The numbers of students who return for a 2nd and even 3rd VISIONS summer have grown steadily over the years. In October we received an email out of the blue that made our day from one such participant. Sylvia Murray, a veteran of three different VISIONS programs (Peru, Nicaragua and Vietnam last summer) is now a freshman at Goucher College in Baltimore.
“After spending three consecutive summers with VISIONS in three different countries, I want to thank VISIONS for what it has given me. Sitting here now, in my college dorm room starting a new chapter of life, I find myself constantly reflecting on my experiences with VISIONS. VISIONS has definitely helped mold me into the person I am today. I have gained the most intimate friends through VISIONS and now have friends and memories around the world.
The environment VISIONS programs provide is something I miss dearly throughout the year and cherish very much. You become so close to those around you and to the land around you. VISIONS has opened my eyes to the vast beauty of this earth and its people.
…The staff made the experiences all the more special and challenging. I always became friends with the staffers and loved spending time with them. They are some of the coolest people I’ve met in my life..truly inspiring beings.
What makes VISIONS so different from any other program is circle [the time VISIONS participants and staffers gather together a few nights each week to reflect on our shared experience]. Circle is a time that I grew to adore; it changed my way of thinking, reflecting, and expressing my thoughts and feelings to others.
I’m a stronger person because of VISIONS. I am a more worldly, confident…and peaceful person because of VISIONS. I want to thank every member of the VISIONS Service Adventures community for their dedication to the program and to the world.
I recommend VISIONS in a heartbeat. I have urged many friends to participate in VISIONS and every single one has loved it. I have even met students in college who have done VISIONS and have great memories… It’s a small world, and VISIONS definitely opens one’s eyes to that. With each program I further learned that the world is a community. We are all connected, and it’s guaranteed you will feel connected to yourself and the world after a summer with VISIONS. I can continue for pages about how VISIONS has touched my life but it will never satisfy all my thoughts. So, I can sum up all of it in just a few words: Thank you, for everything.”
Sylvia mentions her staffers—as we call our program leaders or counselors. There is no question that the staff is “the backbone of a safe, high quality program…” We could not be prouder of the historically high caliber individuals who lead VISIONS programs each season. Here are just a few of the many comments about staffers that came to us from 2008 participants and parents.
I was shocked by how wonderful each counselor was. Amanda Jacir, Montana
It was awesome! The staff were all amazing; it was exceptionally well run, and we did some great work. Erica Harris, Peru
The staff were extremely creative… [our program director] did a great job and made it a priority for us to make cultural exchanges with the communities. Patrick Fleming, Alaska
We could not have had a better director… Mara Goldstein, Dominican Republic.
Each of the counselors brought something amazing to the table – they were all so interesting and willing to share about their lives… Addie Manson, Virgin Gorda
I miss you all more than you can imagine… I just want to thank you…for all those moments of random greatness this summer. David Wenzel, Tortola
I just wanted to let you know how much you both influenced me this summer. I…will never forget either one of you and how much you’ve impacted me.
Emily Bauersfield, Guadeloupe [from an email to her two co-directors]
The leaders were amazing…. Stephanie Maurer, Vietnam
I was noticing the other day how each of the staffers was a role model…. I learned a lot from you guys. Blake Taylor, Peru (from an email to one of the staffers)
I again applaud your talent for finding some fine “adults” to run your program. These guys and gals were wonderful to work with and watch as they showed those kids how to work as a team…a great mix of patience, energy, and humor. Mark LaSalle, Director, Pascagoula River Audubon Center Audubon Mississippi
Colleen and the majority of the counselors were really enjoyed and admired by Emily… Ann Kassier, parent, Costa Rica
She really loved the counselors… Abby Horsburgh, parent, Vietnam
The VISIONS staff in Peru was able to take group cohesiveness to a high level by discussions and team building activities. The “Friends with Authority” [as the kids called their staffers] … were able to find the perfect balance of care-taking while allowing the students the freedom to explore on their own. The leaders were able to push the students to reasonable limits while keeping them safe. (As an Outward Bound instructor for seventeen years, I know how difficult this is.)
Jim & Judy Merritt, parents, Peru
Your VISIONS Story Here
Whether your story is similar to Sylvia’s, or completely different, we would love to hear from you about your VISIONS experience.
Was there a profound moment of insight that has stayed with you? Perhaps a surprising conversation with a community member? Maybe just a really hilarious thing that happened on the way to the work site? Send us your story and we might publish it in future Visionary newsletters.
We also invite you to post your stories on our Facebook Page. or consider submitting an essay for publication in a school or local paper or other organizations such as Teen Voices or Teen Ink.
Join us in telling the VISIONS story!