Blog: 2011

Walt Whitman spoke to me...
March 28, 2011


Walt Whitman spoke to me the other day; now before you go and call me crazy let me explain.  I was canoeing on the CooperRiver as it flows through Camden, exploring for a future UrbanTrekkers adventure.  This urban river which in mostly hidden and out of sight is thought by many to be severely polluted and unsafe to navigate but I’m not so sure that’s the case and wanted to investigate.  The river reveals an amazing contrast of natural beauty and crumbling manmade monuments of an industrial era long since gone.  On this day the cherry blossoms had popped, fish were jumping and the Cormorants were diving and I was glad to be there.
As we paddled along the banks of the river we passed along side HarleighCemetery where Walt Whitman has rested since 1892.  Whitman, the great poet and essayist, who was a voice for the American experience over one hundred years ago might be sitting up in his self-designed tomb today as I half-smile thinking how ironic the words that he first penned in the 1860’s were for today and my Camden youth….
There was a child went forth everyday; and the first object he look’d upon, that object he became; and that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day or for many year, or stretching cycles of years”


Literary reviewers agree in this poem Whitman expresses his identification of his consciousness with his environment. The continual process of becoming is at the heart of the poem, I couldn’t agree more. I often think of what our students see everyday as they open their doors to an impoverished city and walk their streets of abandonment on their way to our schools and programs.  There seems to be a terrible injustice in it all. 
Next week the UrbanPromiseAcademy and UrbanTrekkers head out on spring break for the mountains of Appalachia and Tennessee.  We’ll be hiking along the Appalachian Trail and rafting the white waters of the NolichuckyRiver. It should be especially beautiful this time of year with Rhododendrons and Azaleas in bloom as we trek through the southern range of Appalachia.  Much more in the image of what Whitman was speaking to in his verse referenced above.
Trips like this help us to reframe the pictures our students see and imagine for their lives and are only made possible through your support…Thanks for being there for us, you keep us believing!
Keep on Trekking!
The Canyons & Caverns of the 'Big Apple'
February 12, 2011

/UrbanTrekkers love the journey; whether trekking through a foot of snow while participating in our January Outdoor Leadership training with zip lines and vertical towers or kayaking on the Assateague Bay alongside wild ponies.  This past Saturday was no exception as we loaded up the Trekker Bus and headed up the turnpike to New York City for an urban adventure.

There were thirty of us, students and mentors, Trekkers all, as we boarded the Staten Island Ferry.  The free ferry over to Manhattan has to be one of the best travel deals going anywhere.  In spite of the cold, biting wind, the students stood out on the bow deck to view the Statue of Liberty and the amazing New York City sky line. This urban adventure was full of first-time experiences for many of our new and younger students; first time to New York, first time on the ferry and first time riding the subways.  It was also the first time I led thirty Trekkers through the canyons and caverns of the “Big Apple” - yikes!

I’ve canoed with students alongside Alligators in the Everglades and set up camps next to fresh bear tracks on the Appalachian Trail, all of which pales compared to herding 30 people through the ferry and subways of New York.  Whether hiking a wilderness trail or trekking across 42nd Street, teamwork and leadership skills are a must.  Maps and routes, itineraries, clothing check list as well as finding an affordable place to eat in Manhattan all contribute to a good day out.  Designating a point person and “sweeps” that will bring up the rear are further essentials to a safe and enjoyable outing both in the city and in the wild.  

Students got the chance to ice skate on the outside rink at Bryant Park, eat at a Mexican Restaurant, and hike through Times Square, ride subways and the ferry and spend the day in New York City.  All this and we didn’t lose a trekker!  God is good.

Keep on trekking,

UrbanTrekker 2011 Winter OLT
January 20, 2011

“Mr. C, I’m not afraid of heights anymore!” exclaimed Shanice. She had just finished climbing off the vertical tower that is the high point for the Ironwood Outdoor Center high ropes challenge course. Shanice was one of eight seniors from the UrbanPromise Academy who took part in our Winter Outdoor Leadership Training (OLT) weekend. The OLT is especially meaningful to this group, who all received their UrbanTrekkers vest as part of a solemn evening ceremony at Haddonfield Presbyterian Church. The black Trekker vest with the boot print logo is symbolic of both achievement and promise for our students, who are part of our experiential learning approach to education and Christian character development.

The weekend is designed to challenge the students intellectually, emotionally and physically. In an environment like UrbanPromise that allows the school principal, Mr. Marlowe, and strong adult mentors, like Mr. Lehman, to invest in the lives of our young people, amazing things can happen - far beyond the school day and the limits of a school schedule.

Part of the weekend provided a venue for the students to share with one another fears and obstacles that they see blocking their path to success and fulfillment. Zip lines, flying squirrels, vertical playgrounds, high ropes and lessons on servant leadership also served to build confidence and develop character.

“Mr. C, I’m not afraid of heights anymore!”: that’s a good thing, because Shanice is setting her sights pretty high as she prepares to graduate and move on to college and beyond. UrbanTrekkers and UrbanPromise are grateful to our staff and volunteers for keeping the bar high for our students.



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