By: Ben Saks, Pio Power ’17

The Pioneer experience, for those who have taken part, is indescribable. The weeks spent building and living in the Village, the trip to Israel and Poland – those are on the schedule. But what happens along those – the stories, friends, and experiences you make – are something you can’t put a price on.  

I really didn’t know what to expect. I’d never even crossed the Pio Bridge before, and that felt like an experience in itself. Walking out to the village on the first day, Abe says “Time to build your tents”. Wait, what?! Opening the shack door to see poles, bedframes, mattresses, cubbies, and tarps for the tents and all I could think was, “There is no way I can finish this.”

Besides the physical activities in the Village, there are so many intellectual exercises, learning about ourselves, others, and the world. For instance, getting input from people who identify more as Conservatively Jewish or Reformed really expanded on my perspective of what it means to be Jewish myself. Getting to exchange my ideas of what it means to me and others is probably what has fueled some of my actions over the beginning of this school year.

I have joined my Philosophy Club at school and get to hear others’ opinions as well as share my own. It’s helped me to gain perspective and understand how each person differs from the other. Understanding people is difficult, but understanding people is what’s beginning to mold me into who I am today.

As I become increasingly comfortable with this, I find myself coming out of my quiet shell. It’s even guided me into becoming a leader – a leader of the App Development Team for my Coding Club at school. I am positive that without the Pio Program, I would have never even attempted to become a leader.

Looking back on the whole experience, I really have to thank my family, counselors, and all the people I met on my trip abroad to Israel and Poland. Lastly, I want to thank my fellow Pios for making this past summer the best summer of my life, by far. Thank you all!

Ben Saks is a proud member of the 2017 Pioneer Program. He is set to receive his five-year sweatshirt this upcoming summer by participating in the Staff-In-Training program.