A Word From Katherine Dayton, Executive Director



A Word From Katherine Dayton, Executive Director

What the VISIONS values say about us and about your summer, and why they’re important right now…


In preparation for a staff retreat this past fall, I reached out to some veteran leaders to ask, “What is VISIONS to you?” This was the first step to elucidating our values and why we exist. VISIONS started 29 years ago, and while our values can be deeply felt by almost any leader or student who has been part of a program, it’s another thing to put it into words.

I’d never before felt the need to document the feeling and base foundation of VISIONS. It simply got into my bones my first summer in the field (1996, Dominican Republic). Beyond that, how do you express something that is so individual and in a lot of ways is beyond words?

But it was a good exercise. Defining our organization’s values allows everything else to flow from those things; leader interviews and hiring, teen service projects, where we work, who is accepted to our programs, and how we carry ourselves in the field and in the world. They will also help to shape the experience of anyone on a future VISIONS community service program.

After hours of discussion, reflection, and editing, we think we’ve got it.

  • Community: We consider the whole person, the whole community, the whole ecosystem of living beings, and the Earth that supports us.

  • Knowledge: We are committed to continuous improvement through the gathering and attempted understanding of information and ideas about people, places, and things.

  • Respect: We are grounded in a mindful regard for the beliefs, convictions and cultures of others, and we trust that we will receive the same in return.

  • Fun: We take a spirited approach to our work. We celebrate successes and we encourage laughing with abandon, the linking of arms and minds, and believing in the magic of humanity.

To us, this is the recipe for “VISIONS magic.” This is our attempt at describing the indescribable. This is our effort of putting into words what so many over the years have felt. This is our solution to the insurmountable task of encapsulating on a page the soul, character, and principles that have contributed to almost 30 years of life-changing experiences.

Even though it was only a few months ago that I asked the question to our veteran leaders, it feels like a lifetime of change has taken place in our country. And with that change, the four definitions above have taken on more importance than ever before. If you consider turning those words into action, the ways we choose to demonstrate these values–how YOU choose to demonstrate these values–have the potential of creating an impact far beyond what we can imagine.

Just as I posed the idea to veteran leaders several months ago, I would like to turn to you to ponder the same question of “what is VISIONS to you?” Now, though, I challenge you to take it just a step further and turn those thoughts into action: How can YOU use the VISIONS magic to impact the world?


VISIONS in The New York Times