The Gap Year Experience

The " gap year" has been a notable topic of discussion for several years. Should it be mandatory? Should it be a requirement for American citizens to give back to their country? It seems that these are the questions that teens and young adults are asking themselves before they make the big move to college or a new city to start their career. One of the largest arguments against the gap year is that it will throw off a student's academic consistency or lead you astray from your chosen career path. My gap year after college did exactly that, and it was the best thing that happened to me.
After I graduated from college with a history degree, it seemed like I had a selective amount of career paths; law school, teaching, or museum studies. Like many post-college graduates, my head was swimming with possibilities and I was drowning in "So, what's next?" questions. This is when I applied for an AmeriCorps program called City Year. City Year provides young adults the opportunity to fulfill a year of civic engagement by working in communities and schools across the country to decrease the education gap and increase the high school graduation rate.
I arrived at my first day at City Year headquarters in Columbus, Ohio and instantly felt the passion, optimism, and drive from the staff and my fellow Corps members. I had the privilege to be placed in a high school and was given a focus list group of ninth graders who were targeted based on grades, behavior, and attendance to be potential dropouts. These students are faced with heavy barriers; negative societal expectations, gangs, low-quality education and the idea that they do not matter. Walking into a classroom with all of that negative energy and trying to change it was one of the hardest things I have ever faced in my life.
It is not a secret that working with teenagers is frustrating and stressful. We've all been there. The pressure to follow the decisions of friends, experimenting, and trying to "fit in" is what it's all about for most. It was at this moment I had discovered a newfound passion. Volunteering a year of your life with little to no income while undergoing an incredibly stressful work environment does not seem ideal, but it built my character and forced me to reevaluate the priorities in my life. It taught me how to balance a budget, understand the difference what I need and what I want, be resourceful, and make genuine human connections.
My gap year experience allowed me to gain meaningful out of the classroom life experience. I was involved in various cultural experiences, making a deep impact on lives, and discovered my leadership capabilities. Gap years provide opportunities in all areas of interest across the country. Not only did it provide me the gateway into a successful teaching career, it provided me with a deep, meaningful experience that would drive my day-to-day passion.