The High Desert Center

Program Reviews

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Samuel
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life-changing gap year!

I am not the same person I was when I started at the High Desert Center. None of my friends there are either. I have experienced us all grow together in so many ways: physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and energetically.

Whether it be cuddling in the van late at night, having group check-ins, engaging in vulnerable conversations, working together, or playing games together, this gap year provides an abundance of opportunities to bond and grow with people. This was the first time in my life that I had found so many people that all shared the same interests I did. This made it easy for me to get along and open myself up.

One of my biggest takeaways from the year is having a cultivated mindset of POSSIBILITY. Having gone to the High Desert Center I feel so much more confidence in myself and in my ability to tackle the world.

If you want growth, connection, adventure, and community, then sign up for this amazing gap year. Period.

What would you improve about this program?
One thing I would improve about this program is having a more balanced ratio of male to female participants.
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Seraya
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Decision I Ever Made

The High Desert Center regularly opens their arms to young adults, and releases them into the world with both the spirit, curiosity, and unabashed love of a child, as well as the reverence, resilience, and introspection of someone much older. I have never encountered an organization so dedicated to authenticity and creativity, where the teachers respect the students as much as the students respect the teachers, where spontaneity and adventure is met with enthusiasm rather than restriction, and where all opinions and identities are not only welcomed, but cherished. It’s difficult to do this experience justice, but there is one word that comes to mind; delight. At HDC, we learn to delight in the things that had before gone unnoticed, in the company and warmth of other people, in the silence and the sadness, in the pleasure of listening, and in the anger and the joy. I believe this leads all participants to walk away with a rare skill - to create a good life whomever they’re with and wherever they go. It has been the greatest pleasure of my life to spend a year here. I know I’m not the only one.

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Priscilla
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The High Desert Center Gap Year Program 2021

This was the best 8 months of my life so far. This program opened up my worldview so much. I learned so much about communication, consent, boundaries, traveling affordably, living sustainably, intention, how to be okay with a little discomfort, and how to let the moments be. I think that this program is so unique in its experience, probably because of the leaders and small town of paonia. This was a life-changing experience for me, and I know that the people I got to know here are ones I will be seeing in the future. This program is real.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
It's hard to choose honestly. We stayed overnight in a small Arizona town called Ajo, and ended up befriending an old hippie who let us stay in his home. He offered us showers and warmth and good company. His stories were so cool to listen to.
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Cori
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This program will change your life (actually though)

If someone had told me on that first day the sense of achievement I would gain from summiting the peaks towering off in the distance, or the warm fuzzy feeling I would get every time I saw my community all together whether for a meeting or a meal, or how I would look back on who I was then and not feel embarrassed but rather proud of how hard I worked to be who I am now, I would have said “No, that’s impossible.”

With the rock-solid support of the incredible staff, and the love and lessons I received from my peers, I was able to grow into the empowered, inspired, and capable person I am now. The community we built was what made my Gap Year experience what it was—challenging, fulfilling, joyful, and real.

I recommend this Gap Year to any young person with the desire to build strong relationships, grow as a person, and be themselves.

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Brigitte
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Transforming experience I'd highly recommend!

I look forward to the day I have acquired a preference for rocking chairs. I picture myself sitting back and letting memories of my year at HDC persuade a smile onto my face. I’ll think about making mud soup with sticks and a view, the countless shooting stars and sleeping beneath them, dancing without realizing it but not stopping once I did, and everyone I shared all of this with. HDC offered me a chance to gain a better understanding of myself and the world around me as well as the chance to let myself be seen and understood by those around me. If my authenticity was a person HDC was the hand that reached out and asked it to play. I found myself in a space with just the right ratio of challenge and support to help me foster confidence in myself and a feeling of competence. Before HDC I felt a little like rain with nowhere to land but slowly throughout my year there I felt myself slowly contributing to something bigger than just myself, a small but wonderful community where love thrives, obviously so, yet subtly all at once. Due to HDC’s adventurous and spontaneous spirit I will die having accidentally seen more than 100 wagons. I will laugh at that in a rocking chair someday. I feel lucky to have made memories I look forward to remembering.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I ate polenta for the first time. I then ate it several times over the course of the year and it's not very uncommon but I'm excited to come across it out in the world and think back to my experience at HDC. It'll bring a smile to my face.
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Mikayla
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A wonderful place

The best way to describe my time at the High Desert Center would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I thought I liked the outdoors before coming here, but the opportunities and Adventures provided here has made me realize I would like to pursue a full-time job in the outdoors. We hiked to the bottom of canyons we summited multiple Peaks. This experience has made me crave the outdoors. I've grown so much as a person, through the workshops and endless support of the staff members. The people in the connections you will make here are ones that will last a lifetime. If you're looking for skills that you can apply to the real world this program is definitely for you.

What was your funniest moment?
On a community day we had a dinner where the theme was early 2000s and we all got dressed up and put on fake personas. It was just so funny to watch everyone get really invested into it.
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Natalie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Must go! Life Changing!

This is an experience of a lifetime, I’ve grown so much as a person because of this program. I came to HDC with no backpacking experience not even sure if I would enjoy backpacking. All of the backpacking trips are gorgeous and an amazing bonding experiences. Now I have a life long skill that I can bring to my family and friends. This program helped me discover the beauty of life and how meaningful connections can be. Be prepared for an exhilarating challenge and to make life long friends. My favorite part about this program is the community. Everyone is so supportive and loving. There is so many opportunities to grow and experience life to its fullest. I highly recommend this program if you crave adventure!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Make sure to double check your packing list:)) if you don’t have experience with backpacking I highly recommend talking to someone who does before purchasing your stuff.
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Kathryn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Connection, Adventure, Family

My gap year with the High Desert Center was a truly mystical experience that always left me thinking, “how is my life this wonderful?” Through doing fanatical outdoor adventures, making lifelong connections, and having the ability to learn about what makes me most passionate, I found myself growing and changing into a person I can admire. I have gained confidence in myself, and my ability to enter into the world as a more developed and passionate person. I would recommend this program to anyone and everyone looking for an amazing adventure and the chance to meet and connect with truly wonderful people.

What was your funniest moment?
Learning how to hoe down, while the sun was setting on a warm night, and dancing until morning.
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Nina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

HDC Gap Year

I don't think that any review can adequately show how much HDC means to me. This gap year has changed my life in so many ways. From giving me a love of nature and backpacking to teaching me how to effectively communicate in my relationships and how to form deep connections to introducing me to self-expression through dance, HDC has done so much for me. Though the best part is the community - HDC has given me the most supportive community I could ask for, and that is what I am most grateful for. The support and love I feel from this community is unmatched, and I know that I will feel it for a long time.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
You'll grow so much if you say yes to new experiences! HDC definitely has pushed ,e way out of my comfort zone, but it has also led to me growing in more ways than I thought capable of. You definitely get out of the program what you put into it, but no matter what you choose in any situation, you will feel full support from the staff and participants.
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Justin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

High Desert Center

At The High Desert Center I became part of a tight knit community with people from all walks of life. We lived, learned and adventured together during two extremely unique semesters. During our fall semester we focused on developing our community on our campus in Western Colorado. The staff offered us a variety of different learning experiences that ranged from farm to table cooking to pottery to rappelling. In the spring we hit the road and traveled through the Southwest and Mexico for an epic adventure that was truly one of a kind.

What was your funniest moment?
My funniest moment was getting a pie in the face on my birthday at Mt Lemon, AZ.