The chance to be seen and accepted for who you already are. The chance to become who you want to be. The chance to see the world for what it is and what it could be.
We teach the skills that change your experience, like how to make everyday life an adventure, how to take care of yourself, how to make a difference, how to connect.
We inspire rather than coerce. We are homespun and informal. We dumpster dive, skinny dip and challenge you to be real. We get dirty. We think big.
Our participants don’t want to sign up for a program; they want to create the program. They don’t want rules; they want choices and opportunities.
Thru hiking: Mexico to Utah.
March -May 2019
Thru-hike the Arizona trail–800+ miles of rugged, challenging terrain stretching from the border of Mexico to the border of Utah. Along the way, we will learn songs and harmonies, pursue cool skills, and examine border issues and immigration policy.
A semester exploring the South West.
15 weeks of high-powered learning and adventure with the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab focused on the Colorado River. Travel from high in the snow-covered high mountains of Colorado to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico and back again.
The High Desert Center completely changed my outlook on life. I learned to live in a place where truly anything felt possible. I discovered a love for backpacking and the fact that living in three shirts and two pairs of pants for a month wasn’t all that hard! I created relationships that will last me through the rest of my life. Dev and Marian welcomed me into their world with warm arms and helped me to learn about who I am. In traveling throughout the West and Mexico, I learned to be independent and that I'm fine without access to technology for lengths of time. I learned how to communicate with people even when we don’t speak the same language. While living in a group setting 24/7 was sometimes challenging, it prepared me for future living situations. I learned how to be vocal about my needs and also how to listen to others needs and make room for them. If I ever had the chance to participate on a program like this again, or if I was asked if I would do all again, I would say yes in a heart beat. It truly was an incredible experience!
My gap year at the High Desert Center was easily one of the most transformative, rich, and important experiences I’ve ever had. That year spent in the red canyons and tall mountains and juniper forests and small farms of Southwest Colorado brought me more growth, learning, joy and challenge than I ever imagined. Creating a strong, intentional community with the other participants and staff was a challenging and incredibly rewarding experience. The staff at the High Desert Center were inspiring, knowledgable and kind adults who strove to create an environment that fostered growth, community, and connection. They were there to guide us through the challenges of living in community, and I learned so much about myself and how I interact and communicate with other people.We built something really incredible together. I didn’t know it was possible to feel such a sense of belonging and purpose and empowerment in a community. I didn't think I’d ever feel so at home and so much like myself. Having the opportunity to live and learn at the High Desert Center taught me so many useful, practical skills, but the most important thing I learned is that I have a place in this world that is important, and I have the power to affect my community and my life. I am so much more empowered and confident than I was. I know that I can go out into the world and create the beautiful and meaningful life that I want for myself.
I was tired of going to college and being surrounded by students and professors who didn't want to be there. When I found out about the HDC gap year I read everything I could on the website. I was so excited. It seemed to provide the community and meaning that I felt I was missing in my life. And it turned out to be true. My group had it's challenges, but we became a second family because of it. At first, it was difficult to make decisions when everyone wanted something different, but after a lot of practice we started to get the hang of consensus. Even when things were hard, I always felt like I had support and love from everyone. I realized while I was there that I always want to live in a large group. While on the program I got the support to go out and try new things, from traveling on my own with a small budget and the faintest outline of a plan, to backpacking the canyons of the southwest. I love this place and these people so much and I just keep coming back. I'm forever grateful for the friends I've made here and the experiences I've had. I think it's even safe to say the High Desert Center has made a bigger impact on my life than anything else I've ever been a part of.
When I first arrived at the High Desert Center I could never have imagined how much I would grow to love and value all those unfamiliar faces I met in the airport. I wouldn’t have even dreamed of all the laugh-till-you-can’t-breathe moments, the sense of support and excitement every time we accomplished something together, and the tears both of sadness and of joy we would all share. If someone had told me on that first day the sense of achievement I would gain from summiting the peaks towering off in the distance, or the warm fuzzy feeling I would get every time I saw my community all together whether for a meeting or a meal, or how I would look back on who I was then and not feel embarrassed but rather proud of how hard I worked to be who I am now, I would have said “No, that’s impossible.” With the subtle, rock-solid support of the incredible staff, and the love and lessons I received from my peers, I was able to grow into the empowered, inspired, and capable person I am now. The community we built was what made my Gap Year experience what it was—challenging, fulfilling, joyful, and real. I recommend this Gap Year to any young person with the desire to build strong relationships, grow as a person, and be themselves.
Living among a group of people for a year is an experience unmatched, and taught me so much about myself and my interactions with others. The staff encouraged me to leave my comfort zone behind and strive to find the parts of life that truly inspired me. I left with the skills and experiences necessary to be a happy and confident member of the world and for that I will always be grateful. I got really inspired about partner dance, made a lot of connections, and these days I'm getting job offers to teach my passion.
At the High Desert Center, I felt for the first time in my life that I had a place and a purpose entirely to myself. The environment provides a hands-on education in sustainable living and community building, and the staff engages each participant earnestly, asking participants to discover what we truly care about and to explore the numerous options presented by our ambitions. Each day feels like an experience and adventure to itself, and also preparation for the great adventure of life. In short, I cannot recommend this gap year high enough to any young adult in the process of discovering fulfillment.
Dev thrives on adventure and connection with others. He’s had “normal” jobs like working for Sterling College, with inner city youth as a VISTA Volunteer, as a counselor at Not Back to School Camp, and as a river guide, but mostly he’s created off-the-beaten path adventures with teenagers. He has a Ph.D. in ecology and still now and then writes plant and animal guides with local youth. While working on his dissertation, he found himself being an advocate for students and families learning outside of the classroom. That advocacy turned into The Vision Program, which utilizes public funds to support over 600 students in learning however and wherever they want while still earning a diploma. Currently, he lives in funky old houses he built and shares land and meals with various folks and his family–Seraya, Huckleberry, Marian, and “adopted” teenagers.