Fri. April 18, 2014
After months of planning, today we left on a 10-day expedition that would take us to 16 colleges & universities from Castine, Maine to Providence, Rhode Island. Excitement was especially high for our two newest members, Jana & Jordan, as this is their first trip with us.
Ironically, students left school early today to further their education. We met outside of East with bags loaded on top and a special cargo hidden inside. Our reunion consisted of cheers, shuffles, chest bumps and all other matters of greetings. After unintentionally causing quite a commotion in front of the school, we loaded up and were off. We would see two extremes today as tours of Unity College and Maine Maritime Academy were on the docket.
Unity proclaims itself to be America’s environmental college. After our tour it appeared that their student body believes this to be true and was unabashedly in love with the outdoors. Our tour was followed by the sounds of duck calls (used for applause at sporting events), a horse and even a fire breather. For the avid hunter, Unity appears nearly ideal as taxidermy lined every wall, hunting rifles could be stored at the edge of campus and all matter of camping equipment could be rented for the weekend free of charge. For those looking to take their Maine skills to a whole new level, Unity also has a nationally ranked Woodsmen club.
After the experience at Unity, we headed to Maine Maritime Academy. Hugh Porter, from Admissions, was able to give us incredible numbers regarding your “return on investment” (ROI) and employability following graduation.
After an introduction to the school, Alex Wallace (Trekker alum) and 3 other students of MMA took us on a tour of the campus which included engine rooms and a ship used in training. Alex went on this group’s 10th grade trip as a leader and was happy to share his experiences at MMA with the group, both on the tour and during that night’s circle. The long and productive day ended in the luxurious accommodations of Leavitt Hall provided by the school. Thanks MMA!
Sat. April 19th, 2014
After a restful night at MMA, we got up early and were on our way to New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state. (By far Matthew’s favorite motto).
Jana took to Catchphrase the moment we stepped on the bus and an intermission only came when we arrived at Plymouth State. We got off the bus to find a small pond where the parking lot had been and then headed to those parts of campus not yet reclaimed by mother nature. Mere and I were the self-appointed tour guides but fortunately we soon found a librarian willing to tell us more about the college. Destiny, a current student, fielded any and all questions from the group and gave straightforward, honest answers about the pluses and minuses to going to school in a small town.
After our impromptu info session, we were given directions by other kind students on campus and saw all there was to see. Kris, our incredible volunteer/driver/trekker parent, swung the bus around to pick us up and, after recovering from an unexpected yell of “SQUIRREL”, we made our way on to Lucy.
We spent the night at an old one room school house in Vermont. The school house had a stage that Lily, Sydney and Jana quickly put to use for the sake of a performance. Our qualified judges, with the exception of Alayna, gave them high marks.
Sun. April 20, 2014
We awoke to the sight of presents left by the Easter Bunny and, after breakfast, students scoured the surrounding area for Easter eggs and all of the goodies they had inside. Upon opening a special Golden Egg, Justin found lifesavers and a message reaffirming his MINTness.
After eating way too much chocolate, we hopped on the bus to visit trekker alum, and former AmeriCorps member, Brandon Caron….and tour Johnson State.
We learned that Johnson State really focuses on giving students hands on, real world experience before they graduate. It was obvious that, thought much work is required to graduate with any degree, the students of Johnson State didn’t let this interfere with a good time. We found nerf bullets scattered throughout campus as they had recently completed an all-campus completion of Humans v. Zombies.
After an info session and lunch in the cafeteria, Brandon led us to the crown jewel of the campus – it’s Disc Golf (A.K.A. Frolf) course. Bailee was a natural, throwing the Frisbee hundreds of feet with ease. Most of us did well, while some of us (myself/Matthew) kept our primary focus on staying upright.
After a good deal of Frolfing, we took a Ben & Jerry’s tour, were treated to generous samples of ice cream and then settled into a game of Big Booty. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time for Brandon to leave. He shared touching words of wisdom with the group and then was off. The ice cream was nice, but having Brandon rejoin the group was definitely the day’s highlight.
Mon. April 21, 2014
Today we visited beautiful Burlington, VT to visit Champlain College’s super hi-tech campus. Champlain College, has a great computer sciences program and was ranked as one of the top schools in the country for its use of class discussions. On the tour we learned that even though the school does not have its own sports teams, all who are interested can head over to nearby UVM to watch games or participate in intramurals. We also learned that staying on campus means you get to live in a Victorian Mansion.
Later in the day we found ourselves in a more regimented setting of Norwich University – a military college in Northfield, VT. We immediately discovered their famed 1,000 steps as we hiked up stair cases on our way to the admissions office for an info session. We learned that though 40% of students are attending as civilians, everyone currently has the pleasure of awakening to cannon fire every morning at 5:00am. Our tour guides talked a lot about other, more subtle, integration of military and civilian life at the university. These included a an option to enroll as a cadet even if you chose not to enlist, a strong sense of respect towards fellow students and the strong military presence on campus alongside your typical college activities.
Our tour guides took us to the museum on campus where we saw an unexpectedly deadly weapon – class rings. The rings worn by Norwich grads are the 2nd heaviest of their kind and have 2 Confirmed Kills in Iraq. We were then brought to the statue of Norwich’s founder, Alden Partridge. His creepy green eyes sparkled in the sunlight and our guides shared that school lore states Alden Partridge’s statue would come to life if cadets went through their entire first year without a single demerit.
The last impressive part of our time at Norwich was watching a cadet train in drills on the college green – apparently he was ranked 2nd in the entire country. For many in our group, and for a whole host of reasons, Norwich was a top choice.
Tues. April 22, 2014
We had a long drive ahead of us, but the helpful students of Merrimack made the visit worthwhile. We had planned on a self-guided tour, but we received nearly as much information from students on campus as we could’ve expected to gain from an admissions counselor. Two girls spoke to us at length about their time at Merrimack and mentioned that, though Boston is only a short drive away, there was hardly any reason to leave because of the number of activities held on campus. Merrimack didn’t have mansions like Champlain, but it did have apartment-style housing that included little front lawns surrounded by picturesque picket fences.
After another delicious lunch of PB&J, we moved on out to Boston College. We were fortunate to have a guide for this tour for all our eyes were too busy gazing upwards at the incredible architecture to have found our way around. Our guide led us through the church of St. Ignatius, with its awe inspiring stained glass, and through a student center, with awe inspiring hidden references to the Wizard of Oz…B.C.’s incredibleness didn’t stop there though, it has 11 Libraries!…and an outstanding academic staff and job placement rate, if you’re into that.
We ended the day with an awesome surprise – SHOWERS! Thank you West Suburban YMCA! But it wasn’t meant to end there. On our way back through to the church we swung by Sweet Tomatoes to pick up some delicious pizzas. It was a great day.
Weds. April 23, 2014
Fortunately, no one set off the motion sensor in the church and we were able to sleep in before going to Bentley & Suffolk.
Our “self-guided” of Bentley seemed to be even more thorough then your regular tour. Meredith led us through the asymmetrical, bricked campus and told us all of the facts and figures. Additional insight was gleamed from talking to a current student who was on her way to work. She informed us that Bentley puts student in their major classes their very first semester at school and makes it easy to find jobs within your field. She was only a sophomore, yet she was already working in her field at Muscle Milk.
I should note that we saw a statue of a falcon at both Bentley and B.C., but we were asked to pretend B.C.’s was an eagle as that was the bird they had intended to have representing their school. Bentley fully supported their statue and we even saw a bird that was inarguably a falcon roaming their campus.
Suffolk earned an A in our book for security. Students who attend Suffolk need not worry about marauding youth groups barging in to their facilities. We discovered this when we were politely turned away after attempting to give ourselves a tour. The good news is this was quickly forgotten as we were joined by Britta Sturks! Britta is a Trekker alum that has gone on many trips as a leader. She also added a lot to conversations we had later that night as she was able to share her own experiences as she recently earned completed her masters at Northeastern.
Back at the church in Newton we made ourselves comfortable and Philip started up another game of hacky sack.
Thurs. April 24, 2014
We pulled up to Northeastern University at the reasonable time of 11am. Jana and Mere were off to nearby Boston Architectural College. We collected some packets from the NEU admission’s office and I did my best to guide our group until such time that we could be led by Leah Simmons, a Trekker alum. Northeastern boasts an extensive co-op program that allows students to work at 2,900 companies across the world as part of their education. Northeastern students also have the ability to experience different cultures right on campus as the university hosts students from 120 countries and 47 states. We learned all of this from our Fun-Fact Generator, Sydney.
After running into a bit of confusion when trying to enter the library, we explored the campus store and waited to be joined by Leah. It was a struggle for Leah to list anything negative about her university. It was obvious that she had found an academic environment that suited her and gave her space to grow. While sharing with the group, Leah took us to Ell Hall. Within Ell Hall, there is a monument to “Paws, King Husky”. This bronze statue bestows good luck on whoever rubs his nose. After our tour, I’m sure several were hoping Paws would assist them during the application process.
Just before we left, Jenni & Kaleb were unexpectedly reunited when we stopped for lunch in front of an au bon pain. Its always great seeing Trekkers abroad!
Later in the day we met with another Trekker alum, Kate Lee, who is currently working through a co-op offered at the next school on our list: Wentworth Institute of Technology. The school was closed for summer vacation, but we got lucky and Kate was able to show us her classrooms and work spaces while explaining to us what it’s like to pursue a career in architecture. A little way into it we actually found that Kate’s co-op is responsible for the new construction on B.C.’s impressive campus.
Kate informed our aspiring female athletes that they would be in high demand at Wentworth because of its composition and could easily make it onto a team if they wanted to. It was also mentioned that Wentworth is apart of “The Fenway”, which means its students can take classes at any of the 4 other participating colleges located on The Fenway. This includes Simmons, which Bailee, Katie and Mere toured earlier in the day.
It had been a very long day, but energy was high after a dinner consisting of pizza and ice cream (thanks Britta). It wasn’t just the sugar that had everyone worked up – we had been joined by the one and only Mr. Poope! After our meal had settled a little, we made our way to Boston Commons to start a tour filled with ghosts, murders, and hidden passageways. We heard a few favorites from the 9th grade trip (The Spooner Murder Case) and many new ones.
Our tour eventually ended back at the Commons where Kris had arrived and was waiting to bring us back.
Sat. April 25, 2014
After an incredible stay in Newton, we were on our way to Providence, RI to see Johnson & Wales. Upon arrival we met yet another Trekker alum: Natasha Shacklett. Natasha joined us for the info session and tour of J&W’s Culinary program. Sam E. was fully engaged and in his element as we were walked through every stage of the process in the state of the art facilities where students take their classes. It was great having Natasha with us because she is currently enrolled in the culinary program and could share valuable first hand experience.
The tour was great, but all of the beautifully decorated wedding cakes were a wicked temptation.
Back at the church, the primary game before dinner was football. Two-hand touch proved to be surprisingly intense. Justin & I were looking to redeem ourselves after a one-sided blowout earlier in the trip at the hands of Sam & Philip. This time around we would be joined by a rotating cast of Matthew, Jordan, Bailee and others. I don’t know if Justin and I found redemption, but we did mix into teams that kept the game competitive. This was in part thanks to Jordan’s tight D, but she would eventually end up on the sidelines with an ankle injury.
King Frog closed out the night on a high note, though I am unsure what the neighbors thought of the sounds they heard. These included howls (Philip), twerkeys (might have well been Kaleb), sloths (Bailee) and birds crying Tah-neet, Tah-neet, The-neet (Lily)
Sat. April 26, 2014
We are heading back to Maine, the pine tree state! Portland is the last stop on our list before heading home on Sunday. Portland is the site of two very important things: Maine College of Art and a mystery activity!
For the tour at MECA we were broken up into 3 groups and then led through floors filled with all different kinds of art using every medium imaginable. This included everything from metallurgy to cartoons, photography and oil paintings. Lily also discovered that they had a brand new fashion department.
After the tour we headed straight to the mystery activity, Summit Adventures. We started off our time there with an intense game of laser tag before students took off to compete against each other in Wrecking Ball or attempt to stand in a floating, inflatable contraption known as the Hamster Ball. During laser tag, we broke up into three groups and did our best to claim victory. All sorts of strategies were employed including hiding in corners (Jana), sniping (Justin) and charging (Philip). These strategies proved to be similarly effective as we ended in a tie.
We stayed at the ROOT Cellar in Portland and ended the night with games of pool, air hockey and pin-pong before settling into our final circle. This circle gave students and opportunity to create a dream school based on everything they had learned during the trip. This produced clarity for some, but most left this exercise with many more questions about their future. What is important is that everyone came closer to figuring out what it is that they wanted to do in life.
Sun. April 27, 2014
We’re heading home!
After an incredible 10 days of Trekking, we hopped on to Lucy for the final leg of the trip. It was a short trip, but we still managed to fit in a lot of dedications during Mere’s Eclectic Café. Energy was kept high by the music, but after a long trip everyone was happy when we pulled in Oceanside East where they could be reunited with their families and that much closer to taking a nice long shower and sleeping in a bed.
Mere here! Thank you to the Class of 2015!! This has been such an incredible year for you and I am so proud of how you have risen to the challenge – whether it was leaving everyone and everything you love to go on this trip, participating in the leadership program, participating in the internship program, trying a new sport just for the hec of it, challenging yourself to join Trekkers this year in the first place or doing all of the above! As you get older and your lives become more complicated, I know how difficult it is to leave it all behind for a 10-day Trekkers trip. I am so grateful for your trust, commitment, loyalty and friendship to me and the program. I know there are a lot of unknowns about the future, there always will be, but you are some of the bravest people I know to be even willing to look at these things dead-on. If you stick to what you value and what you know is true to your heart, you really can’t make a wrong choice. Of course it can’t hurt to look under the hood so to speak, and challenge your values every once in a while to make sure they still serve you. What you wanted as a 9th grader could be quite different then what you want now, change and transformation is good, expected and necessary in order to thrive. Trust that common themes will surface…start by looking at your passions and what makes you feel alive. Something may not see like it’s absolutely perfect at first, but it may be stepping stone along the way so go with it if it feels the most perfect out of all the other options…and trust your gut. I’ll leave you with this quote that encapsulates what I’m talking about better than I can right here:
“There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”– Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook)
With so much love I could explode,