Summer break is a time both parents and kids look forward to all year long. It’s a time for your child to re-charge their mental batteries, learn some skills outside the classroom, break up the monotony of the school year and even prep for college.
You may have heard about student service programs, which are trips that involve groups of students traveling to different areas and engaging in community service initiatives while also gaining life skills and experiences. These trips typically range from a few days to several weeks in length, and can be domestic or international.
Some questions many parents face when considering a student service program are: Why send your child on a trip when they could be working and making money? Won’t they miss their family and friends? Don’t they need to be at home helping around the house? Is it worth my money and effort to send them somewhere else, when they could potentially get the same experience closer to home?
The Road Less Traveled is an organization that offers many student service and travel programs. Each year we take hundreds of students going into grades 7-12 on either community service, wilderness adventure, or language and cultural immersion trips. We offer programs both domestically and internationally. As an expert in the student travel program field, we’ve addressed the seven reasons parents might typically say, “My child has better things to do.”
1. They won’t get work experience/have a summer job.
While your child may not be getting paid, they will be learning many of the same skills that are associated with a summer job: strong work ethic, responsibility, social aptitude, and goal achievement.
Additionally, they’ll be learning other unique lessons such as travels skills, what it feels like to be an outsider in a foreign culture and the value of volunteerism. Yes, your child might miss out on a few weeks of potential work, but they will be gaining life experiences that will impact them for years to come. The career world these days is looking for more than just years spent behind a cash register – it takes initiative, creativity, and self-realization to convince future employers that YOU are the person for the job. A trip with The Road Less Traveled is exactly the type of mental, personal, and social challenge young people need to help them become someone who stands out in a crowd. This will benefit them when applying to colleges and universities and will be nothing but an asset when moving into the work force.
2. They won’t be home to do their chores.
Some parents look forward to the summer months when they can count on having a child (or two) at home to take care of the house. We get it! It’s nice to come home to a mowed lawn, dishes that are put away and clean countertops.
But think about it: with a student service program, your child will be making a much greater impact on the wider world. They might be building a medical outpost or school for people less fortunate than themselves. They might be helping village schoolchildren practice their English language skills. In comparison, there isn’t much that is more important than the chance to be part of an impactful community service experience. A trip with the Road Less Traveled is a relatively small time commitment for such a huge payoff – and the character building aspects of traveling to new places and helping others will allow your student grow into a mature, self-assured participant of the global community!
3. They won’t be able to take summer school
Some students have the option to take summer courses to fast track their education, and some prefer to freshen up on a particular subject during summer months in preparation for the next school year. But we would argue: sometimes the most important lessons are learned outside the classroom.
The hands-on experience your child will have in a student service program encourages learning in a non-traditional setting—far different from what they gain sitting at a desk, listening to someone lecture. More and more these days, colleges and universities, as well as work places, are looking for people who can think outside of the box. Some of the most essential critical thinking, problem-solving, and general confidence-inspiring lessons are taught outside of traditional institutions. These are skills that are learned in the wider world, and they are fundamental to later success. If this argument doesn’t persuade you, consider the fact that many of the Road Less Traveled’s programs involve a language immersion component, and your student will have the opportunity to practice a non-native language in a foreign context, which is far more effective than learning in a classroom.
4. They won’t be able to catch up on their extra-curricular activities or practice their “skills.”
Piano practice may have to go on hold for a few weeks. Karate class can wait. It’s true that your child may have to break from the usual practice regimen when traveling with a student service program—but consider all the new skills they’ll gain.
It’s easy to say that learning how to build a campfire, set up a tent, pack a backpack, or manage manual labor aren’t hard skills that your child will need later in life. But in reality, these minute trip details are not what The Road Less Traveled is all about. One could even go so far as to say RLT isn’t about the locations they travel to…what is learned on these programs goes so much deeper than that. When a child spends time farming with locals in a different culture, they aren’t only learning about the mechanics of growing and harvesting food (which is knowledge they may or may not ever use practically again); they’re learning about hard work, how to dedicate themselves to something and stick with it, how to appreciate the difference of someone else’s life. They’re learning what it feels like to be the minority, how to cope with challenges, and how to find joy in the most unexpected places. These are skills that everyone in every country and every field of work uses on a daily bases. These are the real skills your child needs to practice.
By letting your child break from the normal schedule of violin lessons and soccer practice, you’re keeping their young minds fresh and inspired.
5. They won’t be safe.
It’s true that there are no federal regulations in regards to summer camps, and that only 25 percent of camps are accredited by the American Camp Association, but that’s why The Road Less Traveled works diligently to ensure we have highly trained staff and maintain an exceptional safety record. We are accredited by the ACA, and are always up-to-date on the latest safety regulations, all things that make us a stand out in our field.
Every single one of our leaders is Wilderness First Responder certified, either by our program personally or from past experiences. Our Staff Training session is in-depth and all-encompassing. We understand that we are responsible for precious, precious cargo, and we do absolutely everything possible to ensure that the people you are entrusting your children to are of the highest caliber. Most of our leaders have led with us or with other outdoor-education programs before or are accomplished travelers/adventurers themselves. We only take the best of the best, and our track record speaks for itself in terms of our success in the field.
Still have questions? Visit our FAQ page and see our full safety and accreditation page with all of the information you need to be sure your child is in trustworthy hands while experiencing one of our student service programs.
6. They/we won’t be able to afford it.
Student service programs can be somewhat costly depending on the destination and duration, but there are many ways your child can fundraise to help cut down on costs. Just a few ideas:
The reality is that with a little hard work, your child will build personal investment in the experience, all while helping cut down on costs and becoming more connected with your local community. This will allow them to appreciate their trip all the more, and treasure it for the incredible experience it truly is. In addition, RLT has need-based scholarship opportunities for those who could truly benefit from a little extra financial help. We do our absolute best to work with families in need, and take pride in our ability to help send anyone who is passionate enough about gaining a global education on the trip of their dreams.
7. Everyone studies abroad in college now anyways. Why go in high-school too?
Gap year programs and more well-rounded high school educations are becoming more and more important these days. With the cost of colleges and universities skyrocketing, it’s vital to make sure your student is as prepared as they can be for such a financial and personal commitment. The best way to get the most out of a college education, and the most out of your money, is to make sure that your child has had enough life experience to be able to make sound and accurate decisions about their future. Those who do not know themselves will not be able to work toward what they want, and one of the key ways a young person gets to know who they are is by taking on life-changing experiences like what the Road Less Traveled offers.
A gap year is lengthy and can be pricey, and while it is a great decision for some families, many students don’t want to take themselves off the education track for that long. RLT offers a way for students to get the same kind of character-building experiences, but in a shorter amount of time and with the convenience of not missing any school.
We know the reasons parents are hesitant to send their child on a student service program. We understand the “why” behind parents’ fears and concerns in relation to sending their child on a trip. But it’s our hope that the benefits gained through experiencing a Road Less Traveled program will transcend those concerns. Our amazing team will be able to open your child’s eyes not only to the joys of helping others, but to the beauty of the world. These few weeks can do more for your child than months of work experience, practices, and classroom learning. Let’s learn differently.