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Young volunteers help others explore Bainbridge
This summer, one group of young volunteers led by Sonnet Pradel has been helping tourists and even locals find good restaurants, beaches and island attractions as part of the Island Ambassadors program.
Pradel is this year’s program coordinator, recruiting and organizing volunteers as well as overseeing every shift.
Pradel is a rising senior at Bainbridge High School, and has been working hard to connect the local youth to the island community.
“As program coordinator, I try to get other young people excited about helping out our local businesses and island in general,” said Pradel.
“I got involved in the program in its second year. My mom, Sina Pradel, was BIDA’s [Bainbridge Island Downtown Association] program manager, and I had been volunteering for BIDA passing out posters for the Art Walk and working events,” she recalled. “She told me about this wonderful opportunity and I jumped on it. I worked almost every shift I could and absolutely loved every minute of it!”
Island Ambassadors was started in 2011 during a period of major construction on Winslow Way, and businesses struggled as even locals found downtown too difficult to navigate. The stand became a way to direct tourists and residents through the construction and encourage them to buy locally.
Although construction ended, the program remained, and has returned every summer to welcome tourists to the island.
Pradel’s drive to help visitors has been inspiring, but sometimes questions can get a little confusing.
She recalled one instance in which a group of boys came by and asked about the 98110 T-shirts the stand sells.
One boy asked if there were any mediums, and Pradel’s first thought was a medium of the psychic kind.
She responded that there were no mediums, but they could try to find one in Seattle.
Generally, the volunteers’ main activities involve greeting passersby, handing out maps and answering questions.
Bainbridge Island’s unique community has attracted many tourists, as well as many residents who love the little island. Pradel’s appreciation for the town makes her job that much more rewarding.
“My favorite part about being an ambassador is pretty simple: I love when someone asks me what it is like to live on Bainbridge,” she said. “I can totally tell when someone is enamored with our island’s vibrant culture, and that makes me feel like the ambassador program has succeeded.”