Burnaby youth adventures down the Fraser

When 21-year-old Marie Pudlas applied for the Sustainable Living Leadership Program at the end of May, she didn't expect to hear from the organizers so soon.

But in June Pudlas got a call from the Rivershed Society of B.C. informing her she had been selected for the month-long program that will take her north to Mount Robson and from there she - along with seven other young people - will canoe, raft and hike down the Fraser River.

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The program, organized by the Rivershed Society of B.C., is an annual trip open to young people across the country. The 25-day, 1,400 kilometre adventure aims to educate youth about sustainable living and the different ecosystems that can be found in British Columbia. The participants began their journey on Thursday (Aug. 1) and for the next 25 days will travel south down the Fraser River, camping under the stars, exploring nature and visiting various communities along the way.

Pudlas said she was happy to be chosen even though, only days before she left, it still hadn't sunk in.

"You send a resume, cover letter saying why you want to be in the program, and you have to make a report on a project that you want to do," Pudlas told the NOW during an interview at Burnaby's Fraser Foreshore Park.

The project has to be something the participants intend on implementing when they return to their communities after the trip. As a Burnaby native, Pudlas' project is the creation of a school garden at Cariboo Hill Secondary.

"I've already started working with them, but this program will help me build a better plan," she said.

Pudlas, who graduated from Burnaby Mountain in 2010, is currently studying urban ecosystems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Langley.

"I finished a diploma in landscape design there, actually. That was two years and now I'm doing another two or so years in the degree program," she

The sustainable living program is an opportunity to study and explore 10 of the 12 ecosystems in the province, she added.

"Getting to see just the different plants and environment out there - I haven't gone through that many ecosystems," she said. "Just seeing what's out there ... I'm really interested in those things."

While the scenery may be what draws in participants like Pudlas, the focus of the program is teach young people about sustainable living and the importance of responsible community and resource development.

For Pudlas, sustainable living means ensuring people protect resources that can't be replenished.

"It's a closed loop of sorts," she added.

In addition to Pudlas' school garden initiative, she said she rides her bike to and from work and tries her best to eat local and incorporates weekly vegetarian nights.

"It's the little things," she said, which - according to the program's mission statement - is what it aims to promote in its young participants.

"This is a chance in a lifetime," Pudlas said. "I'll look back on it and go: I'm glad I did that."

Whether she'll feel the same way after 25 days of camping, Pudlas couldn't say, but she was definitely keen to get started.

For more information on the program and to follow Pudlas and the other participants on their journey, visit bit. ly/18PEj9N.

cdobie@burnabynow.com

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