How We Got Here: Summer Community Service Programs for High School Students

Every ARCC summer program has a community-driven spotlight service project which serves as the foundation for that particular program.
High School Student Teaching in Peru with ARCC

We are often asked how ARCC’s summer community service programs for high school students and gap year programs for high school graduates were conceived and created. We’ve been running summer programs for teens for over three decades. When we were founded, in 1983, ARCC (called Adventures Rolling Cross-Country at the time) was a domestic wilderness program operator. We piled students into 15-passenger vans and traveled to national parks and taught leadership and wilderness skills as we backpacked and rafted through the amazing landscapes of places like Rocky Mountain and Yosemite National Park. These trips were exhilarating, full of excitement, tons of fun and most of all impactful for the high school students that participated.

Fast-forward a decade to the early 90’s and ARCC (now called Adventures Cross-Country) expanded programming internationally, launching programs in countries like Costa Rica, Australia, and Thailand while also sticking to our wilderness and leadership roots. As the nineties progressed, so did our programming and our relationships with the international communities that we traveled visited. We developed our mission “to provide unique, life-changing educational experiences for teenagers in places rarely visited and seldom experienced.” The remote communities we visited were increasingly rural and small and had needs that weren’t being met by their limited resources. There we were, a group of 18 able-bodied teenagers in a community that needed a school or a greenhouse…what else was there to do but pitch in? Rafting, trekking, and surfing could wait a few days while we helped out with construction, working in the local school, etc. It was in this organic way that ARCC’s current service model was born. Summer community service programs for high school students with a mix of meaningful, community-driven service projects and fun, exhilarating adventure.

Today, after three-and-a-half decades, thousands of teenagers and many tens of thousands of community service hours later, we still go back to many of these same communities. We have established wonderful relationships with these communities and work closely with leaders and elders to see in what ways we can be of help each year. Our students pitch in wherever we are needed on meaningful community service projects around the world. ARCC now runs 17 summer community service programs for high school students in both international and domestic locations and six educational 90-day gap semesters framed in a service learning curriculum.


ARCC Programs has offered summer community service and travel programs for teens for over 35 years. With summer and gap year programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program or a gap semester on our website or request a catalog today.