DOI / VISTA Team Projects

North Cascades Institute

DOI / VISTA: Katrina Bunge
Supervisor: Jason Bordelon
Address: Marblemount Ranger Station, 7280 Ranger Station Rd., Marblemount, Washington 98267
County: Skagit County
Voice Telephone: 360-854-7275
Web site:
Web site 2:
Congressional District: 1
Bureau: National Park Service (NPS)


North Cascades Institute (NCI) seeks to inspire closer relationships with nature through direct experiences in the natural world. Our mission is to conserve and restore Northwest environments through education. Since 1986, we have helped connect people, nature, and community through science, art, literature, and the hands-on study of the natural and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest. Our goal is to help people of all ages experience and enjoy the mountains, rivers, forests, people, and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest – so all will care for and protect this special place. North Cascades Institute is committed to innovation and excellence in environmental learning and leadership in the nonprofit community.

The North Cascades National Park has stated as a mission to preserve certain majestic mountain scenery, snowfields, glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, and other unique glaciated features for the benefit, use and inspiration of present and future generations. This expansive landscape provides a rare opportunity in North America for biodiversity to reach its full potential with minimal human interference. For centuries, the beauty of these landscapes has inspired locals and visitors alike-from the early indigenous people who called the area home, to artists, writers and beat poets such as Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, to the local and urban youth who participate in park programs today.

The DOI/VISTA project site North Cascades Institute is sponsored by the National Park Service (NPS) whose mission is to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world. 

About the Surrounding Community

Skagit County, Washington is a rural county that extends from coastal farmlands in the west to high mountains of North Cascades National Park in the east. Communities in the agricultural areas, including Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley, and Burlington, have significant Hispanic populations (over 30% in Mount Vernon and Burlington according to the US Census Bureau) and are known to have sizable populations of migrant workers. In the mountains, the towns of Concrete, Darrington, and Marblemount are heavily reliant on mining and logging and suffer from dwindling economies, lack of economic opportunity, and extremely high dropout rates. The average per capita income in Concrete and Darrington hovers just above $16,000, while Marblemount has slightly higher income due to the presence of the National Park.  The park’s gateway towns of Concrete, Darrington, Sedro-Woolley, Burlington, and Mount Vernon all have high percentages of students on free and reduced lunches and face higher than national rates of poverty and unemployment.

Project Overview

The DOI/VISTA, Catherine Griffith, creates and enhances educational outreach programs that enrich existing curriculum at schools, encouraging students to continue their education. Students get to know the National Park Service and NCI while learning about careers in natural resources, the outdoors, and education. Showing kids they have these options encourages them to continue in school. Catherine also recruits youth to become involved with programs that provide learning opportunities and include meals. For example, Concrete Summer Learning Adventure is a program that provides meals for participants while providing reading lessons related to their communities and the natural world. This and other programs provide motivation for the youth to remain in school as well as the skills they need to succeed in school and move beyond poverty. Catherine also serves as a representative within local schools to recruit underserved youth for internship and employment opportunities on public lands. Programs developed and enhanced by Catherine expose participants to careers in natural resources and environmental education and provide participants with skills to be competitive in job and college applications. Catherine is working to expand the cultural competency of both NCI and NOCA helping both NCI and the National Park Service to diversify their workforces.


Sponsors and Partners

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