Katherine Dayton

Title
Executive Director
Katherine Dayton's commitment to international community service programs emerged early on during her first season in 1996 as a VISIONS leader in the Dominican Republic. Katherine has led programs in Montana, Peru, Nicaragua and Ecuador, and she served as Community Liaison to our partners in Latin America before becoming VISIONS Executive Director in 2009.
Katherine Dayton, Executive Director for VISIONS Service Adventures

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Being a part of VISIONS gives such purpose to my day-to-day work and life. I feel like VISIONS provides a platform, or springboard and foundation, where my passion for affecting the world in positive ways can take shape and be realized more fully.

I’ve grown and changed in ways that often relate to how to work with other people in productive, supportive, and fun ways. VISIONS is all about community and community-building, but that requires communication, compromising, and sharing basic values. I’ve had to be mindful of those things.

I’ve learned to actively seek feedback, learn what everyone has to offer, and do what it takes to sustain a healthy community of individuals — both in our home office and with our partners all over the world.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

The best I’ve heard is that the program changed their life. I’ve heard that over and over through the years, and it thrills me as much today as it did the first time I heard a student say it.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would choose one of our Montana Indian Reservation programs. I love international travel as much as the next person, but I’m always surprised and transfixed by how different another culture can be that’s right here in our own country. The reservations are a whole other world in so many ways, and after 20 years spending time on them, there are still new things that I continue to learn, see, and be inspired by.

Another reason I would want to experience one of the Montana programs is that there is so much service work that can be done there. Basic infrastructure, housing, and school facilities are in need, and there’s no shortage of ambitious construction projects to make for a really meaningful experience.

Also—and this is an important one for me — the surrounding backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and national parks are pretty irresistible.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Something that makes VISIONS unique is that we have always been a cross-cultural community service organization. Long before community service was widely popular or required for graduation, VISIONS was taking teenagers on service trips.

The longevity and the commitment to our values is part of this — we’ve been working in most of our program sites for at least 15 years, and in some for 25+ years.

VISIONS has never simply followed the latest trends in program types or destinations. Instead it’s always been about a commitment to high-quality programs and with long-term, collaborative relationships at the core. I think the kids on our programs feel this, as they’re really welcomed like family when they arrive to our host communities.

I was especially proud of our team during one of our recent staff retreats. In planning for the retreat, we asked past leaders to write comments about what VISIONS means to them, and we shared all of those comments with new office colleagues.

The things the summer leaders wrote captured so much of the magic and uniqueness of VISIONS that our office team seemed to have an immediate understanding of why the organization means so much to so many people, and over so many years.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

One of the biggest factors in VISIONS success is that we have always stuck to what we do best: cross-cultural community service programs. We aren’t trying to be all things to all people. Instead, we run a focused model that has proven successful year after year.

Although each summer and program location is unique, there isn’t a whole lot of experimentation going on in terms of how we collaborate with our host communities, how we manage service projects, and how we deliver great growth experiences for the teens who attend.

Everything comes back to that bedrock of relationships and community-building. And from that foundation, VISIONS has been incredibly successful at running meaningful cross-cultural community service experiences.