THOMASTON, MAINE – On June 3, Trekkers held a graduation ceremony for the 19 high school seniors who recently completed Trekkers’ six-year youth mentoring program. Trekkers Executive Director Don Carpenter hosted the awards ceremony where he “roasted” each student individually through humorous gifts and a slideshow, sharing unique and unforgettable moments with family and friends, while mentioning the many expeditions the students completed during their six years as Trekkers.
Twenty students entered the program in 7th grade as part of Teen Trekkers where they spent three days exploring the outdoors with adults from the community by camping, canoeing, engaging in group activities and journaling around nightly campfires. Continuing into 8th grade, students spent a year planning their 14-day expedition to the northeastern United States. They used consensus-based decision making to design their expedition around five educational components: Service Learning, Cultural Awareness, Environmental Stewardship, Adventure-based Education, and Wilderness Exploration.
In 9th grade, the students took a Ride Through History expedition and explored Boston, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, while learning about our country’s founding. During their 10th grade Cross America expedition, students elected to travel to the Pacific Northwest where they swam in Crater Lake, hiked through the Redwood forest, visited Seattle, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, and learned about bioengineering with local experts. Last year as 11th graders, they embarked on their College and Career exploration, visiting colleges and trade schools between Maine and Pennsylvania. This past April, they completed their six-year Trekkers experience with the Rites of Passage expedition, including a 36-hour wilderness solo in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.
In total, this year’s graduating Trekkers class has visited 17 colleges and universities, traveled to more than 12 states, and hiked countless state parks. They volunteered at soup kitchens and for Habitat for Humanity. They participated in cultural exchanges with the Urban Trekkers from Camden, New Jersey, the Southern Ute Tribe in Colorado, the Amish in Pennsylvania and visited a Buddhist Temple in Pennsylvania. They went white water rafting, attended a major league baseball game, visited the Pittsburgh zoo, explored the Great Sand Dunes, and created countless lifelong memories through many other outdoor adventures.
The following students participated in Trekkers’ graduation ceremony: Michael Ansart, Emilee Cross, Michaela Garrett, Lindsey Joyce, Audra Masterson, Elijah McPhail, Evan Myers, Benjamin Oakes-Boynton, Shale Peters, Luke Rector, Vance Miller, Megan Rickard, Bethany Schulberg, Natasha Shacklett, Erika Tardif, Dora Thompson, Fox Whitman, Molly Mellor, and Cerra Harris. Also honored as part of the ceremony were Trekkers alumni Neal Young, Tyler Grant, Amy Choudhari and Meredith Joyce, who participated in all of the expeditions this class completed, serving as peer mentors and adult leaders for their younger counterparts in the organization. This consistency in adult leadership is an essential part of Trekkers’ program success. Many of the graduating seniors also participated in Trekkers’ student leadership program. Trekkers hopes to see them return as adult mentors to guide their younger peers on future expeditions.
Trekkers is a non-profit outdoor-based mentoring program that connects young people with caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education. As a preventative, community-based program, Trekkers brings students and adult mentors together to build meaningful relationships over a period of six years. This model, in turn, creates a safety net for local youth who are civically engaged and oftentimes return to Trekkers as adult volunteers themselves. Trekkers serves the communities of Cushing, Owls Head, Rockland, St. George, South Thomaston, and Thomaston.