THOMASTON, Maine – Trekkers, the award-winning youth development program based in Thomaston, has announced the launch of the Trekkers Training Institute for Youth Development. The Institute will train youth development practitioners from across the state and beyond in Trekkers’ highly effective programming principles.
Trekkers is an outdoor-based mentoring program that connects young people to caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education. The organization’s unique, relationship-focused mentoring model follows young people over the course of a six-year period that begins in 7th grade and culminates when they graduate high school in 12th grade.
“Over the years, we have received numerous requests from communities, organizations and youth development practitioners, both in and out of Maine, who are interested in learning more about our six-year mentoring model and its emphasis on the power of relationship building to change lives” said Trekkers Executive Director, Amie Hutchison “The development of the Training Institute will fulfill our long-standing goal to impact more young people by extending the reach of the Trekkers model beyond our base in mid-coast Maine.”
The Trekkers program serves approximately 200 students from six communities in mid-coast Maine and engages upwards of 250 community volunteers who contribute around 10,000 hours to the organization each year. Trekkers’ students graduate high school at a rate nearly 10% higher than their peers and go on to post-secondary education at a rate of 17% higher than their peers at the same high school, and 13% higher than their peers across the state of Maine. The program typically achieves an 85% retention rate for students who join in 7th grade and stay with the program until they graduate high school. Over the course its 23 years, Trekkers has graduated hundreds of students from the program, many of whom return to support the organization as volunteers, board members or donors.
The Trekkers Institute is being funded as part of the Aspirations Incubator Program, a larger effort by the Portland-based Emanuel & Pauline A. Lerner Foundation, aimed at raising and sustaining the aspirations of middle school and high school students in rural Maine communities and small cities.
The Lerner Foundation recently announced the names of eight Maine youth-serving organizations that will participate as partners in the Aspirations Incubator Program (AIP) for the next six years. The Trekkers Institute will provide the leadership development component of the AIP initiative. Each of the eight AIP partners will incorporate the principles developed by Trekkers into its own youth program design, and will seek to reproduce the successes that Trekkers has achieved.
“The Lerner Foundation believes that the program principles and practices developed by Trekkers, which the Foundation has supported for several years, comprise a model that can be adapted in many Maine communities to achieve similarly positive outcomes,” shared the Foundation’s Executive Director, Erin Cinelli.
This summer the Training Institute will pilot a three-month, immersive training experience focused on its 10 Youth Programming Principles at Trekkers’ headquarters in Thomaston, Maine. The Lerner Foundation’s AIP partners will get to see the 10 Principles in action, and consider how to incorporate or adapt them into their own programming and activities. Starting in 2018, the Trekkers Institute will open its training opportunities to other practitioners in the fields of youth development, mentoring, and education.
While concurrently launching the Trekkers Training Institute, Trekkers will continue fulfilling their mission to young people growing up in the six towns that make up their local service territory and Trekkers’ former Program Director, Meredith Lynt, will direct the overall leadership and curriculum delivery for the Institute. According to Amie Hutchison, Executive Director at Trekkers, “Meredith Lynt brings a wealth of experience on Trekkers’ model and youth development. We are thrilled to have her at the helm of the Institute.”
Lynt describes, “The success of Trekkers programming is anchored by a razor-sharp emphasis on leveraging long-term, intentional relationships. Relationships are the catalyst for raising aspirations, broadening perspectives and expanding opportunities for youth.”
Lynt further explains what differentiates Trekkers from similar programs by adding, “while our program staff have to be adept at leading expeditions, they have to be absolutely passionate about developing relationships that inspire young people to be the best versions of themselves. The launch of the Trekkers Institute provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to transform more communities into places where young people can thrive while still fulfilling our obligation to serve our local community.”
With additional support through the Lerner Foundation’s incubator program, Trekkers will participate in an independent evaluation with the Data Innovation Project (DIP), housed at the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy at the University of Southern Maine, to evaluate the impact of their 10 Youth Programming Principles. DIP will also evaluate the effectiveness of the Trekkers Institute’s role in the Lerner Foundation’s incubator program over the course of the six-year initiative.