Head shot of Brad GillingsBrad Gillings, Founder & Director

Brad has spent much of his time over the past thirty years in Asia, Africa, and South America, where he has been active on the cutting edge of alternative learning, community volunteering, and world travel.  He recently received the American Gap Year Association “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his long-term contributions and their significant impact to the experiential education field, including his 24 years running Youth International programs that are “consistently excellent.”

Brad began creating Youth International in 1995, and led its first team on a ten month around-the-world learning adventure through Asia and Africa in 1997. After leading the second Youth International gap year travel program through Asia for four months during the spring of 1998, Brad took a step back from continuous life on the road and now directs Youth International operations from the program’s office in Evergreen, Colorado.

Prior to founding Youth International, Brad worked with the world-renowned experiential education, community service and performing organization Up With People, and with several private ventures. Brad was also a leader with the US National Service program AmeriCorps. As a former consultant for the US National Crime Prevention Council, Brad has conducted workshops to train leaders from a spectrum of community service programs across the United States. He has also taught at the high school level in the United States, Canada, and Japan.  A published author, Brad has written articles concerned with humanitarian issues in developing countries.


Head shot of Alex RetzleffAlexandra Retzleff, Program Manager

Alex manages the general administration of the gap year travel programs, with a focus on communications and recruitment.  She also overseas the program’s accreditation with the Gap Year Association and its affiliations with the Canadian Gap Association and Western Colorado University.  With a PhD in Classical Archaeology and a background in higher education, Alex leads a unique series of experiential education courses that Youth International participants can take for college credit through Western Colorado University.

Prior to her work at Youth International, Alex taught Classics at McMaster University, mentored students in the hands-on skills of field archaeology, and published scholarly articles on various topics in art history, archaeology, and cultural history. Her passion for learning about international cultures has her brought her to 30+ countries on 6 continents.


Team Leaders & Overseas Staff

Each Youth International group is led by two experienced Team Leaders. The team leaders are people with extensive backgrounds in experiential education and with extraordinary experience living, traveling, working, and studying in the countries they lead.

Youth International leaders have typically worked with the US Peace Corps, taught school, worked for foreign service organizations, or worked for other educational and service programs in Asia, Africa, or South America. Most have post-graduate degrees in areas such as alternative and outdoor education, service learning, and anthropology.

Specific background information on the leaders for each individual trip will be provided to team members well before the start of their journey.

Youth International also has local staff members in each location that a team visits.  These are people native to the host country, and normally they are from the particular community where the team is staying.  In most cases our overseas staff members have been working with Youth international teams for many years.  These individuals have a personal connection to the community, the host families, and the projects we are working on. Their intimacy and understanding of the community and its people allows them to provide invaluable cultural insight and guidance for our team members.