Alaska

Alaska
PROGRAM DATES 
Jun 30 to Jul 27
$5950
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION 

VISIONS Alaska gives teens the opportunity to spend a month working with native Athabasca people in Tetlin Village, Alaska. High school students earn 100 service hours doing meaningful summer projects including carpentry, environmental work, and social services, building upon community relationships that are almost two decades strong. You’ll be part of daily life in a village that subsists largely on hunting and gathering. During side projects, you will harvest fish and maybe even process big game, and with the Wrangell Mountains as a backdrop, you will experience incredible Alaska adventures including backpacking, ice climbing, cultural events, and more.

  • get outdoors with new friends and have a wonderful summer experience
  • challenge yourself to try new things and meet new people this summer
  • try your hand at sawing logs and participate in meaningful construction projects
  • Middle school and high school students stay with local host families
  • VISIONS combines meaningful service with adventurous exploration for young adults
  • VISIONS is a unique program which allows students to live closely with locals
  • students make life long friends while traveling to new places
  • learn new carpentry skills and build meaningful service projects with VISIONS
  • VISIONS stays in one community for the duration of the summer and gets to know its people

Welcomed Service

Service projects in Alaska rely on carpentry-based construction and a lot of building! In addition to hammers, nails and shovels, you will be trained to use circular saws, power drills, and perhaps even a mobile lumber mill. High school volunteers in our Alaska program have built bridges and playgrounds, community buildings, outdoor basketball courts, smokehouses, and more. In addition to a community-wide project every summer, we do repair projects at local elders’ homes, which offers a great way of getting to know several long-standing community members. We also do a few environmental projects at the Tetlin Wildlife Refuge and spend time with local children in non-work hours and during an intermittent community day camp.

Full Immersion

You will be immersed in daily life with our Athabascan hosts—people whose roots date back to the original inhabitants of Alaska’s interior. Visit with village elders, play games with local kids, and take a traditional steam bath in a lodge that past teen volunteers helped build. We are part of life in Tetlin, regularly invited to neighbors’ homes for meals, beading lessons, making unique birch bark baskets, playing music, processing and drying wild game and fish. We will also listen to stories and learn how the Athabascans’ ingenuity and resourcefulness are intrinsic to living in this remote and formidable land.

"Camping, ice climbing, backpacking, visiting Muklukland, and canoeing were all awesome! They were really great experiences."

Isabel Di Rosa – Washington, D.C.
Our Home Base 
Tetlin Village
In the heart of the Upper Tanana Valley, along the Tetlin River and in the shadow of the Alaska Range lies Tetlin Village. Home to about 200 people, Tetlin is a native village with rich traditions deeply embedded in day-to-day living.
VISIONS teens have completed many substantial projects since our first Alaska summer in 1995. One that represents the scope of what our volunteers accomplish took place in Mentasta Village, where the community envisioned a center for elders and children to gather and share their native language. Local folks and VISIONS teens chopped timber, milled logs, built a special foundation to accommodate permafrost, and constructed the building, finishing in summer 2002. In November that year, a 7.9 earthquake shook Alaska’s interior, and Mentasta was the hardest hit community. The only village structure to remain intact was the new center, which became a refuge and temporary school.
Explore Alaska

With VISIONS Alaska, you will experience unspoiled natural beauty, including expansive mountain ranges and wildlife ranging from bald eagles to moose and caribou, along with adventures within some amazing landscapes. We work with St. Elias Guides, our trusted partners for ice climbing the Root Glacier, and we visit the popular town of McCarthy and explore nearby Kenicott, once home to the richest copper mines in the world. Another weekend is reserved for a two-night backpacking trip in the dramatic Wrangell Mountains. Exploring Alaska means living with a lot of light in big, wide open skies. Situated more than 1,300 latitudinal miles north of New York City, the sun never truly sets during the summer months, and the night skies remain like early dusk.

Daily Life

We live together as a group in the high school, centrally located in Tetlin Village. There are bathrooms, showers, and kitchen facilities, and VISIONS provides a thick floor mattress for each person.

Service projects take place five days per week, starting after breakfast and wrapping up in mid- or late afternoon. You typically get to choose between three different worksites each day, most involving construction and building. We take a lunch break and water breaks as needed, and work at a steady, productive pace.

One day a week you will be on “homebase crew” with a few other participants and a leader. The crew gets up a bit early to make a big breakfast for everyone, runs errands and buys food for the next meals, does laundry, helps prepare dinner, and takes in a fun “day in the life.”

After work there is time for activities in the community, a nearby excursion or short hike, or some downtime before dinner. Dinners include meat and vegetarian options with plenty of variety and always enough for seconds. There also are healthy snacks available throughout the day.

A few evenings a week, we have group meetings that last about an hour and are a time to reflect on the volunteer and cultural experience. Other nights we’ll hang out as a group, prepare for the next day’s projects, or have get-togethers with local friends. In addition to after work and evening activities, you’ll take part in exciting full-day excursions.

VISIONS is not a teen tour with a day-to-day travel itinerary. Instead we settle in to our home base and are part of daily life. In this place so far removed in location and attitude from the "lower 48" that Alaskans refer to everywhere else as simply “outside,” you soon will feel like an insider in your temporary home. The itinerary provides highlights of some of our activities in Alaska.

Itinerary

First Day
Last Day
Arrivals to Fairbanks
Drive to Tetlin & Welcome!
Orientation & Worksite Training
Fourth of July Celebrations
Tetlin Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trip
Backpacking Trip
Ice Climbing & McCarthy Trip
Mukluk Land Visitor Park
Community Goodbyes
Departures from Fairbanks
  • high school students explore the natural wildlife of Alaska
  • Participants have the opportunity to try new adventures with qualified staff members
  • service learning organization dedicated to balancing work with play
  • try new outdoor activities and go backpacking in the wilderness of alaska during the summer
  • VISIONS programs work from one area for the length of the trip. We become part of the local community.
  • meet new friends and have the best summer of your life with VISIONS
  • the mountain beauty of alaska is the perfect place to unplug and enjoy nature

More Details

VISIONS leaders meet each volunteer upon arrival at the Fairbanks airport. We stay the first night at a community center in Fairbanks and drive to Tetlin the next morning. Leaders also see each participant off from the airport at the end of the program.
Parents receive a phone call or email once their child is met by VISIONS leaders at the airport. After that, phone calls home are generally limited to once a week.
We live together as a group in a school, and boys and girls sleep in separate areas. VISIONS provides thick floor mattress, and participants bring their own pillow and sleeping bag.
VISIONS has a 1 to 4 or 5 leader to student ratio, one of the best ratios among summer programs. The maximum group size is 25, and programs are gender-balanced. Most participants attend alone, and no more than two friends may attend a program together.
We emphasize an inclusive group dynamic. Things like age and grade become less important on a VISIONS program. We eat most meals and do most activities as a large group, and we break into small rotating groups for workdays.
Details such as a packing list, travel notes, and health forms are provided upon enrollment through login web pages. The process is straightforward and we are here to help. VISIONS travel agent books flights, which are not included with tuition.
Teen volunteers receive 100 community service hours. Youth summer camp program for ages 14 – 18.
Program Director
Alaska

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