I am the parent of a boy who spent 2 weeks in Peru with Visions Service Adventures during the summer between 10th and 11th grade. He was young for his grade and only 15 at the time. He is now a confident, worldly tri-lingual 18 year old on a gap year, studying Japanese for 3 months in Tokyo. He will head to college in the Fall, with a wealth of experiences under his belt and the resilience, independence, resourcefulness and wisdom that such experiences help develop in an 18 year old. This Gap year that we carefully prepared with him started last fall with an amazing program in Latin America with Where There Be Dragons : A 3-month rugged experience in Peru and Bolivia. Not every teenager graduating from high school is a good candidate for this kind of experience, but for those who are, it is fabulous. But what really developed this sense of independence, what really triggered maturing and self-reliance and confidence, and a curiosity for the world can be traced back to that summer between 10th and 11th grade and his experience in Peru with Visions. He was very hesitant and apprehensive to leave home and go abroad without his family, be with strangers and work at projects he didn't know much about. This initial step outside his comfort zone was an eye opener and even more - a life opener - for him. As parents, our comfort zone was seriously expanded too but Visions' staff, experience and reputation were very reassuring and we knew he was in good hand. He came back from his 2 weeks in Peru with Visions with a new found confidence. Confidence in his ability to be his own person and resist bad influences or temptation (the zero tolerance policies on alcohol are very much enforced and there will always be kids who try and bend the rules. Knowing that you are strong enough to stand your ground to peer pressure is a real confidence builder and so precious in the high school and college years), confidence gained from being given tools and service goals, confidence gained by achieving those goals and being helpful in a community environment, be it the community that welcomed him or the community of the other participants by participating in chores, and finally confidence gained from stepping outside of his comfort zone and prevailing. This, in addition to all the wonderful, fun, new experiences of traveling abroad and being with a caring and trusted organization that really knows teenagers, is really what made it the first and most important step in who he is now. And as parents, we couldn't be prouder, and more grateful to organizations such as Visions.