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Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

February 9, 2005

Tucker Farrar ’98 has combined his love of teaching with his love of the outdoors.

Helping troubled foster kids
Tucker Farrar ’98 organizes camping trips for kids in need of escape

For troubled youth of northern California, Tucker Farrar ’98 offers an introduction to rivers and forests, to snowboarding, stargazing, canoeing and cooking dinner on an open fire.

Farrar is the executive director of the Sacramento chapter of Today’s Youth Matter. It’s a non-profit organization that offers wilderness trips to foster-care children, and pairs them with mentors who offer emotional and academic support before and after their time in the woods.

“Our objective isn’t therapy,” Farrar says. “It’s letting them come to camp and be kids again.”

The approximately 45 children who participate in the program each year range in age from eight to 18 and are, in Farrar’s words, “starved for love.” Many were born into broken homes, where drug use and physical and emotional abuse were the norm. Most are angry or suffer from deep emotional trauma because of the loss or abandonment of one or both of their parents. They risk slipping into the cyclical, self-destructive behavior common to too many foster children.

Farrar founded the Sacramento chapter of Today’s Youth Matter in 2003 as a way to combine his penchant for teaching with his love of nature. He earned his teaching certificate at Princeton and, as a graduation present, spent three months with the National Outdoor Leadership School in Patagonia, training in mountaineering, mountain travel, and kayaking.

“That just totally turned my focus around toward not just teaching, but teaching in the outdoors,” he says.

After a year teaching biology and algebra at a Sacramento-area high school, Farrar decided he was not cut out for traditional classroom teaching. He wanted to continue to be a positive force for children, however. He was also about to get married, and his soon-to-be mother-in-law, who directs Today’s Youth Matter in the San Francisco Bay Area, suggested that he start a second chapter of the organization in Sacramento.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” Farrar says.

These days, Farrar spends most of his time recruiting volunteers and publicizing and raising money for the program, which is free to children and their foster families.

The kids are treated to weeklong summer camps in the woodsy Santa Cruz Mountains in California, backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada or winter snowboarding trips. A group of seven high school-aged kids went to the Olympic Games last summer in Athens.

Volunteers help staff the trips, then check in with the youth about every month for the following year to provide ongoing emotional support and advice. The kids come away with more than just good memories.

“They get the sense that there is some good in life, and there are people who love and care about them. They go away crying because they don’t want to leave, because of what they have to go home to,” Farrar says. “I’d like to think that they get hope.”

By Justin Nyberg ’01

Justin Nyberg ’01 is a reporter in San Francisco.

To learn more about Today’s Youth Matter, visit