An investment in a summer experiential education program is always a big investment. They are expensive and involve giving up something else like working, a summer internship, and precious family time. Or it might interfere with skill building like taking extra courses in summer school, or additional tutoring to counter weaker academic areas.

kids_jumpGood grades and access to the right college have become essential for young people today. Yet there is a new and welcome emphasis on the so called ‘soft’ skills—character building skills that include tenacity, grit, empathy and gratitude, the skills that make young people more resilient. The late Lillian Rubin PhD writes in her book The Transcendent Child that separation from parents increases resiliency in children. I have found in my own three children that attending camps in middle school and then challenging summer programs in high school did indeed make them more tenacious, independent, trusting in themselves, confident and less susceptible to peer pressures once they were back in school. Yet most of those programs are are targeted for affluent youth.

For underprivileged youth in our country living in poverty, the biggest challenge is often isolation. Attending a residential summer program introduces them to the outside world and to young people from different backgrounds. This experience not only breaks isolation but expands their vision of themselves and their opportunities in life.

gals5For the over-privileged youth in our country the biggest challenge is identity. External appearances and success are extremely important as is pleasing others. These expectations can often run counter to developing a strong internalized individual voice. According to psychologist Eric Erickson this is the single most important task and challenge of the adolescent years.

For both groups, an extended trip into the wilderness can become trans-formative. There are hundreds of choices, for general comprehensive information look for Peterson’s Guide to Camps and Summer Programs on the internet or in the library. No choice is full proof. It’s like being at the right school but getting the wrong teacher. Yet, for the past 25 years, I have found the following programs have consistently performed well bringing life-changing opportunities to both underprivileged and over-privileged youth.

About Forever Changed

Linda Mornell has written about how low-income youth who have often experienced significant trauma can become transformed into professionals and leaders through participation in summer programs and long-term insight mentoring   learn more
















AFS-USA, Inc.  Provides international community service, language study, and home stay programs that allow students to practice a foreign language and immerse themselves in a new culture.   learn more

Amigos de las Americas  Offers exceptional leadership training, cultural immersion and community service programs in Latin America.   learn more

Chewonki  From base camp in Wiscasset, Maine, students embark on multi-element expeditions that combine sailing, backpacking, canoeing, hiking, and wilderness survival.  learn more

Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS)  A wilderness course that guides young people through a journey of self-discovery, challenge, and triumph in the backcountry of Colorado and Utah.  learn more

Deer Hill Expeditions  Students learn skills to live in the wilderness and promote stewardship of the Earth, with a soulful focus on appreciation of the natural world and fostering service to the native lands and people of the Four Corners region and Costa Rica.  learn more

Environmental Traveling Companions  Takes students on an empowering journey along a California watershed, traveling from the mountains to the sea to learn about our natural resources, gain outdoor leadership skills, and discover the leader within us all.  learn more

Global Leadership Adventures  Community service and cultural immersion programs around the globe, taking groups of students to live and learn about local communities in a life-changing service-learning journey.  learn more

Global Glimpse  Inspires students to become responsible and successful global citizens through leadership, community service, and youth training in Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador.  learn more

Go Adventure  Customized wilderness expeditions that focus on building a community, learning survival skills, and gaining leadership through service.  learn more

Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (HIOBS)  Wilderness courses that guide students through a journey of self-discovery, challenge, and triumph in the backcountry of Maine.  learn more

Longacre Leadership  From cooking meals and feeding animals, to taking out the trash and harvesting vegetables, teens and adults work hand-in-hand to a create a supportive and sustainable community.  learn more

National Outdoor Leadership School  Expeditions through the remote wilderness of Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho, and New York, and go deeper into leadership, first aid, survival skills, and environmental ethics so that participants can lead their own expeditions.  learn more

North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS)  Wilderness course that guide students through a journey of self-discovery, challenge, and triumph in the backcountry of North Carolina.  learn more

Northwest Outward Bound School (NWOBS)  Wilderness courses that guide students through a journey of self-discovery, challenge, and triumph in the backcountry of Oregon and Washington.  learn more

Outward Bound California (OBCA)  Wilderness courses that guide students through a journey of self-discovery, challenge, and triumph in the backcountry of California.  learn more

Philadelphia Outward Bound School (POBS)  Provides a journey of self-discovery, challenge, and triumph in urban and wilderness areas surrounding Philadelphia.  learn more

Sierra Nevada Journeys  Uses the unique outdoor classrooms of Northern California to deliver outdoor science and collaborative problem solving education in the wilderness, promoting leadership and long-term student achievement.  learn more

Teton Science Schools Teton Science takes the classroom to the wilderness, focusing on natural history, ecology, environmental awareness, self-reflection, and leadership in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone region.  learn more

Visions Service Adventures  Takes students to Alaska, Montana, Mississippi, the Caribbean, and Latin America, while providing an excellent opportunity to learn about leadership through community service, cultural immersion, and adventure explorations.  learn more

Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS)  Wilderness courses that guide students through a journey of self-discovery, challenge, and triumph in the boundary waters of Minnesota and Canada.  learn more

Wasatch Academy  Wasatch Academy’s experiential summer programs empowers students to develop academically, socially, and morally during the summer months, in and out of the classroom.  learn more