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What are High School Specials?

High School Volunteers painting the exterior of a school in Ghana, West Africa

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 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-travelled volunteers. We also make some changes to better channel youthful energy and optimism into worthwhile projects!

Safety & Supervision for High School Volunteers

We understand that young volunteers travelling 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

Teen volunteers with their completed painting project at a school overseas

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 at least two weeks and (depending on the project) up to four weeks.

If volunteers choose to extend their trip, having spent their first 2 weeks gaining a solid foundation, they then spend the extra week along with our longer term volunteers at one of our projects offered throughout the year. Volunteers have more freedom and independence during this extra week. Our staff are always on hand should any additional support be required.

Alternatively if volunteers wish to continue receiving structured support for a longer period, there is also the option to take part on one of our 4 Week High School Specials in several destinations.

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 just two weeks 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

Teen Medicine volunteers dressed in scrubs in a hospital abroad

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). We can arrange flights for our Canadian volunteers to fly through New York to continue their flight journey to Ghana with our staff member. 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.

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 2018 High School Specials Impact Report to learn more about their achievements.

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