What are High School Specials?
High School Specials are short-term international volunteer service projects and internships that are specifically designed for teenagers. Back in 2004, we put our many years of experience in international service into creating a new program just for high school volunteers. The result is our High School Specials – a collection of more than fifty projects that engage over 1,000 young people each year on projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the South Pacific.
High School Specials are structured differently from other types of Projects Abroad programs, taking into consideration the requirements of younger and typically less-traveled volunteers. We also make some changes to better channel youthful energy and optimism into worthwhile projects!
"The staff at Projects Abroad are thorough and professional with their organizational and personal skills. As a parent they assured me complete confidence in the program my 16-year-old daughter was enrolled in and that all aspects of her well-being while traveling in Ghana would be looked after. The staff at Projects Abroad did not disappoint and it was a rewarding experience for both me and my daughter."
Tony, father of Victoria
Care & Community in Ghana
Safety & Supervision for High School Volunteers
We understand that young volunteers traveling abroad need structure, a safe environment, and support from qualified staff. With this in mind, we have tailored our High School Specials to provide a full timetable of events to keep the volunteers busy.
While on the project, volunteers spend every day with our full-time professional staff. During the working week, volunteers roll up their sleeves with our staff and work elbow-to-elbow. In the evenings and on the weekends, volunteers go with our staff to soak up various cultural activities and historical tourism sites.
High School Specials volunteers are never alone. They will always be with other volunteers, supervisors, or their host families. After their busy daily schedule is completed, volunteers return home to their host family in groups of two or more volunteers per family. In a few cases, volunteers stay all together in a hotel or dorm-style building that we manage, with their supervisors on-site. In most cases, volunteers have at least one roommate of the same sex and approximate age.
This is a fantastic program for volunteers to receive structured support. For any volunteers wishing to have the independence to explore by themselves in the evenings or over the weekends, we recommend taking part on one of our other programs.
Group Experiences with Other Teens
High School Specials volunteers come from all around the world to join the group. Start dates are fixed so that everyone arrives and departs on the same day, staying on the project for 1-4 weeks (depending on the project).
If volunteers choose to extend their trip, having spent some time gaining a solid foundation on a High School Special program, they then can transition to work an additional week or more along with our longer-term volunteers at one of our projects offered throughout the year. Volunteers will have more freedom and independence during this time. Our staff are always on hand should any additional support be required.
Many volunteers are surprised to find how international their group is. Typically a group of fifteen High School Specials volunteers consists of teenagers coming from five to ten different countries. Working together overseas is a fast bonding agent for any group, so even after a short time abroad most volunteers return home with life-long friends and knowledge of cultures and countries far beyond their project location.
Air Travel There and Back Again
Unless participating in a project with an Escorted Flight option, High School Specials volunteers travel independently to their designated airport to start the project. Our trained in-country staff meet any flight and bring the volunteers back to our office for introductions and training.
Each year, we offer a few Escorted Flight options which give volunteers the option to join a staff member on a flight leaving from New York – JFK (for North Americans) for their destination airport. If an Escorted Flight option is available for a specific project, it is noted in the project description for that project.
In all cases, the cost of air travel is not included in the program fee for High School Specials. However, we do have an in-house Travel Team that contacts volunteers with a proposed itinerary in case they would like to purchase flights through us. Of course, volunteers are always welcome to book their own flights instead.
What is Included in the Program Fee?
Aside from the extra staff support as well as tourism excursions that are unique to the High School Specials, all Projects Abroad volunteers receive room and board, medical & travel insurance, a personalized MyProjectsAbroad webpage to help you prepare, 24-hour support from our full-time staff and (of course) a worthwhile job to do.
We are also happy to help with any paperwork required to claim community service hours credit for your time overseas with us. Typically volunteers receive credit for twenty hours of work per week.
"My granddaughter's experience proved to have had an amazing impact on her and increased her confidence in many ways. Gloria wrote her college essay on her cultural and linguistic interactions with her house mother. She seemed to have been a warm and caring individual who helped Gloria learn Spanish quickly. Gloria had enough exposure to Spanish that she skipped first year Spanish and so far, is getting A's in second year Spanish. We have only the highest praise for her experience in Argentina."
Lois, grandmother of Gloria
Care & Spanish in Argentina
The Impact of Volunteering on a High School Special
Every year, thousands of young volunteers take part in our High School Specials. During their time overseas, they contribute towards achieving long-term goals and make a long-lasting positive impact on the communities where they work. Read our detailed 2016 High School Specials Impact Report to learn more about their achievements.