This summer, Randolph High School sophomore Ethan Kohn will travel to Alaska with VISIONS Service Adventures, an international community service program for teens.
Kohn will join other high school students from around the world in a remote, native Athabascan village at the base of the Wrangell Mountains, where they will live in the community, get to know the local customs and traditions and tackle ambitious service projects.
“I am excited to get there and learn about the different culture and different lifestyle,” he said, adding the people in the village live in mud huts.
Ethan said he explored different service projects and thought that this one “was unique and different.” He will spend about three weeks in Alaska this summer.
“Students arrive with the intent of contributing to underserved communities, and end up a part of that community,” says Katherine Dayton, Executive Director of VISIONS. “They build relationships with other participants, mentors and community members, and step out of their comfort zones and into experiences that create lifelong impact.”
In Tetlin, the students will work under the direction of accomplished carpenters on projects such as home repairs, community center additions and smokehouse and woodshed construction. The people of Tetlin live a subsistence lifestyle, so the work of VISIONS aims to help them properly preserve resources to last through the winter months. This is the 24th summer VISIONS will spend in Alaska.
Afternoons and weekends are set aside for regional travel and exploring the home-base area. In Alaska, this includes activities like backpacking, ice climbing, lots of wildlife sightings, canoe trips, and weaving birch bark with local elders.
All programs are overseen by adult leaders and long-time local partners, who guide and teach the students in hands-on construction and other development projects. Beyond completing service projects, the summer is an opportunity for students to explore the idea of community in both a local and global sense. “VISIONS is not about construction projects,” explains long-time program leader David Kramer. “It is about deconstructing how we view the world and then framing a new vision upon the foundation of real experience with a global perspective.”
VISIONS has been running high school and middle school volunteer travel experiences since 1989 and is well known for programs that are centered on community-driven projects in cross-cultural settings. Locations include Alaska, the British Virgin Islands, Cambodia, Guadeloupe, the Montana Blackfeet and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and the Galápagos and Peru.