Each year, the Camden UrbanTrekkers head south on I-95 to the nation's capitol for our Christmas break trip. An interesting and sometimes unexpected highlight from our Washington, D.C. expedition is our stay at the International Youth Hostel (IYH). The hostel, located at 11th and K Streets in downtown D.C; only minutes walking distance from the Mall, offers a rich cultural experience for the Trekkers.
The IYH hosts young people from around the world. These savvy world travelers come to see the U.S. capitol's treasures and explore United States’ culture at an affordable price. The dorm- like provisions have us sharing common spaces beyond our bunk rooms. The large dining area, TV, and game rooms provide plenty of opportunity for the Trekkers to meet and talk with this vibrant international community.
On our last night, exhausted from walking more miles over four days than we do on some backpacking trips, we decided to order pizza and eat in the community dining room. Not being able to find space where the 23 of us could sit together, the students sat at many different tables and mingled with other guests.
From one table over I watched as Julio, an overly energetic & incredibly curious freshman, sat with a couple from Germany and a young woman from Australia. Julio later shared with me they had so many questions for him about the group he was with and asked him a ton of questions about Camden and UrbanTrekkers. He told me he's never met anyone from another country other than his native Mexico.
Sitting next to me during this dinner is Miss Julia, my Trekker assistant. She is chatting away with Jenniffer, a bright and very shy freshman. I hear Jennifer tell Julia how much she wants to travel and visit France and Spain. She tells Julia how UrbanTrekkers has gotten her out of her shell and how she is now closer to many of her classmates. This once shy and reticent young lady is beaming with excitement.
Later that evening I see a group of my Trekkers gathered in the lounge around the map of the world trying to locate the countries of the people they've been meeting. For many of our students it was their first time to visit Washington, D.C. The Capitol, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Cathedral, memorials, and so much more. With all of these amazing places, I'd still put the International Youth Hostel right up there with the most memorable places we saw. Thank you for your support and keep on trekking,
Urban BoatWorks had a sweet trip on the Rancocas Creek last Saturday. After Jim gave a quick paddle briefing, the kids got on the water in their canoes and kayak. "I can't believe we made our own boats." Was heard more than once. When we returned to the Marlowe's we reveled in our successful paddle and enjoyed a delicious cook-out. Tomorrow, we look forward to paddling the Pennsauken Creek!
Courier Post | June 3, 2012
By: Joe Cooney
PENNSAUKEN — Kids, kayaks, canoes and the Cooper River could be construed as a risky combination.Asked how hard it is to balance himself in the kayak, Johnson said he practices a lot. “I practice balancing myself on the curb when I’m walking home,” said the student, who is in the advanced BoatWorksclass.
“I’m really looking forward to this trip.”
Somewhat hesitant was Faith Kroma, 15. She said she couldn’t swim.
“But I have a life jacket,” she smiled. “And I know how to yell ‘Help.’ This is going to be real fun, but I’m a little nervous.”
Noah Washington climbed into the front of an aluminum canoe that was captained by UrbanPromise volunteer Tom Culp of Moorestown.
“This has been real fun,” Culp said. “The kids are great and this is good for them. And they get really excited when they finally get the boats into the water after all the tedious sanding.”
Kroma, paddling a canoe from the bow seat, was smiling and laughing even after someone asked her if she had seen the movie “Titanic.”
“Hey,” yelled the bubbly teenager. “Stop playing. I’m really nervous.” But she was still grinning.
At about 12:45, the flotilla of 17 kayaks and 11 canoes, manned by the students, volunteers and members of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, made their way west. Destination Pyne Poynt Marina at the Delaware River under the shadow of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
“Where the Cooper meets the Delaware is absolutely gorgeous,” Cummings said. “You have the Philly skyline and some great wildlife there. This is an incredible gem we have here right in our community.”
But all went well Saturday morning as more than a dozen youngsters from Camden’s UrbanPromise BoatWorks launched the crafts they had been building for the last eight months.
After hundreds of hours of measuring, sawing, sanding, epoxying and applying coats of varnish, the students said they were thrilled to launch their creations near the Camden County Boathouse.
“I never built a boat before,” said Noah Washington, a 12-year-old from Willingboro. “It was actually very cool.”
Jim Cummings, the director of experiential learning at UrbanPromise, said the middle and highschool students started working on their wooden watercrafts at the beginning of the school year.
About 50 kids participate in the BoatWorks program, Cummings said, and are divided into groups of six or seven students. Each group would work on the boats one day a week. Six canoes and two kayaks were built in the basement of the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum in the Waterfront South section of the city.
“We got finished (Friday) night,” Cummings said with a big smile. “And some will have to go back to the shop on Monday. They’re all floating, but some still need some sanding and another coat of finish.”
Cummings said the students have also been learning about the local ecology and urban waterways. Some were skeptical about heading out onto the Cooper River.
“They said, ‘Mr. C., it’s polluted. There are bodies in there,’ ” Cummings said. “The urban community is so disconnected from the water. But there’s so much water all around us. And this has been a very cool introduction for them.”
The boats were officially launched and blessed about 8:30 Saturday morning. After some additional water safety instructions and a pizza lunch, the students boarded their creations to get ready for a two-hour adventure along the Tidal Cooper River.