Blog: May 2012
I couldn’t help but think of the inspirational and whimsical Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places you’ll Go” when Terron came by my office the other day. Home from college for Spring Break he stopped in to make sure I had his upcoming graduation from Eastern University on my calendar. I wouldn’t miss it for anything; Terron was one of my first students when I began UrbanTrekkers eight years ago.
It seemed like he wanted to talk but at first said little…soon we began to reminisce about the places we had traveled during his years at our small high school, the UrbanPromise Academy. We shared about the first ever UrbanTrekkers spring break trip to Mt. Washington, New Hampshire; some challenging hikes, the Moose we saw and some amazing vistas. There was our trip to Vancouver, BC (his first time on a plane) and the Olympic Peninsula when we came so close to hitting a deer with the van; the Everglades and the alligators or the annual end of summer trips to Maine with kayaking off of Port Clyde, those annual 50 mile bike rides…and that final trip the week before his high school graduation, the Senior Rite of Passage in upstate New York.
The conversation had us both filled with the fondness of our memories when I asked, “What did those experiences do for you?” I’m often asked by friends and supporters what impact UrbanTrekkers has on the students I work with. City kids, who likely would never experience the travel and adventures that, have become part of their school. What are my outcomes, a fair question, yet not always easily quantified.
Terron reflects for a moment, I can tell he’s giving this serious thought. After a brief moment he says, “Mr. C when I was getting ready to begin my studies at Eastern University what I feared the most, was not if I could succeed academically, the scary part for me was would I feel like I belonged”. Eastern University is a Main Line Philadelphia private Christian college and a world away from Camden, New Jersey. For Terron it was terrifying trying to imagine how he could ever fit in with this group and culture so removed from everything he knew.
Terron went on to say, “Everyone knows your story when you say you’re from Camden”…a story of drugs, violence, and poverty “you are the 5 o’clock news!” he shouted …”but I had another story, UrbanTrekkers gave me my stories”. He went on, “when I had papers to write or just chillin in the dorm, I had my own stories”.
Our conversation came back to his Senior Rite of Passage trip to the Adirondack Mountains and Saranac Lake. There was a severe storm the night he and his classmates were out on their 24 hour solos, it was a major weather event with torrential rain and gale force winds taking down trees and creating ocean sized white caps on the lake. Earlier that afternoon my friend Bob Harris and I had left each student on a small island by themselves with just the bare essentials but by now Bob and I had plenty of anxiety as we realized the severity of the storm from our camp’s distant shore.
Fortunately the storm passed quickly and the rain began to fall with less intensity, we were now able to get on the lake in a small bass boat to check on Terron and his fellow classmates. Terron‘s tent had lost the fly (rain cover) and now had 2’ of water sitting in the bottom. We helped him resituate the tent, find the fly and told him we would see him in the morning. I’ll never forget the surprise that he showed when he realized we had not come to take him off the island that night…but more importantly what he said when he told me not to worry about him, “I know how to take care of myself…I’ve done it all my life”.
Whether it is a grueling 12 mile hike, riding fifty miles in the Pedal for Promise or the night of the storm on his Island they are experiences Terron will never forget…and it’s where I have discovered the most amazing young people I’ve ever met…and they give me my stories to tell. Thank you for your support and continual encouragement.
God Bless & Keep on Trekking, Jim