Trekkers Training Institute

Development of the Institute

Over the past 23 years, Trekkers’ award winning youth development model has positively impacted hundreds of students growing up in the small fishing communities of mid-coast Maine.   Throughout the years, Trekkers has had many requests from communities, organizations and youth workers, both in and out of state, who’ve been interested in learning more about our six-year mentoring model and its emphasis on the power of relationship building to change lives.  Although we have been eager to train others in the principles and philosophy of our work, we’ve been hesitant to shift any of our resources, time and energy away from our mission until we finished our latest expansion plan.

As our 6-year expansion was coming to an end in 2016, a wonderful opportunity with the Emanuel & Pauline A. Lerner Foundation began to emerge.  Since the Lerner Foundation’s current philanthropic focus is to support efforts to raise and sustain post-secondary aspirations in students growing up in rural communities of Maine – with a special focus on supporting students through the 8th/9th grade transition – Lerner viewed the principles of the Trekkers model as a roadmap to help others working in the area of youth development from around the state reach better outcomes in raising aspirations for their students.   Based on our long-held desire to train others in our model, we jumped at the chance to partner with the Lerner Foundation on this statewide effort by launching the Trekkers Training Institute for Youth Development.

In November, Meredith Lynt was hired as the Institute Director to begin putting our plan into action in order to set and begin implementing the strategic goals of the Institute. Starting this June, Trekkers will kick off Institute programming with the Lerner Foundation’s Aspirations Incubator Program (AIP) partner organizations who will participate in a three-month immersion training experience.

Starting in 2018, the Trekkers Institute will open its training opportunities to other practitioners in the fields of youth development, mentoring, and education.

 Vision & Goals

The vision of the Institute is to inspire and train professionals working with youth in Trekkers’ unique youth development philosophy. Trekkers believes that it can serve as a model for other youth development programs seeking to raise the aspirations of young people. The primary objectives of the Institute are to:

  1. Codify the philosophies, principles and practices that have contributed to Trekkers’ success.
  2. Expand Trekkers’ six-year, relational-based model of youth programming by training individuals and organizations, across the state of Maine and beyond, in Trekkers’ 10 Youth Programming Principles.
  3. Promote a widespread cultural and industry shift in how youth development programs design and implement programming.
  4. Develop a sustainable stream of resources and revenue to support all goals and initiatives.

 Trekkers’ 10 Youth Programming Principles

  1. Designing Intentional Program Delivery Systems for Long Term Engagement – A commitment to creating small, purposeful learning communities and designing a multi-year, “step-ladder” program delivery system that works with students during middle school and follows them to and through high school graduation. This long-term commitment to relationship building allows for the time and space needed to adapt to the ever-changing developmental needs and interests of adolescents.
  2. Developing a Skilled Network of Caring Adults and Peer Mentors – A focus on recruiting and training caring adult volunteers and cross-age mentors (young leaders) to play a critical role in meeting the relational needs of local youth growing up in their community.
  3. Applying a Comprehensive Approach to Youth Development Strategies – A dedication to building targeted holistic youth development methods into the overall program design to help young people find success and navigate challenges during adolescence by focusing on proven promotion, prevention and intervention strategies.
  4. Creating a Community Support Network – A practice of assembling support networks for young people by partnering with parents, schools, key stake holders, health services and other youth advocate agencies with the goal of building high-level supports to assist in meeting the academic and non-academic needs of students.
  5. Prioritizing Informal Relationship Building with Youth – A commitment to “showing up” and being present in the lives of young people outside of regular scheduled programming. By designing outreach in the community into the overall program delivery model, staff and caring adult mentors can build even stronger relationships with mentees and maintain relational links to students even when core programs are not in session.
  6. Expanding Worldviews – A priority for introducing students – through outdoor, experiential and travel-based educational opportunities – to the diversity of people, cultures, places and natural resources that exist outside the reach of their everyday lives.
  7. Embracing Student Voice & Choice – A willingness to share power and give young people input into the overall educational process.
  8. Encouraging Civic Responsibility – A desire to incorporate service into curriculum design and a commitment to enhance civil discourse.
  9. Preparing Students for Success after High School – A focus on increasing opportunities for youth to identify, explore and cultivate their future aspirations – whether those aspirations include immediate entry into the workforce or ambitions for college – through hands-on experiences.
  10. Utilizing Validated Assessment Tools to Promote Social-Emotional Development in Young People An emphasis on collecting social-emotional development and resiliency data as a way to inform individual intervention strategies and influence programming – all with the intention of better detecting barriers to academic achievement in students at an early age.

Partnership with Data Innovation Project (DIP)

 In addition to the Lerner Foundation, Trekkers is also working with University of Southern Maine’s Data Innovation Project (DIP), a third-party evaluator based out of the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy. The role of DIP in the Aspirations Incubator Program (AIP) is to develop tools to evaluate AIP partner learning at the Trekkers Training Institute for Youth Development and each AIP partner’s effectiveness in adopting each of Trekkers’ 10 Principles of Youth Development. In addition to DIP’s commitment to Lerner, they have also agreed to partner with Trekkers to pilot the evaluation for the AIP program. To start this process, DIP will work with Trekkers to develop a logic model that better defines projected outcomes for Trekkers’ current programming.

In addition, DIP will provide technical assistance to Trekkers in the development of:

  • Tools to monitor partner fidelity to Trekkers’ 10 Principles of Youth Development
  • An impact summary on Trekkers’ programming by conducting:
    • Key informant interviews (with program staff, volunteers, community allies, current students, and Trekkers alumni)
    • A four to six-year review of all program records
    • A review of other demographic indicators (graduation statistics, college persistence, etc.)

Training Institute Contact

For more information about the Institute please contact Meredith Lynt at or (207) 594-5095.

Related Links
Lerner Foundation Announces Partners in $7 million effort to support aspirations of rural Maine students