Gap Year Testimonials

young woman wearing red top smiling


Belfast, ME

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.

Young man with long curly hair smiling with ocean behind him


Seattle, WA

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.

Gap year student at the bottom of the Black Canyon


Madison, WI

This program holds many surprises. Whether climbing a mountain, learning about local ecology, playing a city wide game of hide + seek, or planning a community celebration, every day brought new adventure. The passion of staff and energy of my peers continually inspired and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and dive into new experiences.

Young man smiling wearing floral shirt in Colorado desert


Nevada City, CA

If you are looking for a Gap Year program where you expect the unexpected, this is it. Be prepared for something that will change you in ways you never anticipated. This program is an amazing combination of outdoor leadership skills, emotional growth, and community building, which makes for an amazing Gap Year that could never be repeated.

Smiling gap year student, August


Middleton, WI

The High Desert Center has been one of the greatest surprises of my life. I went into it knowing very little but came out feeling good about community, life skills, and myself. Here I pushed myself and challenged myself day to day. I also found that my sense of community pushed me in many areas as well. I made friends with people from around the US and created deep meaningful connections with them in just a matter of a few weeks.

Gap Year student sitting outside


Atlanta, GA

I don’t think any amount of reviews could accurately capture the magic that is the High Desert Center. I applied to the program unsure of who I was as a person or what I wanted in life, and found a community that not only accepted me, but celebrated me for everything that I am. From day one, it felt like everyone wanted to tear down their walls and be as authentically themselves as possible.

young man playing fiddle


Belfast, ME

I didn't realize how much I had growth and change that I underwent on the High Desert Center gap year until I went back four years later. As soon as I stepped onto the land and looked around at the buildings, many of which I helped build on my gap year, I realized how much of myself still lives and thrives here. I spent a moment soaking up the warm sun and mountain air, remembering.

young woman in the mountains wearing a tutu


Severna Park, MD

The High Desert Center helped me to grow in the best way possible! By doing this program, you will become a part of a loving and supportive community learning and growing together. I leaned so much during this year from backpacking and orienting skills to the basics of fusion dance. I have also learned so much about myself and how to communicate with others.

high school graduated woman smiling in a field


Miami, FL

If you want a life-changing experience that broadens your perspective, expands your skills, and teaches you how to more deeply love the world around you the HDC is the place for you. It is hard to put into words how much I grew over this year. This is a place where you can challenge yourself in an unexpected ways with the support of a community at your side. This allowed me to explore myself and how I want to exist in the world.

Lily Amberson


Rye, NH

My experience at the HDC has been one of the most formative experiences of my life. I went into it thinking I knew what I was getting myself into- a gap year program centered around community, sustainability, and adventure. In reality, it is so much more. The people you meet here become your family and the adventures you'll go on are unforgettable and out of the ordinary.

young man with sunglasses by the water


Lexington, MA

While I recently finished my one and only semester at HDC, reflecting back on it almost feels like a dream to me. I can still vividly remember the first day being there and how I already felt so comfortable. I loved how personal and open everyone was. From the participants to the staff, everyone got along on a personal level in some way.

student standing in front waterfall


Belmont, CA

My time at the High Desert Center was life-changing. Even though I was only there a semester, the friends I made and the perspective I gained will definitely stay with me. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the simpler things in life, for what it means to live life to the fullest and create a community with like-minded people.

woman in yellow fleece smiling in a red rock canyon


Seattle, WA

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.

young person with short hair and glasses smiling


Suisun City, CA

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.

young person with short, blue hair smiling


Savannah, GA

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.



Milwaukee, WI

This program strengthened and developed my passions! I fell in love with dancing every day, community meals, late night conversations, sleeping under the stars, and the adrenaline rush of exploring and backpacking the gorgeous backcountry of Colorado I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to dive deep into the next step of life in an off the beaten path kind of way.

young people camping on a beach in Baja


New Jersey

Meeting the directors Dev and Marian for the first time was a breath of fresh air. They were so welcoming, and I could tell they would take such good care of everyone. Over the course of the year, they proved to be incredible mentors! I had so many first time experiences, like climbing a mountain, backpacking, traveling the southwest in a van, and going to Mexico!

young womangives enthusiastic thumbs up in front of a canyon


Stamford, VT

The program’s combination of adventure, challenge, and support made for an amazing year with strong friendships and connections between other participants and staff members alike. The group was able to bond over things like hiking in the back country or cooking food in the outdoor kitchen. I wouldn’t have traded this experience for any other.

young man with long hair ad a beard smiling


Belfast, ME

Let me tell you about the mountains that we wake up to every morning, surrounded by sun-kissed peaks that offered weeks of back country exploration. Let me tell you about the delicious smell of bacon calling me from my bed just before the breakfast bell rings, bacon from a small organic farm down the road where we visited and worked with our hands in the dirt.

young man sitting on the edge of a boulder


Chicago, IL

The High Desert Center taught me so much about myself, all while pushing me in new directions and encouraging me to follow whatever path that might lead to. By the end of it, I had climbed mountains, gone backpacking through canyons, and experienced community living to a refreshing degree. This place and its people forced me to confront myself as I was, and though it was hard to contend with that, I had support from every direction.

young woman smiling with her hand in the air standing on a hole in the snow


Rohnert Park, CA

During this gap year I have grown into myself. I first joined the High Desert Center (HDC) feeling unsure about the future and nervous about my responsibilities in it. Throughout this year I have become grounded in my sense of self and excited to go out into the world. I attribute this to the spaciousness of the program.

Writing Retreat Testimonials


Santa Clara, CA

The HDC writing retreat is a fantastic experience for people who are looking to broaden their horizons, spend some time living a rustic life up in the mountains, build a close community of supportive, open minded people and writers, and of course, write as much as you want. There's strong support for emotional wellbeing, creative goals, and personal development.

Rachel Gorman-Cooper

New Rochelle, NY

The High Desert Center writing retreat equipped me with SO many skills, such as: concrete and employable writing/creative skills, communication and interpersonal relationships skills, independent living skills such as cooking/cleaning, games and dancing, and general evolution as a person.


Wakarusa, IN

The writing retreat with HDC allowed me to disconnect from the distractions and stresses of my life, which help me to fall in love with writing again. I learned a lot of things and overall improved my confidence as a writer. I also made amazing connections with all types of people, and got to explore the beautiful town of Paonia.



I came to the High Desert Center as a part of my gap summer before starting my graduate program (MA in Creative Writing). Working alongside other writers around my age was an absolute blast, compared to other writing retreats that only cater to older adults, and I would highly recommend this retreat to any writer.


Franklin, TN

During my writing retreat I was able to pursue a hobby of creative writing without feeling pressured for it to be perfect or complete. it was a great environment to spend time doing anything.  The staff was very supportive and I always felt welcomed to join in with others during free time.  Some nights I spent laying in the field looking at stars while others I wrote into the night.



The High Desert Center Writing Retreat 2022 was a great experience. I had a really fun time and I will never forget my time there and the people I stayed with. The staff were very welcoming and accommodating and very helpful. I learned a lot of valuable skills. Gorgeous view!

Video Testimonials