Teen Service Trips


VISIONS programs have been changing the lives of teenagers for 35 years. Our philosophy revolves around excelling in one endeavor, which has led us to craft programs resting on the powerful pillars of purposeful community service, immersive cultural experiences, adventurous exploration, and fostering strong communities. This is not a teen tour. It’s an opportunity to extend your boundaries and evolve into a fuller version of yourself.

Cooperative Service

When it comes to determining community needs, we believe our local partners know best. 

That’s why our community service projects meet the pressing concerns of the community. From building classrooms to environmental initiatives and home renovations to animal shelters, the work is hands-on and directed by mentors who work side by side with our teen volunteers.

Community development projects involve carpentry, masonry or adobe construction. No previous experience is required—just a willingness to work hard. VISIONS programs also include social service such as running day camps for children, environmental initiatives and animal welfare.

In addition to all of the skills acquired, students expand problem-solving abilities, resilience and teamwork. The sense of accomplishment and personal growth is a lasting reward and carries through to future endeavors.

“I can truthfully say I have never had so much fun with such amazing individuals, completing projects that will benefit so many people.”

—Patrick Fleming, Connecticut

I loved seeing how much one small group of people can accomplish.

—Lizzie Friedman

I learned a lot by
from the 
world for four 

—Jory Lindekugel


At VISIONS, almost everything we do is driven by the desire to connect with local culture and friends.

We start by removing a major obstacle to connection: tech devices. This gives us the opportunity to be present and develop new relationships. (Many alums say that being tech-free was part of what made the experience so exceptional!) Meanwhile, our decades of working with local communities means that teens are welcomed like family.

We join in cultural events, festivals, and more intimate gatherings such as bonfires and cookouts. Our Spanish immersion programs provide real-world opportunities to improve language skills. To encourage cultural awareness, some VISIONS programs include a day stay with local families. We understand community members are not subject matter for us to study—they are our friends. We believe fostering this deep sense of community is an instrumental component of shifting perspectives and making the world a better place.

I love how VISIONS allows us to be really immersed at the location. I always feel like I’ve been living there my whole life.

—Grace Lee, California

Adventurous Exploration

Connection to the natural world bolsters our connections to each other and ourselves.

VISIONS teens will enjoy spending well-deserved time off in beautiful and fascinating settings. Most days after work, we unwind closer to home with activities such as workshops with artisans, swimming, hiking, shopping at local markets or playing games with neighborhood kids. Weekends are for full-day excursions, trips and events. (Because all VISIONS locations include volunteer projects and cultural immersion, consider choosing a program based on the excursions that interest you most.)

We also adventure off the beaten path: hiking in Montana, beachcombing in the Dominican Republic, exploring Machu Picchu in Peru and more. Along the way, we have fun and stay open, allowing each experience to enrich our understanding of the world.

The adventure and excursions were definitely a favorite part of the program—I have never had the opportunity to do anything like this before!”

—Claire Brobson, Pennsylvania

It taught me that taking risks can lead to beautiful experiences and growth.

—Sylvan Lebrun

The most
and mentally
summer I’ve

—Alexandra Tatarski


One of the most exciting aspects of a VISIONS summer is the change from life at home.

Away from all your usual habits and schedules, you begin to discover new things about yourself, and new ways of being in the world. VISIONS students and leaders live together in the heart of the host community—in rented houses, community centers, or schools—making it easy to become immersed in the fabric of daily life.

This is not a “teen tour” with daily excursions to faraway locations. Instead, we settle into our home away from home, embracing both special events, such as cultural ceremonies, and the day to day. Each work day, volunteers choose from multiple projects, either returning to a favorite or opting to change things up.

One day per work week, each student serves on the “homebase crew,” cooking breakfast and lunch, shopping at local markets for upcoming meals (meat and vegetarian options are provided; see FAQ for details), cleaning our living space, doing laundry and running errands. Homebase crew day balances out the work week and increases the sense of place, as well as independence.

My program was absolutely amazing. I was surrounded by the most incredible people 24/7, and that really makes a trip like this.

—Sierra O'Brien, Kentucky


VISIONS leaders keep our programs safe and dynamic.

These conscientious, motivated and compassionate mentors truly enjoy working with teenagers. Mostly in their mid-20s to mid-30s, our leaders are former Peace Corps volunteers, teachers, graduate students, wilderness instructors and more. They understand that young people have tremendous energy, empathy and enthusiasm, and are skilled at turning these qualities into effective action.

Leaders are certified in First Aid and CPR, and many hold advanced safety certifications. And here’s the kicker: With an almost unheard-of average ratio of one leader to every four or five participants, VISIONS ensures that everyone gets the most out of these relationships and the entire experience.

Our leaders provided us with wonderful guidance and acted as role models, teachers, and friends.”

—Katie Grossman, Pennsylvania

They worked
beside us
as peers
and gained
the respect
they needed
as leaders.

—Jessie Weiser

The sense of camaraderie
is something I will never forget.

—James Robbins

Group Dynamics

Inclusive and healthy group dynamics are a priority for VISIONS.

That’s why we insist on a couple of requirements that differ from most teen service programs. First, most of our participants come solo, and no more than two friends can attend the same program together. This helps create a productive dynamic and encourages students to get to know people whose paths they might not cross otherwise.

We maintain a very high leader-to-student ratio. This assures that students receive clear communication and guidance, as well as the opportunity to bond with a mentor. In addition, breaking the group into subsets on the worksites and for some activities means that everyone gets to be hands-on and engaged, instead of watching from the sidelines.

Teamwork is essential on VISIONS projects, both to ensure the work is completed and to afford participants that special sense of belonging that comes when everyone pulls together. Our groups are large enough to include diverse personalities, backgrounds and interests—which makes for a vibrant exchange—but small enough to feel like a supportive family.

I had a wonderful experience that I know I will never forget and made friends that I will hope to keep forever.

—Justin Smith, Maryland

Circle Meetings

Three or four nights a week, we sit down together in a circle.

This deliberate slow-down is an opportunity for everyone to speak their minds and hearts honestly, openly and voluntarily. We set this time aside to build our summer community, intentionally and step by step. Issues that arise naturally in a group of people who live and work together are acknowledged and addressed. In the process, circle meetings unite the group, help new insights stick and bind all of the other elements of the program together.

These gatherings also encourage self-reflection and awareness of one’s impact on others. If we are able to feel, think and behave thoughtfully within our group, we are more likely to positively influence the community in which we live. Learning to listen to others and become more comfortable giving genuine feedback helps participants communicate with each other and make constructive life decisions down the road.

I think that Circle is something that really sets VISIONS apart. It provided us with emotional outlets and got us to reflect on the work we were doing. I had the experience of a lifetime.

—Adrien Rolet, U.K.

Circle helped show me the person I want to be.

—Paden Dvoor

What kids and parents say about us is more telling than what we say about ourselves.

VISIONS in The New York Times