Gap students "build human bridges that withstand the winds of political change. And when they come home, it is with the foundation of empathy that informs their leadership, and America’s continued leadership in the world".
-- Abby Falik, Global Citizen Year
As a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural Muslim village in Senegal, West Africa from 1979-82, I remember clearly two very important goals of the Peace Corps: to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served, and to help promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans. These goals correlate to Ms. Falick's remarks in building human bridges and a foundation of empathy.
Now, more than ever, as countries in Europe and the US become more isolationist, nationalistic, and protectionist, as seen with proposed immigration policies and a border wall, it is vital that our college-bound young men and women gain an understanding and awareness of other cultures' customs, values, religions, economics, traditions, and abilities outside of our own. It is imperative that this next generation integrate that learned "empathy" and insight into their values and actions upon their return home. For it is they who will become our country's future leaders and policymakers, responsible for crafting laws that determine the fate of our environmental, health care, foreign policy, and alternative energy programs. Now, more than ever, is the time for our young adults, graduating from college or vocational school and heading into the workforce, to take the risk and live in another culture. Students need to immerse themselves in another language by living with a homestay family, attending university, interning or working, or traveling in a foreign country that is perhaps lesser developed to see how the majority of the world lives. The perspective and cultural understanding gained from these experiences creates global citizens who can learn from and embrace differences, and more importantly, go on to influence foreign diplomacy in a leadership position.
Now, more than ever, is the time to explore and apply to gap programs that are the right fit for a student’s particular interests, passions, and goals. And we in the gap industry strongly believe that gap experiences should be made available to all students from all economic backgrounds and abilities.
In fact, the theme for 2017 The American Gap Association’s annual conference to take place in Denver this upcoming May is “Removing Obstacles” (see sidebar). To that end, I have provided a list below of helpful funding resources to enable potential “gappers” to experience and learn from a gap opportunity.
As high schoolers decide what to do next after graduation, whether it be college, vocational trade school, or work, I hope that they will consider taking some time out to become more informed and culturally aware global citizens. Taylor The Gap provides the professional expertise to guide and navigate the options that will help them do just that. Don't wait! Apply now!
Work to earn money over the summers pre- and post-gap experience
If you belong to a church or youth group, inquire about donations for a community service or volunteer project
In lieu of birthday, Hannukkah, Christmas, or graduation gifts, ask friends and family to donate to your gap experience
Write letters to family, teachers, and friends requesting support with a real letter or using social media crowd funding apps
Explore the application of 529 or FAFSA grants towards gap program fees
Perhaps ask a local newspaper or radio to write or broadcast a piece on your upcoming gap year plans to spread word locally (you never know if an elderly person might listen and read about your plans and contribute!)
Take a tax donation for the full cost of the program if: you are applying to a volunteer organization which has its 501c3 tax exempt status, airfare and program fees may be deducted