails System, like Hike the Hill or the PNTS Workshop.

Questions or Comments?

NGC Inquiry Form

Meet the Current Cohort!

Felicia Hokenstad, the Next Generation Coalition Lead, has been involved with the Coalition for several years and was a board member of the Marquette Area 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.


Header photo by Emily Rodriguez