The teens, who volunteer at the G. Cecil Pruett Community Center Family YMCA of Canton, this summer participated in International Excursion programs offered by all metro Atlanta YMCA locations.
The programs give teens the opportunity to connect with the world through a wide range of charity projects.
Alyse Steves, 17, daughter of Victor and Andrea Steves of Canton, and Nate Wilson, 16, son of Dewayne and Samantha Wilson of Canton, both went to South Africa. They brought school supplies and coats to needy children and visited drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers.
Alyse's younger sister, Lauren, 16, traveled to Guadeloupe, a French island in the Caribbean Sea, where she taught English to local students and participated in a beach cleanup. In turn, the students taught her and other teen volunteers French.
"It changed my life and opened my eyes to everything," Lauren said of the trip.
While Guadeloupe is a foreign country, Lauren said the teenagers wanted to learn English and were very appreciative of the Americans' efforts.
Canton YMCA Teen Director Gabe Darnell said he was excited to see three of their teens travel overseas and participate in community service projects.
"These types of experiences force teens to get out of their comfort zones," he said. "When that happens, they experience some type of personal growth."
Along with forcing herself out of her comfort zone, Lauren, a Cherokee High School sophomore, said the trip gave her a new career track.
Her ideal job now is to become a teen director of a YMCA, join the Peace Corps and teach in Gambia. She hopes to also attend Kennesaw State University to study education as "a fall-back plan."
Both Nate and Alyse said being in South Africa opened their eyes to how fortunate they are to live in America.
"It was really life-changing," Nate said of being in South Africa.
Nate added that the South Africans rarely complained about their poor living conditions and worked hard to provide for their families.
Alyse agreed, adding that as little as 200 yards separated city and rural areas - and different worlds.
Nate, who has been involved with the YMCA for three years, has served as presidents of the facility's Teen Leaders Club and now volunteers in its KidZone.
After he graduates from Creekview High School in two years, Nate said he would like to study psychology or education at the University of Georgia and eventually become a YMCA teen director.
Alyse, a freshman at Berry College in Rome, has been involved with the Canton YMCA since it opened in 2005.
She is studying to earn a degree in pre-veterinary medicine and deciding whether to minor in film or Spanish.
She said she would eventually like to work to save endangered species and produce a documentary film about South African youth.
Nate said he would cherish the opportunity and remember it as one that changed his perspective on life.
Along with a new view on life, Alyse said the trip gave her a stronger sense of determination.
"I know I'm one person, but I can make a difference in a person's life and that's what I want to do," she said.