When: September 6th, 2017 to May 30th, 2018
Where: Paonia, Colorado and Guatemala
Who: 10-12 students ages 17-23 plus program leader Dev Carey and a host of additional instructors and interns.
What: A year of adventure, community and leadership skills. In the fall you will harvest and cook local foods, backpack and adventure, dance, build and practice leadership skills. The winter consists of a self-designed challenged followed by 8 weeks immersed in the Spanish language and Guatemala. In the Spring we return to Paonia and engage in an alternative building project between outdoor adventures in canyon country.
How Much: $7500 for the entire year plus the cost of round trip airfare between Denver and Guatemala.
The program fee includes all food, housing, transportation and activities while the group is together but does not include transportation to and from Paonia and Guatemala and optional spending money for personal purchases or activities. You will need a passport and to provide your own health insurance.
Why: A chance to develop the skills of experiencing and creating community and a lifestyle aligned with one’s values, all while living with a sense of abundance and adventure.
We are already accepting applications and conducting interviews.
Previous programs have filled quickly. We recommend applying right away.
Phase 1: Fall Harvest
September 6th to November 13, 2017
Fall is special in Paonia. It is the harvest season. We’ll be helping local farmers harvest their crops and doing everything from making sauerkraut to picking apples to butchering chickens. We will also be celebrating harvest with the entire town at the Mountain Harvest Festival, a week of music, local food and fun. The food theme will continue for the entire semester and we’ll finish in early November with an early Thanksgiving feast for the neighborhood full of local foods we’ve harvested and prepared.
Another fall semester activity will be dance, likely Blues dancing, and we will dance 3-4 nights/week in the huge dance hall just up the hill. By the end of the year , it is the norm that students, many of whom are beginners coming in, are looking great and having fun on the dance floor. The partner dance emphasis compliments perfectly our focus on communication and group skills and the result is a group environment that feels safe and intimate.
Outdoor Adventure will happen in the fall as well, two backpacking trips, mountain climbing and a variety of other crazy challenges. All participants are expected to be in reasonable physical shape coming in (able to easily walk 6 miles in two hours) and committed to daily physical activity and exercise.
Many participants use the fall to get support while applying to colleges or jobs for the following year and appreciate being surrounded by other people who can help with ideas and editing essays. Participants also get help in creating self-designed initiatives for the winter.
Finally, fall will be about preparing ourselves for leadership challenges in the spring. For example, we will be learning to cook and backpack and make group decisions, and we will also be learning to lead these activities with the goal of participants running much of the program by spring.
Phase 2: Self-Designed Initiatives
November 14th, 2017 to February 7th, 2018
This is a time that you can go home and be with your family or get a job or basically do whatever you want. You will also have the option to arrange independent apprenticeships, travel, work or adventures either near your home, in Paonia or elsewhere. Previous gap year students have arranged activities such as:
- catering with a macrobiotic chef
- Walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain
- working with horses
- Nannying for a band on the road
- touring dance events
- Visiting deaf communities in Japan
- language school in Guadalajara
Phase 3: Guatemala
February 7th to April 4th, 2018
Guatemala is a great place to experience international travel and learn a language. Your Spanish will go from non-existent to good or from good to great. You will meet travelers from around the world. You will live with a local family and experience a whole new culture. You will climb volcanos, eat tons of Mangos, and watch sunsets over Lake Atitlan.
We will fly into Guatemala city and then taking a bus to Lake Atitlan, where we will get used to being together as a group again and acclimated to a new country. From the lake we will bus to Xela (aka Quetzeltenango), a city in western Guatemala, where we will live with local families and study Spanish five half-days/week at a language school with your own private tutor. There will be adventures on the week-ends and we’ll break it up with an additional week or two of group-designed travel.
Phase 4: Spring Leadership Semester
April 5th to May 30th, 2018
By April 19, the grass will be greening in Paonia and we will all be together again. The focus will be on some kind of alternative building project (that we decide on in the fall). In past years we’ve built straw bale cabins, dormitories, solar ovens, tire houses and cob benches.
We will also be continuing to dance and be part of the community and practice our leadership skills. Finally we’ll take more outdoor adventures in the depths of canyon country, watch the mountain bluebirds feed their babies, and help you plan what comes next in your life.
Join us for a year of adventure, leadership skills, community, and a sense of purpose.
Read the FAQ here or contact Dev with any other questions.
“At the High Desert Center, I felt for the first time in my life that I had a place and a purpose entirely to myself. The environment provides a hands-on education in sustainable living and community building, and the staff engages each participant earnestly, asking participants to discover what we truly care about and to explore the numerous options presented by our ambitions. Each day feels like an experience and adventure to itself, and also preparation for the great adventure of life. In short, I cannot recommend this gap year high enough to any young adult in the process of discovering fulfillment.” Oscar Wolfenstein