DIRECTOR OF EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
As director of experiential learning at UrbanPromise, Jim Cummings leads all activities of our UrbanTrekkers program. In 2004, at the age of 53, Jim sold his small business and began working at UrbanPromise full time. Each year since, UrbanTrekkers has expanded to offer additional experiential opportunities, including hiking, kayaking, camping, and Urban BoatWorks, which educates inner-city youth in the craft of wooden boat building. Jim believes the best way for young people to discover purpose and meaning is through education and strives to motivate his Trekkers to engage deeper in learning in all aspects of their lives.
He graduated from Jacksonville State University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Economics before serving as a captain in the U.S. Army for several years. Jim seeks to use his own experience to inspire his Trekkers to develop self-confidence and motivation and achieve success in all they do.
A Few Words From Jim
Expeditionary learning: an experience-based model for the application of knowledge, centered on exploration and journey, and focused on high achievement through active experiential learning, character growth and leadership development.
UrbanTrekkers is an expeditionary learning program built on the philosophy of exposing students to the diversity of people, places and natural landscapes outside the focus of their everyday lives. UrbanTrekkers complements the academic rigors that take place in the classrooms and programs of UrbanPromise. Our team believes that education is a lifelong journey, which, when nurtured, leads to an endless “childlike curiosity and a continual quest to know why.” Through hands-on learning, travel, adventure and character development, our youth are exposed to a myriad of opportunities, including environmental awareness, outdoor adventure, historical perspectives, cultural diversity and a commitment to community service.
UrbanTrekkers has pioneered exciting and creative programs for the children and teens of Camden. Through activities like the monarch butterfly project, weekend, weeklong, and multi-week treks, Outdoor Leadership Training (OLT), and wooden boat building, we are providing real life applications to the lessons taught in UrbanPromise's classrooms and after-school programs. Outside research supports our own observations that UrbanTrekkers’ experiential learning programs are highly effective at helping at-risk youth become motivated, disciplined, goal-oriented and successful. Students involved in UrbanTrekkers demonstrate improved character and academic performance. Our programs foster soft skills, goal setting, interpersonal relationships, grit, and gratitude.
UrbanTrekkers began in 2004 as an outdoor club for high school students at UrbanPromise Academy. Along with a group of dedicated volunteers, 12 students and I began taking monthly day trips related to nature, history, and outdoor adventure. Each experience deepened the relationships between the youth and adults and demonstrated what a profound impact the outdoor club could have in the lives of students. Upon hearing that a former UrbanPromise intern, Don Carpenter, was doing similar work in Maine, our team took a trip to New England to learn about his Trekkers program. While there, we observed expeditionary and experiential learning concepts that--combined with a set of values and protocols--spoke to the very mission of UrbanPromise. We took Don's model back to Camden and presented it to UrbanPromise president and founder, Bruce Main. With his blessing, we launched UrbanTrekkers as a full-time ministry in 2006.
Many educators, psychologists, and sociologists agree that the experiential learning model is a highly effective way for students placed at risk to achieve--not just academically, but also in life. UrbanTrekkers has proved sustainable and successful so far. We hope to continue expanding, improving, and serving children and teens for years to come.
Through a generous grant from the Wallace Research Foundation and others, this hope has become a reality. With resources for funding, staff, and training, we now lead summer expeditions that include students from UrbanTrekkers programs in other UrbanPromise cities. Expeditions through Colorado and Utah, a women's paddle trip on the Penobscot River in Maine, and Honduras are in the planning stages as we continue to reach more students through the ever-growing UrbanPromise community.
We hope you'll continue following our year-round expeditions and our exciting and life-changing adventures. Keep on trekkin'.
Jim Cummings, UrbanTREKKERS