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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.


Washington DC 2010 Expedition
December 29, 2010

style=width:We were all gathered in our meeting room at the International Youth Hostel in Washington DC for our nightly wrap up. There were twenty of us this year, sharing our thoughts and feelings after three exhausting days of hiking many city miles, visiting Arlington Cemetery, memorials, museums, and much more.  Tonight the exhaustion was both physical and emotional; we had been skating in the morning, hiked across the mall to visit the Holocaust Museum and then on to the White House to see the National Christmas tree display.  Tonight, Jaquis, a sophomore, told us how much she loved ice skating-it was the first time she had been on skates, and also  the camaraderie with her classmates on her first visit to DC.  Luis, a sophomore, and Jenny, a senior, were also first timers on skates and they too told us how much they enjoyed skating in an outdoor rink. 

   The conversation became more serious as Mr. Watkins, their history teacher, started asking the students to share their thoughts and feelings about the visit to the Holocaust Museum. After watching actual newsreels of the events from that period as well as interviews with survivors, the students had much to say. Vincent, a senior, and veteran of many UrbanTrekkers expeditions, told us he was in awe of Hitler’s ability to persuade and motivate an entire nation to do the things they did; he asked us to imagine what Hitler could have done if his message was one of love and compassion. Can you imagine? Chris, also a senior, was moved by the quote found on the wall as you exited the exhibit area, from Pastor Martin Niemoller…

 First they came for the Socialist, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionist, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

 One of the more exciting moments on our adventure this year came while riding the DC Metro. When the train came to a stop at our station the doors opened and we quickly exited along with the evening commuters, only to watch the doors close and the train move on with one shocked Trekker still stuck on the crowded Metro car. Quickly, the Trekkers began to panic and suggest we get on the next train to go find our lost comrade. Comments like “Mr. C, this is why you should allow us to take our cell phones when we travel” and “We will never find Bryant in this city” were shouted.  After we got everyone to calm down we began to discuss our options and agreed it would be best to stay put and hope that Bryant would work his way back to us. We went to the Metro Info Center and reported our lost Trekker; luckily Bryant also went to a Metro official who got him back to our stop, and in less than twenty minutes we were reunited and on our way.  Yes, another great teaching moment in the annals of UrbanTrekkers.

I’m blessed over and over again as I see my Trekkers grow and learn about themselves and a world beyond Camden, New Jersey. Happy New Year from all of us and remember to keep on trekking.

 God Bless,


From the Hood to the Woods 2011
August 26, 2009

Sep 05, 2011

The Maine and Urban Trekkers students and mentors pose atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

Thomaston — Trekkers, a local youth mentoring organization, hosted its sixth annual “From the ‘Hood to the Woods” expedition at Blueberry Cove Camp in Tenants Harbor this August.

Students from Trekkers and its sister organization, Urban Trekkers from Camden, N.J., used the four-day expedition as an opportunity to build meaningful relationships across cultural boundaries while exploring Maine’s beautiful outdoors.

This year more than 20 high school students participated alongside six adult mentors from Maine and Camden, N.J. The activities included kayaking in Port Clyde, lobstering with local fishermen in Tenants Harbor, swimming in quarries and holding a lobster bake. The group also explored Acadia National Park, where they hiked the Beehive Trail and visited Sand Beach. Throughout the four-day expedition, they participated in games, teambuilding activities and group discussions.

“From the ‘Hood to the Woods” was created in 2006 by Don Carpenter, executive director of Trekkers, and Jim Cummings, executive director of Urban Trekkers. Both were seeking to create a safe setting for students from all walks of life to engage in meaningful conversations regarding the prejudice and racism that occur in Maine and New Jersey. One student commented, “[The experience taught me] that even though we may look different, we’re all the same on the inside. We have a lot in common.”

This expedition is not the only opportunity for the Maine and Urban Trekkers to connect and build relationships. Each February and April, the two groups meet in Camden, N.J., to participate in similar teambuilding activities in an urban setting. Carpenter comments, “Because we travel to Camden twice a year to visit the Urban Trekkers in their community, the opportunity to have a cultural exchange here in the Midcoast becomes that much sweeter. For the past six years this give-and-take has proved to be magical, opening the doors of communication and deconstructing stereotypes. I'm so glad that we're able to provide these opportunities to our students.”

Tanglewood 4-H Camp and Learning Center partnered with Trekkers for this program, providing the use of Blueberry Cove Camp. Tanglewood is part of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.


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