Washington State Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib Monday announced the names of the fellows selected for the inaugural cohort of Boundless Washington, the state’s new outdoor leadership program for young people with disabilities.
Among them are Ritika Khanal, a Mountlake Terrace High School student from Lynnwood, and Finn Paynich, an Edmonds Heights K-12 student from Edmonds.
The program was established as a partnership between the Office of the Lt. Governor, the Washington State Leadership Board, and the nationally recognized non-profit organizations Outdoors For All and No Barriers. The two-year fellowship, offered at no cost to its participants, will take middle and high school students from across the state on a series of 14 weekend outdoor excursions featuring activities such as skiing, hiking, camping, and more. The excursions are aligned with an online and in-person leadership development curriculum to hone students’ leadership skills, teamwork, and confidence.
Fellows were selected through a rigorous application process that included essay responses and interviews. The fellows hail from every part of the state and represent a wide range of backgrounds and abilities. Khanal, a fully blind student from Mountlake Terrace High School, plans to use the program to build her leadership skills and eventually pursue a career in journalism or political science. Another fellow, Josiah Morrow, is a student athlete and freshman at Ferris High School who exclusively uses American Sign Language to communicate. He described the Boundless Washington program as an opportunity to learn from other students with disabilities and says he ultimately aspires to become a lawyer.
“I was extremely impressed by this year’s applicants, who each represent the strength, resilience, and sense of service that make them natural leaders, ” said Habib. “Kids with disabilities are often excluded from all kinds of activities, which is why this program is so important. The leadership opportunities afforded to me growing up helped me become the person I am today and gave me a sense of confidence that could have easily been snuffed out as a kid. This program aims to make sure that every young person, regardless of ability, has those opportunities.”
“We at the Washington State Leadership Board are proud to be a part of Boundless Washington,” said Nick Bumpaous, Board Chair of the Washington State Leadership Board. “I can’t wait to see what these inspiring young people do as they grow over the next two years with our program.”
The Boundless Washington program is partially funded by a percentage of revenues from the specialty license plate sales of the Seattle Storm, the Seattle Mariners, and the Seattle Sounders. Some of the program’s startup costs were also raised personally by the Lt. Governor through his September climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro, which he dedicated to the program as a fundraiser.