Trekkers Youth Programming Principles

TTI leverages the evidence-based best practices and principles embodied by Trekkers for over 25 years. While implementation may vary based on location, we believe that all of these principles are replicable in other communities and organizations.

Created by Trekkers’ founding director Don Carpenter and enhanced through continuous practice at Trekkers.



Designing Intentional Program Delivery Systems for Long-Term Engagement


Fostering Mutual Trust Between Families and Program Staff


Developing a Skilled Network of Caring Adults and Peer Mentors


Applying a Comprehensive Approach to Youth Development Strategies


Creating a Community Support Network


Prioritizing Informal Relationship Building


Expanding Worldviews


Embracing Voice and Choice


Encouraging Community Engagement to Foster Personal and Societal Awareness


Raising Optimism and Postsecondary Aspirations


Utilizing Validated Assessment Tools to Promote Social-Emotional Development in Youth


These principles were created by Trekkers’ founding executive director Don Carpenter and enhanced through continuous practice at Trekkers.

For over 30 years, Don Carpenter has been a pivotal figure in the field of youth development. From 1998 to 2016, he served as Trekkers’ founding executive director and developed its unique six-year mentoring model. Since leaving Trekkers, Don has spearheaded statewide initiatives to promote post-secondary aspirations for rural youth, including championing Trekkers’ Youth Programming Principles.

Don specializes in cohort-based, relationship-centered program design, a skill refined while getting his master’s degree in environmental education from Lesley University and the Audubon Expedition Institute. Early challenges in Don’s life, marked by tragedy and opportunity, have fueled his unwavering commitment to young people. Don has established numerous youth-serving organizations and programs aimed at empowering urban youth, underserved rural students, migrant children and homeless teens.