Don Carpenter, Executive Director of Trekkers, was a presenter at the 41st International Conference of the Association for Experiential Education in Denver, Colorado. Carpenter, along with Jim Cummings from Urban Trekkers of Camden, NJ, presented a workshop titled, “A Long-Haul Approach: Relationship-Building, Experiential Education and Character Development in Rural and Urban Settings.” Both Trekkers organizations integrate relationship-building, experiential education and character development in a unique youth-mentoring model that is designed for “the long haul.” Their presentation explained this long-term approach and how it has transformed lives with equal success in the most impoverished city in America and in the most rural/least diverse state in the nation.
The relationship between Trekkers and Urban Trekkers began when Jim Cummings visited the Maine Trekkers program in July of 2004. After meeting with Carpenter and learning about the Trekkers’ six-year model for working with local youth, Cummings returned to New Jersey and modeled Urban Trekkers after the Maine-based program. Trekkers was designed to provide a means by which young people can form supportive relationships with caring adults through expeditions that include five educational components: community service, cultural awareness, environmental stewardship, wilderness exploration and adventure-based education. Groups of students from the two Trekkers groups meet several times each year for expeditions and cultural exchanges programs. Experiential and expeditionary learning are common denominators of these programs, which develop self-efficacy in teens through shared values, shared practices, and shared experiences.
Because of their long history together, Carpenter and Cummings were able to present the key aspects of their model and discuss a process where teens from two disparate contexts are brought together throughout the year to share outdoor adventure and outdoor education. Carpenter says, “Getting the chance to share the Trekkers model at the AEE Conference was a great opportunity. Our workshop inspired many people to ponder the impact of combining mentoring over a 6-year period with experiential education. I’m hopeful that this will be the first of many opportunities to share what we’ve learned over the past 20 years.”
If you would like to learn more about Trekkers, please call 594-5095 or visit the website at www.trekkers.org. You can learn more about Urban Trekkers by visiting their website at www.urbantrekkers.org.