Trekkers held a graduation ceremony June 6 to honor 14 graduating seniors who recently completed the six-year youth mentoring program.

Leading the awards ceremony was Trekkers’ Program Manager Emily Carver. As the students were honored, Carver “roasted” them individually with humorous gifts and a slideshow that featured some of the unique and unforgettable moments from the many expeditions the students participated in over the past six years.

This was a particularly poignant graduation as Carver herself will be leaving the organization to pursue a Master of Social Work degree after almost eight years of service to the organization, first as an AmeriCorps member and then as a full-time program manager.

“It has been incredible to see the transformation that has taken place in these students over the last six years," said Program Director Meredith Lynt. "None of that would be possible without dedicated staff like Emily. Emily built a community of caring adults around these young people during the most tumultuous years of adolescence. It takes courage and perseverance to make this kind of commitment. Emily also joined us at a time of slow but steady expansion. Trekkers really would not be where it is today without Emily’s contributions.”

The students entered the program in seventh grade as part of Teen Trekkers, where they spent three days exploring the outdoors with adults from the community — camping, canoeing, and engaging in group activities and journaling around nightly campfires.

Continuing into their eighth-grade year, students worked throughout the school year to plan a 14-day expedition. They used consensus-based decision-making to design their year-end expedition around five educational components: Community Service, Cultural Awareness, Environmental Education, Adventure-based Education, and Wilderness Exploration. Their two-week educational expedition that year included visiting Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

In ninth grade, the students completed their Ride Through History expedition by exploring Boston, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, while learning about our country’s founding.

For their 10th grade Cross America expedition, students elected to travel to the Rocky Mountains region of Colorado, where they went whitewater rafting down the Arkansas River, completed a cultural exchange with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, explored Mesa Verde, studied the environmental uniqueness of the Rocky Mountains area, and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity.

Last year, as high school juniors, the students embarked on their College and Career Exploration, where they visited colleges and trade schools in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

And this past April, they completed their Trekkers experience, including a 36-hour wilderness solo, during the Rites of Passage expedition in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

In total, this year’s graduating Trekkers class visited 18 colleges and universities, traveled to 12 states, and hiked in countless state and national parks. They volunteered at food banks and completed many service projects in inner-city settings. They participated in cultural exchanges with Urban Trekkers from Camden, New Jersey, the Zen Center of Pittsburgh and the Southern Ute Tribe in Colorado. They went spelunking, attended a major league baseball game, visited the Holocaust Museum, and hiked Independence Pass at the Continental Divide, in addition to countless other adventures.

Eight of these graduating seniors were also part of the student leadership program. Trekkers hopes to see them return as adult mentors, guiding their younger peers during expeditions in the future.

Trekkers is a nonprofit outdoor-based mentoring program that connects young people with caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education. As a preventative, community-based program, Trekkers brings students and adult mentors together to build meaningful relationships over a period of six years.

This model, in turn, creates a safety net for local youth who are civically engaged and oftentimes return to Trekkers as adult volunteers themselves. Trekkers serves the communities of Cushing, Owls Head, Rockland, South Thomaston, St. George and Thomaston. For more information, visit trekkers.org or call 594-5095.