In the early morning hours of Aug. 13, 19 Oceanside High School 10th-graders and seven adult mentors arrived in Thomaston exhausted but exhilarated. They had just finished a 16-day Cross-America expedition to the Pacific Northwest as part of their six-year participation in Trekkers, a nonprofit, outdoor-based youth mentoring organization.
The Cross-America program grants students the opportunity to explore firsthand the cultural and environmental uniqueness of a particular U.S. bio-region alongside caring adult mentors from the local community.
Throughout the year the students planned the expedition itinerary incorporating various educational components — adventure-based education, cultural and environmental awareness, wilderness exploration and community service. To fulfill these components the students went spelunking in the lava tubes of Mount St. Helens National Park, visited the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in Hoopa, Calif., hiked the dunes along the Oregon coast, explored Crater Lake National Park and Mount Rainier National Park, visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Ilwaco, Wash., and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity South Puget Sound in Olympia, Wash. This program was made possible in part through support from the Camden National Bank.
The redwood logging industry of northern California served as a central focus of the expedition. Exploring both sides of this divisive economic and environmental issue, the group first met with an EarthFirst! Humboldt member and redwood activist. Then they visited Green Diamond Resource Company, the dominant redwood logging company in the industry, and toured the company’s forest, nursery and sawmill.
Trekkers Executive Director Don Carpenter said of the overall experience, “The students designed an amazing itinerary, which led to incredible conversations about life, relationships, their triumphs and struggles as well as their future dreams. The diversity of landscapes that we saw — from sand dunes to 14,000-foot mountains, caves, redwoods and America’s deepest lake — solidified bonds and created memories that will be shared forever.”
Greatly impacting all the participants, the expedition included new experiences, physical and emotional challenges, moments of reflection and countless opportunities for personal growth among supportive peers and caring adults. One student stated of her experience, “I realized that if I push myself I can jump, hike, climb, wake up and get things done. I realized that making new friends doesn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would. I found myself getting more confident, more secure and more sure of myself.”
While this expedition is complete, the students’ journey in Trekkers has not finished. Following a six-year model, Trekkers invites students to participate in a different expedition each year from seventh-grade through 12th-grade. As incoming 11th-graders, these students will soon begin planning their College-Career expedition, a 10-day exploration of colleges, universities, trade schools and art schools along the East Coast in April 2012.
To read the daily log and view photos from the ‘Cross-America’ expedition, visit http://www.trekkersonline.com/. To learn more about Trekkers, call 594-5095.