The Most Unique Year of College on the Planet
"Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist: it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die."
- John Taylor Gatto
Alternative College, Gap Year and Study Abroad Learning Program
This full academic year program is tremendously varied, is designed to cultivate the whole person and includes:
- a multi-month experiential group semester of language, service and cultural immersion in India or Central & South America,
- a 12-week solo internship of your own choosing,
- 8 weeks of intensive inner-directed retreats focused on navigating successfully into adulthood, career and job-readiness exploration, a curriculum of Life Skills Learning, and
- a formal Rite of Passage that involves the parents at our northern California campus.
The graphic below shows the linear progression of this alternative program "at a glance:"
In the fall of 2013, LEAPYEAR starts in the first week of September, and runs through the end of May, 2014. In 2014, LEAPYEAR runs January through August 2014.
Note: Because we have packed so much into the LEAPYEAR program and it is so comprehensive in scope, it resists easy categorization - so please read thoroughly, so that you can get a full sense of our integrated approach to learning.
If you prefer, you can watch LEAPNOW Founder, Sam Bull, introduce LEAPYEAR (the same video that is embedded above) in addition to talking about the philosophy and history of LEAPYEAR (embedded below).
You can also listen to a 20-minute interview (mp3) about LEAPYEAR, also with Sam Bull.
"Nine month, six countries, and more than enough experiences for a lifetime, it’s hard to believe my LEAPYEAR journey is coming to an end. The fact that my life journey is just beginning is even harder to believe. My accomplishments over the past year cannot be measured in the classroom. I have obtained a worldview, climbed a volcano, found love, SCUBA dived in Madagascar, learned a language, stood on pyramids, learned to live consciously, hugged a baobab tree, and the list goes on. I have been reborn a thousand times and I reflect that change. My connection with myself and everyone and everything else that exists in this world feels natural and true. My awareness of myself in this work has never felt so clear, so real, and so constant. Challenges and mistakes have become friends whom I love dearly. Integrity has become my source when I need balance. Questions have become my guide and answers have become stepping stones to bigger and more specific questions. Life is my journey, my journey has a purpose. I have discovered my personal legend; I have never felt so enthused to dive into the unknown."
- Kyle O’Brien, LYR 2007/08 Graduate (Group travel in Central America and solo internship in Madagascar)
AN INTRODUCTION TO LEAPYEAR
LEAPYEAR is either the coolest year of college that you can imagine (our students have nicknamed it "cool school"), or the most comprehensive gap year program on the planet. LEAPYEAR responds to the developmental needs of the "in-between" state that most 17-24 year olds find themselves in.
During this phase of life, students are attempting to transition between:
home and independence
high school and college
adolescence and adulthood
These are three major life transitions - all piled one on top of the other! Most students make them unconsciously, without much help from the adults in their world. Our culture gives teens very little support with this most dramatic life transition. We simply tell them to continue on to college, and they'll figure it out.
If you wish to make these transition gracefully, and make better use of an expensive investment in college, it simply doesn't make good sense to continue sitting in classroom and learning passively without a connection to the real world. Something different is called for. LEAPYEAR is a creative and evolutionary response to the developmental needs of students at this most dramatic phase of life which integrates the best offerings of a gap year with the opportunity to complete a year of college while you build a context for your adult life.
LEAPYEAR provides a strong and gentle container in which you can remember and embrace your life purpose, and challenges you to answer the call you are hearing, so that you can fulfill your unique purpose in living. The investment of time, money and energy in your remaining three years of college make a lot more sense if you have a clear sense of your life purpose and if you have taken time to discover and define your interests.
The fundamental question in this life phase is, "Who am I,
really?" and "What am I going to do with my life?"
These questions arise with a sense of urgency, with a strong
need to know. This is when we can realize that our
life is our own - that we can take the tiller of our life and
determine which direction we will go.
At this time we don't need more information, we need to place our life into context. Someone said, "schools were created when students were information-poor and experience rich. Now students are information-rich and experience-poor, but schools haven't changed. At this life stage, we need to learn directly about ourselves and the greater world we live in - the twin contexts that hold our life.
Testimonials from past LEAPYEAR students and parents:
Every kid is different, but for
our daughter LEAPYEAR was fantastic. Sam and Cassie Bull
are caring professionals offering a unique, growth
oriented experience for young people coming into
adulthood. Our daughter enrolled in LEAPYEAR as
her freshman year of college, and I can tell you it was
far more valuable than freshmen year enrolled in Beer
101 at a regular college. She was a good kid going in to
LEAPYEAR, but came through with an even better head on
her shoulders. We were a bit apprehensive, so gave
it a full vetting, including interrogations of Sam and
interviews with parents of kids who had gone through it
plus a personal inspection trip to Calistoga, and it
checked out fine. Only you know your kid and whether
this program would be right for her. (It's not right for
everybody.) But if you think it's a good match, we
heartily recommend it. Every day we continue to see
remarkable evidence that it helped our daughter become a
more confident, self aware, resilient, resourceful,
Parents of a LYR 2009 student.
connection I have with you and Cassie, the staff, the land
and the Pegasus group is one of my most valuable
alliances: of realness, honesty, and freedom to evolve
(safety) - so many things. I am so grateful for this
past year and SOO grateful that you and Cassie created
LEAPYEAR and molded such a beautiful perfect place for
everything that goes down across that bridge.
LEAPYEAR 2010 Graduate
aspects of the program are hard to narrow down.
Cultural immersion, language immersion, meaningful
work, great friendships, life-long connections overseas,
job skills, testing out possible career paths, religious
diversity, historic perspective, emotional maturation,
budgeting skills, travel skills – hard to narrow it
down, but those are the ones that come to mind.
Parent of a LYR 2010 student
Humans learn best by doing - by working actively in the outer world and by learning how to transform our inner worlds. LEAPYEAR is designed to be experiential and participatory - for people who realize that there is much more to life and learning than sitting passively in a classroom and letting educational "experts" talk AT us.
We grow in our own lives by facing successively greater challenges. We grow by surrounding ourselves with others who wish to grow and be challenged. We grow by taking time to lay down a solid foundation in our life based on integrity and alignment with our inner self. We grow by leaving home.
If, like most people, you choose to follow the herd to college for four more years of classroom schooling, you might continue to live an unexamined life - choosing to defer real inquiry into what you are made of. If you do so, you replace your family with another institution that houses and feeds you, and that generally limits how you learn to a classroom.
Private college now costs over $1000 per WEEK. If one does not have a compelling reason to be there, it can be a tremendous waste of time and money. Indeed, many people end up using their freshman year as a year off! The Dept. of Labor tells us that only 57% of new college students have graduated after 6 years!
We hear more and more students express the sentiment that they don't want to waste their money or their parents' money by going to college without a plan or a purpose. Students who go to college without a clear sense of inner purpose are often afflicted by "sophomore slump" when they have to choose a major but have no real life experience to inform their choice.
A better alternative to 16 uninterrupted years in the classroom is to take time to explore - real exploration that leads to life experience, perspective, and the beginnings of wisdom - time to engage the world in a genuine way reflecting our individual interests - rather than continuing in a contrived learning situation. Life is NOT a race, and there is inner work that needs to be done at this time in order to grow up. To do this work we need time, and we need experiences that allow us to take the measure of ourselves - LEAPYEAR is specifically designed to provide "the right stuff" for this passage. The year contains both formal and informal rites of passage - a vital necessity in a society that does not give its youth markers for the journey into adulthood.
LEAPYEAR gives you study abroad college credits, group travel, individual internships, and transformative teachings.
This all-in-one program, is a way for people between the ages of 17 and 24 to get what they need to make a graceful and powerful transition into creative, independent adulthood. LEAPYEAR is the longest, most challenging and most personal program that LEAPNOW offers. It provides a full palette of physical, mental, social, spiritual and cultural challenges. It would be very hard to complete the program without becoming a well-rounded and mature individual. At the end of a LEAPYEAR most students have the emotional literacy of people who are a decade older.
Gap Year for College, Independent Study or High School Completion - a 9 Month Program
The program is used by most students as a first or second year of college, but it can also function as a for-credit gap year between high school and college. At least 6 past LEAPYEAR students have used the program as independent study for high school completion.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE 2013 LEAPYEAR PROGRAM
"Education takes place when the spirit and soul are engaged and involved."
- Michael Meade
The next LEAPYEAR program starts in January of 2013 - our 19th LEAPYEAR group. Each LEAPYEAR group will travel as a group throughout their LEAPYEAR journey, but during the First Semester will travel in small groups of 10-11 students. For the January group, their first quarter of group travel will take place in Nepal and India. During the second semester internship months, participants travel on their own. Specific dates can be found on our logistics page. A full year of college credit is available to each participant.
START OF THE LEAPYEAR PROGRAM - RETREAT WEEKS (8 weeks)
It all begins at LEAPNOW's Northern California campus. These weeks are the backbone of the program - and the foundation for all further worldwide exploration. The focus is on working with peers to learn vital life skills, undergo rites of passage, enhance emotional literacy, and build supportive community. Each day includes at least one hour of a physical discipline (yoga, t'ai chi, dance), four hours of work, free time, and 3-6 hours of the living skills curriculum. Follow this link for more detail about the Living Skills Curriculum.
FIRST SEMESTER IN INDIA or CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA (10 Weeks)
Each participant chooses between group travel in India or Central & South America. In Latin America group members study Spanish, do environmental and construction work, and study sustainable living in Guatemala, Nicaragua & Peru. India participants do service work, study yoga, learn meditation, trek in the Himalayas, and learn Hindi or the Tibetan language. More about the Group Semesters in Central & South America and India.
GOING HOME - The Journey & Curriculum continues!
There is a 4-7 week break after the second retreat during which students generally go home for the holidays, to work, or to do a short volunteer internship, or complete college applications. During this time, the program curriculum continues, as student prepare for the second half of the program, and because going home is such a rich experience after many weeks in India or Central & South America!
RITE OF PASSAGE CEREMONY
The retreat weeks after the mid-year break culminate in a dramatic rite of passage into adulthood. One or both parents join the participants for two days to consciously let their son or daughter go into adulthood, while giving them their blessings.
INTERNATIONAL INTERNSHIP (12 Weeks) INTERNSHIP, APPRENTICESHIP, or VOLUNTEER WORK ABROAD
Following the rite of passage, participants travel on their own to study abroad, do an internship, apprenticeship, or volunteer work in a country of their choice. This builds on the first semester of group travel, and allows for tailored career or other exploration and language acquisition. Participants access LEAPNOW's database of thousands of options to find a fitting internship. Read more about the Individual International Internship.
LAST WEEKS OF THE PROGRAM and GRADUATION
The final retreat weeks of the program are devoted to making transitions effectively, exploring the job market, re-entry to the larger world, endings, and program completion.
ONGOING SUPPORT, FOLLOW UP AND RESOURCES FOR ONE FULL YEAR
After the formal program ends, participants have access to a full year of life path counseling and internships placements, and ongoing annual reunions. LEAPNOW has created an accredited 2nd year program which is only available to LEAPYEAR graduates. In this program, which is called E5, LEAPYEAR graduates return as apprentices with LEAPNOW to assist future groups and deepen their own learning through teaching and service, while taking part in two independent internships. It's an amazing way to learn about engaged leadership while living in conscious community, and moving your own evolution and education forward.
LEAPYEAR is your experiential education alternative
"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom - the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of the world."
- Paulo Freire
What makes LEAPYEAR unique is the synthesis of so many valuable experiences and teachings - bringing together grounded life skills acquisition, rites of passage, group travel, individual internships and service work abroad, spiritual pilgrimage, and a curriculum focused on awareness and personal maturation.
What Sets LEAPYEAR APART?
LEAPYEAR takes the whole person into account - working with the body, the emotions, the mind and the spirit; providing an amazing crucible for a person to fundamentally change their life. Humans are slow learners, and a year gives them time enough to alter habits that may have been laid down over a lifetime. Not only is LEAPYEAR a place to deal with elevated topics such as life purpose, but it's also a place to write your first resume, learn to cook, and try on possible careers.
Many programs that purport to be transformative give you an experience, but then provide little or no follow up - it's as if you fall off the edge of the world when you are "done." You then have to work out how to integrate the experience on your own. LEAPYEAR gives graduates a full year of access to resources, counsel, and follow up workshops to insure that what is gained is retained, and built upon, and an annual 3-day reunion is available to all graduates at no cost each June.
Most programs and colleges claim to be committed to a substance-free experience - LEAPNOW is one of the few organizations we know about where this is taken seriously. We want our students to experience life without "additives" for a year, so they can have the experience of how intrinsically good life can be. Parents give us the sacred trust of caring for their sons or daughters for a semester or a year - we don't believe that we can responsibly ensure their safety while traveling in foreign lands if they are using drugs or alcohol.
As colleges have gotten to know LEAPYEAR through our graduates, they have begun to value them preferentially over other applicants, understanding they they are getting students with a higher level of emotional literacy, broader exposure to the world, a clearer sense of purpose, greater motivation for learning, and greater maturity. College of the Atlantic, for example, offers LEAPYEAR graduates admitted to to their institution an annual scholarship of $10,000 per year for up to four years!