The High Desert Center Gap Year

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About

Our Gap Year Programs are designed for people who want to have fun in life. Not the kind of fun that comes with escaping our lives but rather the kind of fun that comes from living with a sense of adventure and curiosity; the kind that comes from continually choosing the courage to be real and vulnerable and go for what matters; the kind that comes from being okay with messing up because you went for it.

One of our goals is to unlearn conventional institutional ways of thinking, to recognize and transform staff/student divisions and power hierarchies that we often create by habit since most of us have grown up surrounded by power hierarchies in school, work or our families. These habits are obstacles to what we all crave, which is a sense of connection, shared purpose, mutual respect, and freedom.

We inspire people to thrive and to contribute to the well-being of human and natural communities.
We ask questions. We dialogue. We adventure and take on real-world challenges.

Highlights
  • Live the good life while climbing mountains and hiking canyons, baking your own bread, learning community living skills, and exploring sustainable living.
  • Experience small town, off the beaten path Mexican culture and learn about pressing border and environmental issues.
  • Be part of a homespun family that challenges you to deeply understand and experience your inner self, your world, and your options.
  • Adventure with fellow participants who are creative innovators, young people in charge of their own education already making things happen in the world.
  • Imagine sleeping on top of the van under the stars, listening to coyotes, being with best friends, knowing that the next day anything could happen.

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Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.83 Rating
based on 12 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 100%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Housing 9.1
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.8
  • Value 10
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 8 of 12
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Towner
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Desert Experience

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. I had formed stronger connections with people I'd known for a couple weeks, than I had with people I'd known my whole life. I grew emotionally by learning to get more in tune with my feelings, physically as we interacted with nature through biking or backpacking trips, and mentally as I overcame the doubts I had about myself. I laughed till my stomach hurt, learned survival skills, created pots out of clay I made myself, biked 50 miles in a day, learned how to farm/live sustainably, and literally so much more. I truly believe anybody could gain something from coming to the High Desert Center.

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August
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

High Desert Center

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 was able to push myself and challenge myself day to day, I also found that my sense of community pushed me in many areas as well. Coming here I was able to make friends with people from around the US and create deep meaningful connections with them in just a matter of a few weeks. I lived in an environment of constant support and love that I'd struggle to find in other areas of my life. The number one take away has been how much I learned about who I am And what I was capable of, the people of HDC improved my confidence and I learned more about life skills and independence.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Id be way more open to the challenges it presented
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Kieran
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Good times in an arid climate

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. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, filled with quirky, creative adventures like getting lost on purpose and finding your way back--the affordability compared to other programs was also a huge benefit. If you are considering it--DO IT!!

What was your funniest moment?
Me and two friends made a podcast about octopi taking over the world.
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Sophia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Loving community

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. Its leaders are inspiring, authentic, supportive and always ready to launch into epic and meaningful experiences . This is a beautiful place, perfect to start investigating the true meaning of community and adventure.

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Connor
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A gap year to remember

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. There was never a day where someone wasn't willing to take a walk. So if you are looking for an adventure, both externally and internally, then this is the place for you.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
When my backpacking group tried to climb over a mountain to take a shortcut all with packs on our back, only to find at the top there was no way over. I kept my head down and kept climbing, and soon enough I was on flat ground.
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Clayton
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Empowering and "Real"

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. Let me tell you about how I learned to thrive with less, how to live simply and cheaply, and minimize my impact on this environment. Let me tell you about the triumphs and tribulations of living in close community as I learned how to communicate and navigate conflicts. Let me tell you how I became empowered to notice and shift inner patterns and habits that didn't serve me, learning tools to liberate myself from myself. Let me tell you how I was guided by staff that supported me and made space to truly hear and see me. This gap year changed my life. If it calls to you, I encourage you to take the leap.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would open up more and talk to the staff and other participants about my inner fears and challenges rather than trying to hide from them or hide them from others. I would make the most of the numerous learning opportunities that arise at HDC. I would put more thought into my personal goals and how they align with HDC opportunities. And I would spend more time in the Paonia community, getting to know some of the amazing people that live in the area.
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Anna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing leaders

The directors, Dev and Marian, are both incredibly intelligent, caring and skillful leaders. They created an open, safe space for individuals to create community and share their stories. 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.

What was your funniest moment?
When we played board games in the strawbale, there were so many times where everyone ended up on the floor laughing so hard we cried.
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Chris
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Talk about ADVENTURE!

Let's just say I felt STUCK! But that literally changed overnight when my friend received an email spreading the word about this wild opportunity. We clicked the link to The High Desert Center's website advertising the 2016-2017 gap year program, and I was blown away. We read about the previous gap year and all the experiences they offered in the program. I felt like I found the way out of feeling so stuck. I applied the next day! When I found out I was accepted, I was ridiculously excited.
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!
Of course there were were challenges, and I was often encouraged to step a little outside of my comfort zone (like being a total city boy and then told that I would be using a composting toilet for the majority of the time), but I always felt really supported and listened to when I had any concerns. I felt very safe with Dev and Marian and the rest of their staff. They taught us a lot about open and honest communication, and I think that learning those skills with them in such a safe space changed my life!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would do more! I wish I took every opportunity for adventure they offered or that was thought up by other participants. If I got another chance to do a minimalist backpacking trip or hike in and out of the Grand Canyon in one day, I'd say HELL YES.