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HDC Gap Year | High Desert Center
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The Good Life isn’t something you find; it’s something you create.

Practice creating it at The High Desert Center.

WHO

14-18 participants, ages 17-23; plus our staff team

WHERE

Colorado, Mexico, Guatemala, and the South-West

WHEN

Sept 2, 2020 to April 26, 2021

COST

$8,450–Includes travel to and from Guatemala from Phoenix.

The High Desert Center Gap Year is comprised of three phases:

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The Simply Living Semester

September 2 – November 11 
This semester is about challenge and new experience in rural Colorado. You will learn the skills of self-sufficiency and community living. As a result you will experience personal growth, learning about what makes you feel alive and how to adapt in challenging circumstance. You’ll do this backpacking through mountains and canyons, canning peaches and making bread, meeting people who inspire you, and living the simple life.

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Winternship

November 12-February 14
Between semesters you will execute a self-designed initiative. The options are endless.  You can arrange independent apprenticeships, travel, work or adventure either near your home, in Paonia or elsewhere. During the fall semester we will support you to develop a meaningful project, sharing HDC resources and connections.  We provide weekly support on the phone during this phase of the year.

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The Wanderlust Semester

February 15-April 26 
You will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in Guatemala’s rich culture, study the language and the history, and explore volcanoes, jungles, and beaches. As you explore, complex global issues that influence daily life in Guatemala will come into focus.  Together, we will travel over land, on public transit, through the entirety of Mexico rather than flying. This gives you a more real experience and spews less carbon.

“My time with the High Desert Center was one of the most pivotal and inspiring experiences that I have ever had. I was in constant awe of the community I had been lucky enough to fall into the loving arms of, the epic places in which we adventured, and the new things that I learned daily. The High Desert Center bestows the gifts of deep compassion and curiosity upon their students. I’m left with their gifts of compassion and curiosity, relationships that will last me a lifetime, and an adventure that will be difficult to forget.”

-Willa Bryant

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“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 staff engaged each participant earnestly, asking participants to discover what we truly cared about and to explore the numerous options presented by our ambitions. Each day felt like an experience and adventure to itself, and also preparation for the great adventure of life. In short, I cannot recommend this gap year highly enough to any young adult in the process of discovering fulfillment.”

-Oscar Wolfenstein

When do I apply?

Today! We are currently accepting applications.

 

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Bonus! The HDC Homesteading Term

After saying our goodbyes in Arizona, Dev and Marian will drive back to Colorado. Participants who demonstrated a passion for work projects during the year and who love gardening and building will be welcome to join them for six weeks. During this time we will continue to share in community meals and tackle some fun projects that support the continuous growth of the HDC. We will ask for $50/week to cover food costs during this time.

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Affordability

When we ask our students why they chose us, many say words like “community,” “philosophy” or “strong recommendations.”  Another thing we commonly hear is that our programs are relatively affordable. Read more about how the HDC offers the most affordable gap year program out there.

The Gap Year FAQs

WHAT HAPPENS SECOND SEMESTER IF THERE ARE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS DUE TO COVID19?

February 2022, the time when we plan on heading down to Guatemala, is still a long ways off, and yet the future feels uncertain because of the global pandemic. If there are still international travel bans, we will change course and offer a modified version of our semester in the south west called the Watershed Semester and the Expeditionary Semester.  These are very popular programs that we have offered many times.

WHAT DOES OUR DAILY SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?

The answer depends on where we are and what we’re doing.  Most days we’ll be up with the sun, either going to a farm or biking to a mountain trailhead or canning peaches.  In the afternoon there is some individual time while the cooks make dinner.  After dinner there might be a meeting and check-ins followed by dance or a campfire.  At least once a week we’ll have adventures and two days a week will be free days to explore the town, do laundry, and generally take care of yourself.

CAN MY FRIENDS OR FAMILY COME TO VISIT?

Yes, visits are possible.  Normally we ask people to only stay for a day or two and to not sleep in our cabins.  Finally, it is important that visitors get themselves to and from Paonia.  Generally we are too busy during the semester to be picking up visitors at airports or bus stations.

ARE THERE ANY ADDITIONAL COSTS?

The program fee includes all food, housing, transportation and activities while the group is together in Paonia. We will also cover the cost of travel to and from Guatemala. It does not include your individual transportation to and from Paonia, your living expenses in Guatemala, and optional spending money for personal purchases or activities. You will need to provide your own health insurance.  You will also be asked to come with some of your own outdoor equipment, like a sleeping bag, hiking boots and a water filter.  An equipment list will be provided after you are accepted to the program.

WHAT IF I HAVE SPECIAL FOOD NEEDS?

We are  accustomed to meeting the needs of vegetarians and vegans, although you should expect to eat local beans and walnuts rather than avocados and soy cheese.  We can also minimize gluten, although it has proven challenging to serve those who are strongly celiac (we have done it).  If you have special food needs that aren’t easily met with a local, whole foods diet, you might need to supplement with your own snacks.  Please talk with us well in advance about your special needs.

WHAT KIND OF PHYSICAL CHALLENGES SHOULD I BE PREPARED FOR?

 Participants should already be in decent shape by the time they arrive, able to comfortably walk six miles with a pack in two hours as backpacking in steep country will be a significant portion of this semester.

WHAT POLICIES & PROCEDURES WILL I BE ASKED TO AGREE TO IN THIS PROGRAM?

We will ask you to sign an agreement form that includes:

  • No use of drugs (including tobacco and marijuana) and alcohol.
  • Doing your share of cooking and cleaning.
  • Abiding by fire and general safety procedures.
  • Participating fully in program activities unless there is agreement otherwise.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

  • Participants, and their parents if participants are not legal adults, will be asked to sign a release form before the program starts acknowledging the risks associated with this program.  They include the risks inherent to backcountry travel in rough and remote county, traveling in Mexico, working on farms, and travel in vans and cars driven by staff.
  • Participants are often unsupervised by staff during days off and certain adventures.
  • Participants, by consent, may also engage in dumpster diving, skinny dipping, and other unconventional but safe adventures.

WHAT FORMS ARE NEEDED AS PART OF THE APPLICATION?

After the interview, if you have been offered enrollment, we will hold your spot for two weeks and ask you to make a $1000 payment and complete and send in medical history and consent forms as well as an acknowledgement of risk form.  When we receive these, we will formally accept you and give you a spot in the program.