This past summer I worked for a company called Overland that leads outdoor trips for high school students. While November is a little late to be writing about a summer experience, this job has had a profound impact on how I comport myself on a day-to-day basis. I was tasked with leading Service trips over six weeks in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The students’ overarching goal was to stretch their personal comfort zones while serving others. The definition of “comfort” varied, as each teen brought his/her unique perspective.
My female co-leader and I were wholly responsible of managing every aspect of the service trip, 24/7, as we were the only Overland personnel on the island, including shopping for and preparing all meals, management of housing, identifying and training for worksites, transport, addressing mental and physical health concerns, creating social activities, interfacing with the local personnel, and running aspects of the service projects.
We enjoyed two weeks of hard work and fun in the sun on the island of St. Croix. We split our time between two rainforest locations. For the first week we volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club in Christiansted on the east side of the island reading with the kids, playing team building games, and acting as strong role models for the young kids of St. Croix. We spent the remainder of our trip volunteering at an organic sustainable farm, harvesting fruits, cooking meals with food straight from the farm, and learning about the challenges behind sustainable farming. Our days off were filled with swimming, scuba diving, and sea kayaking in a bioluminescent bay. We even got to see a live turtle hatching and helped the little guys make their way to the ocean!
I learned some incredibly important lessons from being wholly responsible for a group of high school students. One of my major takeaways was to celebrate the yards, not the touchdowns. These trips were about growth and each student had a different starting point. It was very important to celebrate every minor improvement not just the major ones.
More than anything, what this experience taught me was that I can handle anything that I put my mind to, and I can make reasonable, responsible, mature decisions. In essence, this job was a checkpoint towards adulthood.