Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder

Why choose Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder?

SStS essentially began with a question: what can we do? As classroom educators striving to teach our students about many of the pressing problems that exist in the world, as well as potential solutions for addressing them, students were understandably led to ask: what can we do?

SStS was created to provide them with an avenue to explore real-world answers to this question. By partnering with organizations that are actively implementing grassroots solutions in the communities that they serve, we strive to provide high school students with models for how meaningful change can occur.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Opening Up My Horizons

Every day, I had new experiences, some new and unordinary but all extremely fun and worthwhile! From dancing with locals to trekking mountains up to 14,00 feet to building the eco-waste bins. We helped our global community by encouraging proper waste management in Tibet, one of the most beautiful places in the world. This trip has helped me grow not only as a student but a leader but taught me that I have the potential to make a difference. I learned so many profound lessons on teamwork, collaboration, and embracing different cultures. One of my favorite memories was when we visited the monasteries. I couldn't believe it, here I was on the other side of the world embracing these awe-inspiring buildings, I was speechless. If you ever have the chance to embark on this breathtaking journey... take it!

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Yes, I recommend this program

My Experience in Peru With Students Shoulder to Shoulder

My experience in Peru through Students Shoulder to Shoulder was truly incredible. Our journey took us high into the Andean Mountains and into indigenous communities where we were able to work and connect with the locals of all ages. Though the language barrier made communication difficult, I felt I was able to bond with the locals on a deeper level through working, laughing, and simply spending time together. I am forever grateful for the experiences I shared and the connections I made. Even as my time in Peru grows further away, the memories are fresh in my mind as I continue to reflect and learn from my experience. As my journey through life and growth continues, my experience in Peru will forever remain near and dear to my heart.

What would you improve about this program?
I thoroughly enjoyed each aspect of the trip, and have no suggestions for big improvements. However, I do think packing additional cozy clothing like a warm sweatshirt and sweatpants would have been a great thing to have at night.
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Yes, I recommend this program

An Experience of a Lifetime

This summer I was given the opportunity to go on the Cambodia course with shoulder to shoulder and it was incredible. I learned so much about Cambodia and myself that I don’t even know where to begin. The countryside was gorgeous and the people were so nice. The group was also amazing and so were our instructors. As for me, I was able to learn so much about myself and how I could better appreciate the things that I do have instead of wanting the things that I don’t.

What would you improve about this program?
THis trip could definitely improve by having the students spend more time with the students and children who live on the island.
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Yes, I recommend this program

My Experience

I loved my trip to Cambodia! I got to try a ton of new foods and experience a completely different culture than my everyday life. My group's guide, Phiya, was super fun and helped us communicate with people. Living in the homestays on the island Koh Preah was such a cool experience. The families were so nice and welcoming. This trip made me think a lot about how people don't need a lot to be happy. It also made me aware of how much our society wastes precious resources like water by taking super long showers and leaving faucets on. My favorite memory from the trip was the volleyball game we played with some of the kids on the island. It was super fun and brought everyone together.

What would you improve about this program?
I think staying on the island longer would be awesome so we could develop more of a relationship with the families.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Kenya 2018

Something you won't find in the media is how genuine Kenyans are to one another. Everywhere you go, you're asked, "Umeshindaje? Habari ya nyumbani?" (How is your day? How is home?) This isn't just a formality. People want to see you through your own eyes, and create contact with you simply because you're both human beings with real feelings and lives.
At Kithoka Amani Children's Home, the impact of the way Dr. Karambu is raising these kids is clear. They are all independent, loving, and deeply understanding kids, even the little ones. I greatly miss Kelvin, Blessy, Caway, Tush, Favour, Evans, Edwin, Centi, Stacy, Nelly, Come, Hilda, Millie, Jen, and everyone else, but I am so thankful I got to have them in my life to show me what truly makes good people.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose to work with the Lama Pack Project through Student Shoulder to Shoulder last summer in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Student Shoulder to Shoulder is a global travel organization that works out of my school; many of my peers and teachers had recommended that I take a program with SStS and that is what initially inspired me to look into their programs.

I chose this particular program because I primarily had always wanted to go to Peru since I was very young. Something had always drawn me to the country. In addition, working with animals (horses) and spending time with the environment have been passions of mine for a long time so I was interested in working with the lamas and the environment in Peru. I also chose this program because I am very passionate about Spanish and therefore I was excited to have the opportunity to practice my Spanish and learn more about the language abroad.

What did your program provider assist you with?

While in Peru, my group was in charge of creating a lesson plan when we taught the children of Urubumba about the environment. We had assistance during this process and it was a rather enjoyable experience to create a lesson plan in a different language for the children. Aside from organizing the lesson plan, Student Shoulder to Shoulder and the Lama Pack Project assisted us with all of out other travel and trip logistics.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

One piece of advice I would give to someone working with the Lama Pack Project would be to do some primary research about the culture of Peru prior to your travels. While I did learn a lot about the Peruvian culture during my trip, I found it very helpful to do some research about the government, economy, environment, class system, and general culture of Peru before I left the states. This research was guided by Student Shoulder to Shoulder and I found that having a context for much of what I saw in Peru helped my better understand what I was experiencing in Peru.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

As a participant of this program, an average day changed slightly depending on where we were during the program. The first week, we would wake up to breakfast in the Lama Pack house and take a van to the school. We would review our lesson plan that we made the previous night. Then, we would teach the children about the environment during the morning before lunch. We also had a little bit of time to play and bond with the children during the morning.

After lunch, we would begin to work on the playground fixing equipment, painting tires and murals, pulling out overgrown grass, and cleaning the classrooms. Then, we would return to the Lama Pack House for free time and, some nights, time to walk into town. We would have nightly reflections and dinner before retiring for the evening.

During the second week when we were in Cancha Cancha, the average day would look a little different. We would wake up in the morning from our tents and sleeping bags (the nights were a little chilly) and we would eat breakfast in the home of one of the community members who was gracious enough to host us. Then, we would spend the day working on the tree nursery whether it was moving rocks, tilling the earth, removing grass roots, building a rock wall, cutting the saplings from trees up in the forest, or planting the saplings in the beds.

We paused midday to return to the house for lunch and an hour break. After our work during the day, we had free time before dinner which a few other students and I used to hike the valley and explore our surroundings. Then, we would have a warm dinner in the house before reflections and going to bed underneath the stars. On the weekends, we visited the ruins around the Sacred Valley.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

Going into my experience abroad my biggest fear was the language barrier that I might experience. Before arriving in Peru, I was fairly uncomfortable with my ability to speak Spanish to the locals. I was afraid that I would not have the courage to spark up a conversation in a different language than my own. I wanted to get the most out of my experience and did not want to regret being limited by my fear.

I overcame this fear by embracing the mentality that I had traveled a long distance for this experience and that I didn't want to have regrets. I began speaking to the Peruvians we met in Spanish and came to found that they were excited that we were making an effort to speak their language. I learned from this experience that even if one makes errors trying to speak another's language, others are simply excited and receptive to those who try to speak their language. This has given me more confidence to try to speak Spanish or other languages wherever I go, even if I am not entirely fluent as trying is a worthwhile experience.

Write and answer your own question.

What is your favorite memory on this trip?

My favorite story from my experience in Peru was when I met Urpi. When we were teaching the children about the environment in Urubumba, I was still a little weary about speaking Spanish. There was one Peruvian girl who was very shy and never liked to share her drawing from the lessons. Every time I made an effort to talk to her she got very shy and looked away from me.

However, one day, I sat down next to her and began to ask her question about her family and herself. She quickly opened up to me and began to tell me about her life. At this moment I gained both confidence in speaking the language and a genuine relationship with a little girl from another country. I was so happy to form this connection. The next few days I spent a lot of time with Urpi and her friend Estella in the classroom and playing tag outside.

One morning, I entered the school and Urpi and a few of her friends jumped out at me and gave me a giant hug. I will always remember this experience and the bond that I formed with Urpi. This experience has inspired my to seek out connections with people from different backgrounds and cultures wherever I go.