ROCKLAND – Two Trekkers teams have returned from 12-day Cross America trips to Colorado and Utah, with one more team (Team Sequoia) there now. These are the first students to get on a plane for their expeditions since the pandemic began, leaving behind families, friends, and phones. This summer, one in seven Trekkers students have reported leaving home or being away from family or friends as the most challenging part of their expedition.
Program Director Brandon Caron says this is important. “There’s no question that the last few years have been really hard on young people. I think one of the most effective remedies to adverse experiences is positive experience. Being able to explore the truly stunning landscapes of the Rocky Mountains and the red rock canyons in Utah is so important for students right now. This is the type of experience that expands one’s view of the world and all that exists for opportunities in it. It allows our students to return home with a better sense of themselves and where they come from, and to have an optimistic outlook on what’s still ahead.”
The Colorado trips depart against the backdrop of an ongoing youth mental health crisis. Across the country, research shows an increase in loneliness, even though internet use has also increased. For teens, “they’re hanging out with friends, but no friends are there,” said Bonnie Nagel, a psychologist at the Oregon Health & Science University. “It’s not the same social connectedness we need and not the kind that prevents one from feeling lonely.” (link)
This year’s program evaluation data shows 5 in 6 Trekkers students report positive increases in relationships with peers. 88% report more interest in learning because of the program. Recently graduated student board member, Kamryn Prior of Thomaston, says of her six years with Trekkers, “I think the best part is just meeting new people, making new friends. All of my favorite memories are things like going on adventures, hanging out on the bus, playing board games.” She continues, “I think [Trekkers] helped me learn how to go with the flow…honestly, I think my best memories come from last-minute changes. In ninth grade, [our team] got snowed in and so we had a Trekkers Olympics…[to] make due with our situation – we always come up with something fun to do.”