WHAT PARTICIPANTS SAY ABOUT OUR GAP YEAR PROGRAMS

Written Testimonials

young woman wearing red top smiling

CORI SHOOTER

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

OSCAR WOLFENSTEIN

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

JUNIPER NIELSEN

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

KIERAN SMITH

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

AUGUST BRAATEN

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

TOWNER SCHUNK

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.

woman in yellow fleece smiling in a red rock canyon

HERO KLIMEK-BROOKS

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

RACHEL GOVETTE

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

MILLA VON TAUBER

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.

ruby

RUBY JUNG

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 man with a backwards hat stand in front of a blue ocean

CHRIS FERRER

Piscataway, NJ

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

ANNA BUTCHER

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

CLAYTON CLEMETSON

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

CONNOR MCWARD

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

SOPHIA WAHANIK

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.

Video Testimonials