The New York Times Features VISIONS

Teen Travel and Service Programs

VISIONS, and specifically our Montana Blackfeet program, was spotlighted as one of the top summer teen travel programs that teach empathy through service learning.

New York Times: 5 Summer Programs for Teens That Teach Empathy Through Community Service

DEEP IMMERSION IN CULTURES AT HOME AND ABROAD:

“Visions is a 30-year veteran of service adventures, their itineraries veering more hard-core immersion (five to seven hours a day, four to five days a week) than in-and-out tour. A longstanding program on offering poverty assistance on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana also focuses on land preservation and infrastructure projects, like building renovations, fence repairs, building wheelchair ramps and schoolhouses. When not working on improving the community, volunteers also enjoy a bounty of cultural activities like attending a powwow, joining in sweat ceremonies, horse riding in Glacier National Park, and connecting with tribal historians and spiritual leaders.”

–The New York Times

In a feature by The New York Times, “5 Summer Programs for Teens That Teach Empathy Through Community Service,” VISIONS, a long-standing leader in transformative teen travel experiences, earned a place for its impactful programs.

The article illuminated not only the broad vision of the organization but also highlighted the Montana Blackfeet Indian Reservation program, an example of how community service and genuine immersion can help to cultivate empathy in teenagers. It also underscored how VISIONS prioritizes connections with the community over tourism, and that high school students who attend the program get to participate in activities and excursions during the non-work hours in the afternoons and weekends. 

VISIONS Executive Director, Katherine Dayton, commented that, “VISIONS views our service projects as a way of thanking the community for sharing their lives and traditions with us. Our leaders and teen volunteers leave each summer with such gratitude for the experience, and also with renewed interest in building community and finding ways to be of service in the world. Local partners, nonprofits and friends on the Blackfeet Nation—as well as at our other program sites— instill these values with our participants, and it’s because of those folks that we are able offer such meaningful service and immersion opportunities.”

The Montana program featured in the article is one of several teen community service programs offered by VISIONS. Other summer program locations include the Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands and Peru.

(VISIONS has worked in Montana and the DR since 1991; the BVI since 1992, and Peru since 1999.) VISIONS is known for its long-standing relationships with its host communities, which have all been working with the organization for 20 to 30+ years.

One of the greatest impacts these relationships have for teen volunteers is that they are welcomed like old friends and introduced immediately into local ways of life. 

Teen travel programs have become increasingly popular, offering young people not just adventures, but also opportunities to learn more about themselves and gain a greater perspective of the world. The ongoing popularity of the New York Times article reflects how parents and teenagers see the importance of such programs in helping to build a fulfilled and outward-facing life. 

Dayton went on to say that she believes there are some fundamental philosophies that make VISIONS programs transformative. “In addition to the value we place on local connections, we emphasize inclusive group dynamics, taking care of each other, connecting to the land, and also maintaining tech-free experiences. While we’ve always been tech-free, in the past few years this has become increasingly important. We all need a break from the lure of screens, and this tech break makes it possible for teens to be present in the experience, improve mental health and face-to-face engagement, and have a ‘reset’ that has lasting effects, long after the summer programs are over.” 

With respect to the Blackfeet program in particular, high school students get to live on a conservation ranch where they help with caretaking responsibilities, and most other service projects take place in the main reservation town of Browning. Kids also help with fencing for the Buffalo Program, work at the Child Nutrition Program, do environmental initiatives, and more. 

Cultural and recreation activities include setting up teepee lodges for ceremonies, attending the powwow, going horseback riding with Blackfeet outfitters, completing an introductory rock climb, hiking and doing an overnight camping trip.

In addition to the New York Times article, VISIONS has been spotlighted many times over the years in national and regional publications. Perhaps most significant to the organization have been the articles published in their host communities.

About VISIONS Service Adventures:
VISIONS Service Adventures is a leader in providing immersive service experiences for high school volunteers. Since 1989, VISIONS has been committed to creating meaningful connections between volunteers and communities, fostering personal growth, cultural exchange, and positive social impact. With a focus on real immersion, VISIONS offers unique programs that go beyond traditional service trips, allowing participants to engage deeply with local cultures and contribute to sustainable development initiatives.

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VISIONS in The New York Times