Summer High School Programs in the USA with Rustic Pathways

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One theme each of our United States programs shares is the idea of home. Some students work with refugee children who are assimilating into a new home, some help the residents of New Orleans rebuild their homes, and some learn to feel at home amid the vast natural beauty of our national parks. International students gain new perspectives about the United States, and American students often feel as though they are really getting to know their home country for the first time.

Even if the United States is your home country, you are bound to encounter something unexpected on one of these programs. The United States is diverse in every sense, boasting a wide range of sights, activities, people, food, and cultures. You’ll be surprised by the issues you are exposed to and amazed at how much you will discover.

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Questions & Answers


8.71 Rating
based on 21 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 80.95%
  • 7-8 rating 4.76%
  • 5-6 rating 4.76%
  • 3-4 rating 4.76%
  • 1-2 rating 4.76%
  • Impact 8.3
  • Support 8.7
  • Fun 7.9
  • Value 8.3
  • Safety 8.9
  • Growth 9.5
  • Support 10
  • Fun 9.5
  • Housing 10
  • Safety 10
Showing 1 - 8 of 21
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Yes, I recommend this program

Big Island, Hawaii

My Rustic Pathways experience in Hawaii was incredible! We traveled all over the Big Island, staying at an amazing ranch, a unique hostel, and camping under the stars. The Aloha Service trip allowed my fellow travelers and I to learn about the diverse ecosystem and effects of invasive species on Hawaii’s environment. We weeded, planted, and learned from experts. Not only did we work alongside passionate members of the community, we also were able to snorkel, surf, and hike in some of the world’s most beautiful places. We saw black and green sand beaches and amazing wildlife like sea turtles and eels. Rustic Pathways is a life-changing program that gives students like me a chance to meet new people and grow as a confident individual and steward of the earth.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I had never surfed before, and I was very nervous about sharks, but with the encouragement of my leaders and new friends, I conquered my fears! I caught some great waves and had so much fun.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Broadening Horizons of Friendships

A unique aspect of my Rustic Pathways trip over the summer of 2019 was not just meeting teenagers from across the United States, but in other places such as Vietnam and Hong Kong. I was very glad to meet two people that were from outside of the US because on my previous Rustic trip, everyone was from the States. It’s not often that you get to meet some really cool people from across the world. As the program progressed day by day, I learned about the Vietnamese and Hong Kong cultures and what their lives were like back at home. These topics lead to lengthy and intriguing conversations. So all in all, I was learning about the Hawaiians, the Vietnamese, and the people from Hong Kong, all at once! Establishing friendships and connections around the world, whether that be Texas, Chicago, New York, California, or Vietnam, etc. can be beneficial to have in the future.

If someone is considering this program, they should keep in mind that it did rain just about every day in Hawaii. However, it depends what areas of the island you’re on and at what elevation. For example, within the lower level elevation areas by the beaches, it was always hot and sunny, but up in the mountains where the base house was and where we camped, there were frequent yet light rain showers. That didn’t keep our spirits down, it’s just something to keep in mind.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice to future travelers on this program is to travel solo (don't bring a friend along). I've found that when friends (2 or 3) travel on programs, they are exclusive and keep to themselves for a couple of days, until they finally step out of their comfort zone and realize that they should meet some new people. This is not necessarily the case for every program, I have just noticed it in two instances.

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No, I don't recommend this program

Rustic's Unexpected Impact

When the time came for me to go on California Rush, I did not realize how much of a focus there would be on the environment. That absolutely was not a bad thing- I was just pleasantly surprised! I found that the trip was a place for me to put everything I had learned in APES to practical tests. Whether it was volunteering with Keep Tahoe Blue or Friends of the Inyo, decreasing my waste so that it would neither interrupt wildlife nor reenter the biosphere; overall my environmental consciousness increased. I would like to say the same about my peers, but I'm not so sure. At times I felt like the only student who cared about where my plastic goes. Eventually though, our team got to a level of environment consciousness. However, it lacked social consciousness. They were unaware of the privileges they carry. White, cis, straight, able-bodied, wealthy privilege. I struggled to bond with other campers, specifically male campers. We all came from places of privilege, but these kids... Man, they were the most privileged people I have EVER met. And it absolutely went unaddressed. I spoke with and confronted the other students about their racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, rape "jokes." And for most of the two weeks, I felt like I was the only one out of the group (including staff) who noticed. The guides did not become aware of the situation until one night, when half of the group was talking about me and my concrete beliefs behind my back. More specifically, outside of my tent. After bringing notifying the program leaders, they began to address the situation with individuals. By that time though, the trip was almost through.
It was a once in a lifetime experience, definitely. I traveled completely by myself, and I discovered how my experiences differ from others living in the US. I absolutely fell in love with California. With the Inyo National Forest, with Santa Cruz... I know now that that is what I want to do with my life. I am certain that I want to take a gap year so that I can go and do right now, just go and be with nature. I want to see more of the US, and to then travel with world. For that, I am grateful to Rustic. For those who are like me, and don't conform to heternormativity, to the gender binary; for those who care more about the biosphere than the Kardashians, this may not be the trip for you. All I know is that I spent my own time and money on this trip. I had been looking forward to traveling with Rustic for nearly 4 years. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I do not regret it. I would not take it back. I would not travel with Rustic again.
It is so important for kids, teens, people to push out of their comfort zone and discover how they want to make an impact. I am not telling you whether or not you should go on a Rustic Pathways trip. What I will tell you is this: if you decide to travel with Rustic or any other company, do not compromise your values and beliefs. Be strong. Be amazed. Stay present. And please, come back here and tell the world about your trip.

What would you improve about this program?
Acknowledge privilege. Notice group dynamics. Check in with each student individually.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Summer '15 Rebuilding New Orleans!

My trip with Rustic Pathways was the greatest gift that my parents ever could have given me. I had never traveled without my family before so I was nothing short of apprehensive but Rustic made all of my nerves go away. Before my trip even began I received a box with a shirt, a journal, informational material, and some fun stickers and patches. This got me so excited and also made my parents and I both feel 100% better about the organization that I was traveling with. When I went to get ready for my trip I was of course questioning what to pack and I found a packing list right on the Rustic Pathways website which made it so much easier and literally had everything I needed the whole time I was there on it. When it came time to leave for the trip I was traveling with school and when all twenty some of us arrived in New Orleans the rustic staff was so prepared to start our trip with us! They did everything possible to make us comfortable from accommodating food allergies that group members had to stopping at stores for anything that we needed along the way. The base house that we stayed in was absolutely amazing and it gave us the opportunity to connect as a group by cooking our meals and spending time together in the common areas.

The service part of the trip was the best experience of my life. I was able to connect with people form all walks of life and listen to their stories and how they were impacted by Hurricane Katrina as it destroyed their home. I was able to rebuild houses, help at a food cupboard, and learn about the area. We spent the majority of our time doing service but we also had time to appreciate the culture and the history of the city that we were helping.

Since I have come home from this trip my life has been directly affected by what I experienced. Once I got back to school, the other girls in my group and myself gave a presentation to our school about what we did and what we learned and we did continuing service projects to benefit New Orleans. I fell so in love with the city that this past year I took my mom and grand mom to New Orleans so that they could get a glimpse of the same thing.

All around this trip with Rustic Pathways was an amazing and life changing experience and I am overly confident in saying that it would not have been the same if I did not go with the Rustic company. I am still to this day in touch with the leaders that I had on my trip. I loved the company so much that I went on another trip to Costa Rica the next year and I am currently planning my next trip to go on hopefully next summer.

What would you improve about this program?
Everything about this program is great and I can't think of anything that needs to be improved.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Rebuilding NOLA 2017

This past summer I went on The Rebuilding New Orleans trip offered by Rustic Pathways, and needless to say it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I was greeted by Haley and Linni (shoutout to the best group leaders!) at the airport and immediately comforted by their happy and relaxed manner. The base house was perfect and the bedrooms were comfortable. I traveled alone, meaning I didn’t know any other student that I’d be spending the next 13 days with. Not that I was worried, but if anyone is concerned about going on a trip like this because you think you won’t make friends, trust me, the bond you create with these people comes quick and lasts forever. I got to earn a great number of service hours while also learning and experiencing what the beautiful city of New Orleans has to offer. By watching a few videos and driving to certain spots, we all were able to learn plenty about Hurricane Katrina and its impact. Service activities include helping out at a community garden, helping at a food pantry, helping at a local school’s garden, and, of course, rebuilding a home for someone who lost theirs in the natural disaster. The days were long and rewarding, yet everyone’s positive spirits and smiles made time fly. We did plenty of other things, such as going to multiple fantastic jazz shows, walking around the French Quarter, and seeing the Mississippi River. One memory that sticks out to me was when the group was split in two and in charge of dinner. We had some money to go to the infamous Circle Food Store and get supplies. That group activity, which included sharing the kitchen trying to make two different meals for the group, was so much fun (my group’s pancakes won!). Another great memory was when one of my new friend’s and I were walking in the French Market and stumbled upon a man that paints beautiful artwork by using things like animals and buildings to create our name. Both of us got one (not expensive at all) and we both cherish how beautiful and how quickly he made them. From free time playing Uno or watching a movie, each day was filled with plenty of great activities and surprises. We even walked around Tulane University one day! Meals at the park, the airboat tour on the swamp, I mean I could go on and on about all the great things we did. I definitely recommend this trip, especially if you prefer to stay in the United States. You won’t necessarily get the culture shock that I got in previous trips to Peru and Costa Rica, but you absolutely will have a great time in a new city, nonetheless. Rustic Pathways is a great company that does great things and I can’t wait for Fiji next year!

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Yes, I recommend this program

Rebuilding New Orleans

This summer was my first time traveling with Rustic Pathways and I truly could not have hoped for a better first experience. I went on the program with one of my best friends and as soon as we landed we were greeted by 2/3 of our group leaders who were excited and enthusiastic from the start. During the program I earned 40 community service hours and while the hours were long and the weather was hot, it really didn't feel like work since the people you work with are so passionate about what they do. Partnering with people/organizations that care so much about giving back to the community makes the work much enjoyable and in my opinion impactful. Outside of community service we got plenty of time to explore the city . One of my favorite non-service days from the trip was when we went to Satchmo Fest ( A music festival dedicated to Louis Armstrong) even though it started raining as soon as we got there and by the time we left the streets were ankle deep in water it didn't stop us from having fun. After leaving the festival we ended up having a "hurricane" party (there wasn't actually a hurricane, just a lot of rain) my group spent the evening curled up watching movies and eating pizza. The group leaders also play a huge role in making the experience what it is, I can't imagine the trip without them. They taught me so much and even managed to make chores around the house enjoyable. By the end of my two weeks in New Orleans I was wishing I could stay for two more! I couldn't be more thankful for the time I was able to spend in New Orleans and can't wait to see what next summer will bring.

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Yes, I recommend this program


I was so excited going into this trip (rebuilding New Orleans) that there was no time to be nervous. Students are greeted at the airport by the happiest program leaders ever! They are so eager to get everyone involved right away which makes it easy for students to make friends. Future participants should expect really rewarding long days. We did all sorts of different service projects, but my favorite was working in the community garden. We spent the morning mulching and weeding to improve miss. Gloria's garden that she shares with the community. There was one moment though that really stuck out. We had spent all week working on rebuilding a home, and then on Friday our group got to witness a welcome home party! This was a house that was just finished, and the owner finally got to return after his home flooded. He was so happy and grateful. Seeing his gratitude made all of our hard work worth it. I would highly recommend rebuilding New Orleans to any student!

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Yes, I recommend this program

Beyond Capitol Hill: Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment

Honestly, Rustic Pathways has changed my life for the better. I have previously done a program with Rustic in Arizona in 2015, (good works + grand canyon) and both trips have exceeded my expectations. More specifically, the Baltimore program was incredibly inspiring and truly impactful. Getting to work with such amazing individuals from all across the United States and the world really shifted my perspective on how I view things in life. The refugee children are so sweet and seeing their growth in their English speaking and reading skills over the two weeks was so enlighting to watch. It's really rare that you get to work with refugees, or even meet one, so the fact that this trip allowed me to do both was incredible. I remember the first day of service, and these girls I was working with were super nervous to meet me, but at the end of the two weeks, they were heartbroken to see me go; they wanted me to say longer. Not only was the service work incredible, but the friendships I've cultivated through the two weeks was unbeliable. We got so close and we still talk to this day, even though our program took place in July of 2016. I've come to realize that it's the little things that we all really bonded over. Like the music in the car or staying up super late playing Pokemon Go and tons of card games, or laughing hysterically over a funny story someone told at the dinner table one night, it all added up. We became a close family during this short amount of time. In all, I guess I would say that I came into this program a small 16 year old girl that was very shy, and hesitant to try certain things, but I came out such a stronger individual and friend. I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is open to trying new experiences, living in a new environment, and getting to meet such incredible people from all over the world. This program has truly changed my life for the better, and I thank Rustic Pathways for the great gifts of this experience you've given me.

What would you improve about this program?
I wouldn't change a thing! It's incredible! I wish we could've spent more time with the refugee kids! :)