Paradise Among Mountains

When it rains, look for RAINBOWS.

When it is dark, look for STARS.

Photography and Writing by Yvette Fu


First Mission of Summer: Project Period

Many people believe that ice cream and iced soda are the right ways to start their summer. However, in VVS, the first thing that greets everyone on campus is Project Period. At VVS, the proverb “work hard, play hard” lies under the base of the Project Period.

You must be curious, what exactly is project period?

I am afraid there is no defined term for it; the only thing I could tell you is Project Period is a 30year- tradition at Verde Valley School, and you cannot find this anywhere else in the world. During the week after finals, the whole VVS community engages in experiential, project-based learning which is grounded in creativity, action and service. As for students, we are able to choose a morning project and a afternoon project based on our interests and goals we want to accomplish. Personally speaking, Project Period is not only about CAS, but also about another three words: Experience, Challenge and Change.

One of our school’s principle is “IB + Dirt”. IB is not hard to understand, but where is the “Dirt” comes from? Indeed, it comes from the geographic feature of our school.

Isn’t it amazing that the cathedral rock, which people are willing to drive four hours to visit, lies on VVS’s backyard? Isn’t amazing that oak creek is only 30 mins’ hike away from VVS Campus? And this is exactly where “Dirt” comes from.

VVS has so many activities are based on topographic condition around the campus, which including Mountain biking, Equestrian, Cross country and Hiking. However, such activities also require trails to follow in the reason of safety. In this case, a project called “Follow Trails” is formed to build a new trail for the riders and runners.

“It is not a easy work, but everything went pretty well so far. For next school year we will have a new trail for mountain biking.” Said David, who is in charge of the trail building and coach for Mountain Biking. Indeed, standing upon the scorched earth, exposed to the furious sun for hours sounds tough, but the efforts are always worthwhile: What could be more thrilling than a new trail for next year to everyone in the community?

Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady of United States, once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself,’I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” Indeed, this experience that can be treasured and carried away is what exactly Project Period aimed at. Have you ever imagined welding for your campus? Have you ever imagined building a mountain bike trail? Have you ever imagined doodling upon a whole giant wall with your creativity? I bet majority of you have not. Therefore, Project Period becomes a Fairy Godmother, which makes such unique experiences come true.


If I throw you into the woods without phones but camping backpacks, if I tell you to work out for straight three hours, if I challenge you to hike through all the canyons of Northern Arizona, Will you be willing to do it? Will you be able to survive? or most importantly, will you be able to challenge yourself? Project Period is also a time for you to step out of your comfort zone, and push yourself to the limit. There is a word in Buddhist called Nirvana, which, I suppose, is a precise word for the spirit of Project Period.

Our Dean of Students, Dr. Jules Troyer, compares the spirit of Renaissance to the spirit of VVS Project Period, claiming that Project Period argues a similar call as Renaissance because they both value great citizens who are much more than merely smart. Just as what I have asserted in the first paragraph, Project Period is all about yourself, experiencing yourself, challenging yourself and changing yourself.

“It is a magical time when you embark an epic journey to find yourself.”

Further Exploring of PROJECT PERIOD


Project Period is a time when everything is being refurbished. Either you get a new experience of doing something fun or you are engaged in reconstructing the property of the community. It is not an easy task to accomplish; it requires everyone’s passion and willingness to doing something good. In order to understand the overall spirit of Project Period, we need to pierce through the surface and dive into the Project Period of 2k17 to get a closer look. In this case, a interview with the manager of Project Period, Jenae, will be the best choice.

The first question I asked about Project Period is “What is the process for organizing Project Period?” Indeed, this is a really broad question including how the projects in project period are chosen, how those projects are approved by both faculty and students, and what is needed to prepare before the projects actually start. Though facing a tough question, Jenae responded perfectly. She told me that some projects like Canyoneering and Welding are called legacies because they are always popular among students over years, and those projects are most likely be retained to the next year. And a faculty meeting will be held in the early January. In this meeting, each faculty member can propose their ideas about project period and then discuss the feasibility of each project. Then it is time to engage students in the discussion. Jenae will reveal the projects faculties have proposed to students and students rate them from extremely dislike to extremely like. And then based on students’ taste of the projects, Jenae will come up the list of projects.

Then the next question I asked is how she feels about this year’s project period so far, what she thinks are the differences and similarities between this year and last year. She said that so far this year is quite a success since there are “no fires”. And comparing to last year, she feels like this year the projects are more diverse and for each project the group is smaller which enables each students to engage more with their project group. Moreover, this year the projects are not only lead by our current faculty members but also our school’s alumni. For example, this year a group of juniors and seniors went to Texas attending the “Neon Desert” Music Festival. They are invited by Sasha and Morgan who were our school’s alumni and used to be the students of Andy. Jenae claimed that it is a fantastic opportunity for seniors who intend to work in such field in future and for juniors to have a good activity to write in their college application. Jenae also asserted that this year’s “Community Day” is another surprising success. Last year, even after seven hours’ work, some places in community such as main office were still a mess. But this year, the whole community’s enthusiasm made seven hours’ work more efficient: After a whole day’s hard work, the community is not a mess anymore. Therefore, Jenae said she wishes that such beautiful things will continue next year.

Last but not least, since our school’s sports activity could lead by students, I asked Jenae if one day the project in Project Period can also be led by students. Jenae said she loves this idea. As long as the students are passionate, communicative, organized and have a clear plan for the project period, there is always a chance for students to lead a project in Project Period. However, there must be a faculty member who serves as a co-leader to take care of safety issues and attendance.  



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