When we launched the Kivu Gap Year in 2009, the most often asked question was “what is a gap year?” Today, when we travel and meet prospective students and parents, the most common question is “What are the results of the gap year for your graduating students?”
When I would ask our alumni this question, it was always overwhelming to them. The question was simply too big to tackle. Where do you start and how do you give language to an 8 month global journey around the world? So when I launched an Impact Assessment on our past alumni last spring of 2015, the goal was to see if (1) students had any correlations with what they learned in our program and (2) to see if I could help them provide unified language to articulate the experience.
Through interviews and questionnaires, I came to discover 6 areas of general interest:
- Socio-Emotional Competence-How we relate to and manage ourselves and our relationship to others.
- Cultural Competence–How we adapt (or fail to adapt) to culturally diverse environments.
- Faith Ownership & Integration–How we make our faith our own (rather than that of our parents) and include this value in every aspect of our lives (rather than compartmentalizing it).
- Family & Belonging–How we value our nuclear family and our connectedness to global humanity.
- Justice & Compassion–Developing the eyes to see and the ears to hear voices on the margins, to enter their pain, and stand in solidarity with them.
- Passion & Calling–Giving space to hear our vocation and to embrace the beauty of being made in God’s image.
What is even more surprising is how interdependent these 6 areas of growth were with one another. Students would freely flow in and out of conversation with how one aspect informed the other. I came to understand this to mean all 6 of these ‘Core Competencies’ were building off one another. In a program filled with internships, home stays, weekly cultural events, instructional ‘class’ time, on-going mentorship, and the influence of fellow gap students, it is a perfect recipe to see God work in amazing and surprising ways in each heart and life.
Traditional higher education is giving students the information they need to succeed in the real world. But a non-traditional education, like a gap year, can effectively supplement higher learning with the ‘intangibles’ necessary to grow into young adulthood. At Kivu Gap Year, our students are able to work on the development of the whole person. We are able to equip students with the soft skills and the real world experience (900 hours of internship work) to empower them to lead in their careers, in their future families, and in their faith communities.
We are developing young leaders who have confidence in their own voice. With this confidence, students can enter (or re-enter) university life with a sharp focus, a wealth of experience, and a humility and passion to further their learning.