Service can be simple, powerful and fun.
Imagine helping teach a six year old to read. That’s simple. And powerful. When you see these young students, when you feel their energy, when you get caught up in their enthusiasm, well, that’s a ton of fun, too. Our Reading & Recreation summer camp is free to local schoolchildren, is led by a reading specialist and gives you the chance to make a powerful difference in a child’s life.
Picture yourself in a lush green field, patiently harvesting organic vegetables for a local food bank. Simple (can you pick beans?). Powerful (fresh food at a food bank!). Fun (outside, with your Overland leaders and your fellow group members—chatting, laughing and telling stories).
For a fun change of pace, we’ll also get the chance to hike, raft and camp in the Berkshires. A way to enjoy the natural beauty around us, a time to enjoy our group.
Service can be a gift. A gift to those you serve, a gift to yourself. Spending two weeks in the summer in a beautiful place with like-minded peers and two terrific Overland leaders is an ideal way to look beyond yourself and to give to others. And in the process to get so much in return.
I learned so much about myself and the world around me.
- Emily Clemens, Larchmont, New York
Day 1: Trip Start
Once everyone has arrived, we’ll go for a short hike, settle into our dorm rooms and start preparing for two weeks of service in the Berkshires. In the evening, we will meet with a local elementary school teacher who will talk to us about our upcoming volunteer project—the Reading & Recreation Summer Program for elementary school students.
Days 2-6: Reading & Recreation Summer Program & Agricultural Engagement
We’ll dive into our first day of community service work, running Overland’s Reading & Recreation Summer Program. This program offers local first, second and third graders the opportunity to receive one-on-one reading instruction, attention and care from Overland’s staff of professional teachers, leaders and student volunteers. Our goal is to improve reading skills and boost self-confidence in a fun, supportive setting. We’ll be paired with the same reading buddies for the duration of the program, and each morning we’ll walk to the local elementary school to meet up with them. Over the next two weeks, we’ll learn and play with our buddies, serving as a reading tutor, counselor, role model and friend.
In the afternoons, we’ll devote half of our time to a community-sponsored farm dedicated to organic crop production. In addition to producing year-round fruits and vegetables for 175 local families, the farm also provides food for a local organization that serves free lunches in the nearby town of North Adams. We’ll volunteer on the farm, learning about sustainable agriculture as we contribute to this important community effort. Other afternoons we will volunteer at a food pantry, where we’ll help stock food and deliver meals for those in need. We will go on short, local hikes and swim in nearby swimming holes.
Days 7 & 8: Hike, Raft & Camp in the Berkshires
We’ll spend our weekend outdoors hiking Mount Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts, and camping at a nearby state forest. We’ll raft the Dryway, an exciting section of the Deerfield River, with professional guides. Our time outside will give us a chance to grow and explore the beautiful Berkshire mountains.
Days 9-12: Reading & Recreation Summer Program & Land Preservation
Returning for our final week of Reading & Recreation, we’ll spend each morning working with our reading buddies and helping them improve their reading skills. On Thursday, we’ll celebrate with a trip to a local swimming hole, a cookout and an awards ceremony for the students.
In the afternoons, we’ll partner with local non-profits and devote our time to preserving the land and community. We’ll spend several hours outdoors each afternoon working to improve the natural environment through tasks like invasive plant removal, trail work and land management.
Day 13: Trip End
As a group, we’ll enjoy a final dinner and celebrate two weeks of service, accomplishment and friendship before saying our goodbyes.
11 nights in a dormitory on the Williams College campus.
1 night of frontcountry camping with access to flush toilets and showers.
Things to know
- We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- Be sure to bring comfortable clothes that can get dirty and worn while volunteering.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
- Please wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.
- Medium-Sized Duffel Bag or Backpack
3,000-5,000 cubic inch (50-80 liters) duffel bag. You will leave the duffel bag and any extra items in our van during the trip and use your day pack for hikes and daily activities.
- Navy Overland Shirt (1)
We will send students an Overland shirt prior to their trip, and we encourage students to wear their Overland shirt to trip start. We highly recommend this for students flying to their trip start location.
- T-Shirt (5)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Long-Sleeve T-Shirt (1)
Lightweight for sun protection.
- Work Pants (1)
Durable and suitable for trail work.
- Pants (1)
Suitable for day hikes, travel or walks through towns and cities.
- Synthetic Shorts (2)
- Underwear (7)
- Athletic Socks (pair) (5)
- Swimsuit (1)
- Hat with Visor (1)
For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
- Pajamas (optional)
Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of bringing pajamas.
- Waterproof Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain coats provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. We recommend hoods and breathable materials. Gore-Tex is a well-known waterproof and breathable fabric but there are many other quality fabrics. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.
- Day Pack
Basic two-shoulder backpack large enough to hold your lunch, two water bottles, snacks, extra layers and rain jacket. Use your day pack as a carry-on for your flight and for daily activities or hikes. A standard school backpack is usually fine (no satchels or shoulder bags).
- Sleeping Bag
Any type of sleeping bag is acceptable.
- Water Bottle
One 1-liter bottle (a smaller size is acceptable).
- Flashlight or Headlamp & Extra Batteries
Headlamps are preferable because they free up your hands.
- Sneakers (pair)
Comfortable shoes to wear on daily activities. Shoes should be supportive and have a good tread on the bottom for traction.
- Water Shoes
Closed-toed sport sandals, water shoes or old sneakers to wear on the water. Sandals must have a heel strap for activities such as kayaking, rafting or canoeing (flip flops and Crocs are not acceptable).
- Photo Identification
A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
- Unaccompanied Minor Fee Receipt (if applicable)
For students travelling as Unaccompanied Minors, please print a copy of the UAM fee receipt for your child's leaders to keep on file.
- Baggage Fee Receipt (if applicable)
Some airlines allow passengers to input credit card information to cover checked bag service charges when checking in online prior to the trip. To reduce hassle at the airport, we encourage you to pay for checked baggage beforehand and supply your child with a copy of the receipt for his or her leaders to keep on file.
- Extra Long Twin Linens
One to two sets of linens. A pillow, mattress pad and blanket are provided.
- Leather Work Gloves (pair)
Sturdy gloves to wear during volunteer work
- Small Bath Towel
- Beach Towel
All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Spending Money
$30 per week in cash or a debit/ATM card.
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera and, if necessary, a charger and large enough memory card to accommodate your pictures (4 to 8 GB).
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- What is the weather like on Service & Hiking New England?
The weather on Service & Hiking New England varies. Sometimes it is sunny and warm, other times it is rainy and cold; average summer temperatures range from the 50s to 80s and may be cooler at night. Our packing list takes these variables into consideration. Layering is the best strategy. Please follow the packing list, paying close attention to rain gear specifications.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child’s trip?
Your child will fly to and from Albany International Airport (ALB). We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program. If your child is not flying to the start of the trip, he or she should be dropped off and picked up in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland’s admissions process.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
When we receive child’s application, if the first choice is available, you will receive a phone call and an email containing a link to our Overland Portal where you will find our Admissions Review Forms. We will accept your deposit to hold your child’s place in the program pending a favorable Admissions Review. If the first choice is not available, we will call you to confirm that the second choice is acceptable. If neither the first choice nor second choice are available, we will call you to discuss options. For those students placed on our waitlist, we will notify you as soon as a spot becomes available.
We seek to admit students who have demonstrated that they possess the personal qualities and experience necessary to succeed on an Overland trip. While Overland is always supportive and nurturing, an Overland program is unlike a traditional camp in that our small groups–12 students and 2 leaders–travel, live and work as a group, making all of their own meals, helping each other and cooperating in ways big and small, and they do all of this far from home. As a result, every student must be able to thrive in an environment that places equal emphasis on:
1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.
2. Independence and Self-Reliance.
3. Support of Others and Consideration for Others.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers (the exceptions to this are: your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency). If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send him or her with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss to phones, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child; to that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer (outside of office hours our answering service provides emergency coverage). Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
- Can my child get credit for service hours?
You should check with your child’s school about whether or not Overland's service hours meet their requirements. The approximate number of hours of service are listed in the sidebar. We will provide your child with proof of participation after completion of his or her service work.
Volunteer in local communities and hike, raft and explore the Berkshires.
Students going on Service & Hiking New England should prepare for:
- 4 days of hiking with an average of 2-8 miles per day
- 9 days of volunteer service for an average of 4 hours each day
- Travel to and from the trip
- An Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for Hiking
On Service & Hiking New England, you should be prepared for short afternoon hikes and a full-day hike to the summit of Mount Greylock, the highest peak in the state of Massachusetts (3,491 feet). For the Mount Greylock hike, you will hike on a well-established trail through forest. The terrain can be challenging, steep and rocky, but you will take plenty of breaks as a group throughout the hike.
Before your trip, we strongly advise you spend time breaking-in and adjusting to your hiking boots. Please follow our guidelines as you prepare for your program.
- 5 weeks before your trip: wear your boots for 15-30 minutes a day. Walk around your house or neighborhood so your boots begin to conform to your feet.
- 4 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots .
- 1 week before your trip: take two 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots .
While hiking, the pace of your group will vary. Typically, you will take multiple breaks over the course of the hike - for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust packs, etc.
Preparing for Service
Trips involving service work require a positive attitude and willingness to work hard as a volunteer. You should arrive eager to participate in a variety of service projects. In the mornings, you will mentor students in the Reading & Recreation Program. In the afternoons, you will work at a local food pantry or help out at a sustainable farm. The projects your group work on will depend upon the availability of service opportunities and the needs of the local community.
Preparing for Travel to and from the Trip
Families are responsible for arranging flights to and from the designated airport during a specified window (please do not purchase flights until you have received an email confirming our review of your health forms and school reference). Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome you at the start of your trip and to assist with your departure. If you are not flying to and from your trip, you should be dropped off and picked up in Williamstown, Massachusetts. If you are flying to and from your trip, we will have you call home upon arrival and before departure. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed you on a program.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive of your trip mates and your leaders, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. You will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring.
Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland program.