Opened Doors


SCA Alumni and Leader Jesse Alton

This year the Northwest Community program is celebrating 30 years of community programming and conservation service to the Puget Sound area. We’re reaching out to our SCA members throughout our history to reconnect and find out where they’re at today. This conversation is with Jesse Alton, ’93-’96 Seattle Community Program alum and crew leader ’04. 

Jesse is pictured above; 2nd from right with the crew he co-led at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 2004.

SCA Field Site(s):  

  • Seattle Community Crew, Mt. Rainer, Cedar River Watershed 

  • Crew Leader – Seattle CP, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Year(s) Served:  1993-96, 2004-2005 
Hometown: Seattle, WA
What are you doing now?  Principal Puget Sound GIS / Environmental Scientist King County 
What are some of your accomplishments and recent awards? 
  • Climbing Mt Rainer

  • NOLS graduate – 25 Day, Winter Course in Driggs, Idaho. I learned how to safely enjoy and survive in the backcountry during winter. It was an intense experience sleeping in igloos, getting avalanche certified, and backcountry skiing in all types of weather. 

  • Starting my own business, Puget Sound GIS a consulting company that provides accurate GPS data collection, spatial analysis and GIS modeling for private organizations, cooperate industries and local, state and federal governments.

  • Giving back by combining my personal and professional passions creating community-mapping projects for Operation Military Kids, King County 4-H, and the Federal Way School District. 

Why did you decide to join the SCA?

Chukundi Salisbury came to my high school and offered me the opportunity to participate in the Seattle’s Community Program.  Bob Warner also had a big impact and nurtured my appreciation for the outdoors.  

Describe your favorite SCA Experience?  

As a participant, I had the privilege of working on a remote trail crew at Mt. Rainer NP. This experience introduced me to backcountry camping, conservation ethics, and working with a diverse group of individuals.  As a Crew Leader, I worked at Theodore Roosevelt NP.  Part of the Badlands, this wild area provided daily interaction with buffalo, wild horses, and long horn cattle.  As a reward for our excellent work, SCA and the Park Service allowed us to spend a week backpacking in Yellowstone NP.

What did you learn during your time with the SCA? 

A kid from the intercity can have the opportunity to make a difference in the community and be a positive impact on society.  I also discovered my passion for the outdoors through a mentor and SCA crew leader who introduced me to climbing, hiking, and skiing in the Pacific Northwest. Once I got skis on my feet, I knew this was it! I went on to spend a month on a trail crew with the SCA at Mt. Rainier. SCA has taught me the importance of sustainability and the ethical responsibility to be part of the solution and not the problem.  My relationships from SCA are still with me today and have opened doors I never thought possible. 

Later in life I was convinced to take a month off work to lead a SCA crew in the Badlands. That was my vacation for the year and it was one of the most transformational experiences. Leading a crew of youth is both challenging and hugely rewarding. I learned I had a big responsibility to earn the respect of the crew members and lead by example. I knew the crew would be all over me if I tried to pull a fast one. At the end of the hitch what bonded us was the mutual respect for each other and pride for our work accomplished.

How is your SCA experience still relevant in your life today?

SCA was the foundation to finding a career in conservation and natural resource protection.  The skills I learned inspired my passion for the outdoors, volunteering, and protecting local ecosystems.  The people of SCA have always been the teachers and mentors for people like me who needed direction and a break from urban life.