My Dream Job Leading Student Trips

Community Service with Teenagers in the D.R.

My interest in leading student trips started when I was living in Peru and met a couple of program leaders on a gap year trip. I had been teaching English overseas for a couple of years, and the extended time living in other countries and experiencing other cultures had been invaluable. It was easy for me to see how the people I had met and the highs and lows I had been through had already shaped and strengthened my character. Helping others have similarly defining experiences seemed like a dream job to me.

It took a few more years before it was something that fit into my life, but things fell into place last summer when I joined VISIONS Service Adventures to lead programs in the Dominican Republic. VISIONS long-standing relationships with their community partners appealed to me. It said a lot about the organization that all these people continued to want to work with them year after year.

In the years I spent living abroad, I never had the sort of community that I found in the Dominican Republic. VISIONS has had a homebase in the same neighborhood for more than 15 years, and some of our partners and local staff have been with us since our first summer there in 1991. Even though I had personally never been to the D.R. before, I was welcomed as if everyone already knew me. I had instant friends.

Our participants were treated much the same. They had about a night to get settled in relative peace, but after that, neighbors were almost always with us when we were at the homebase. Kids came over to braid hair, make friendship bracelets or teach us to play vitilla, a baseball-like game widely credited with preparing Dominicans for success in Major League Baseball. Impromptu dance parties were not uncommon.

All of this was fun, as were the beach days and other outings, like trips to the Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo’s beautiful colonial neighborhood, but this was still a job. (As VISIONS teaches during staff training, “It’s fun, but remember that it’s the kids’ summer and it’s the leaders’ job.”) I felt like I was “on” all the time, and despite being a lifelong insomniac, I slept long hours for several nights upon my return home.

Overall, though, the sense I got years ago in Peru turned out to be correct: leading trips with VISIONS is my dream job. My summer was so overwhelmingly positive that it led me to move to Montana and join the year-round office team. As we start to receive calls from families and process student applications for 2020 programs, I’m getting excited to get back into the field this summer where I will get to meet some of those students.

Now VISIONS is looking for compassionate, empathetic, culturally sensitive new leaders to join our team. If you are at least 22 years old, are hardworking (looking at you, VISIONS alumni!), and enjoy working with teenagers, I hope you’ll consider applying to lead a trip this summer. I invite you to email me with questions at stacey@visions-service.com or to go to our jobs page where you’ll find our application.

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