Bay Area Press Release

College Can Wait (Download Here)

Bay Area organization makes bold commitment to send 1,000 young Americans abroad before college to gain a global perspective on themselves, their country, and the world

San Francisco, CA, September 27, 2010 – Instead of sitting down to their first college class this week, 33 emerging leaders who have been selected by Global Citizen Year (“GCY”) are deferring their college acceptances to live and work as Fellows for a year in communities across Ecuador, Brazil and Senegal. Established in 2009, GCY is a Bay Area nonprofit that seeks to engage young Americans in a transformative “bridge year” between high school and college in which they learn the local language, work on a community project addressing a pressing local need and gain a deeper understanding of their potential as a global agent of social change. Over the next two weeks, the cohort will participate in the first phase of training by developing the skills and knowledge they’ll need to succeed in their placements abroad. Instruction will include workshops with former US Senator Harris Wofford, architect of the Peace Corps under President Kennedy, as well as experts from Stanford University, the Clinton Foundation and Current TV. Additionally, fellows will visit local organizations including Room to Read, and Twitter, and will be challenged to spend a day living in San Francisco with nothing more than $5 and a directory of local social services.

The GCY founder, Abigail Falik, is a Harvard Business School graduate who has spent the last decade refining a blueprint for a movement to engage American high school graduates in a global “bridge year” before college. “I remember graduating from high school, ready for an academic break, and calling the Peace Corps to see if I could join.  When they told me I needed to go to college first, I was struck by the irony that at 18 my only option for serving overseas would have been through the military. Ever since, I’ve been trying to answer the question of how our country can create opportunities for many more – and more diverse – young Americans to live and work in the developing world, before beginning their higher education.”

GCY began with a pilot program in the fall of 2009, and in one year alone, has tripled the size of its second class of fellows.  This years’ cohort of participants hail from 13 states and represent a cross-section of our nations’ diversity. Over 20% of the class is made up of students of color, and 82% percent are receiving some level of financial aid to participate. Fellows are already accomplished as community organizers, athletes and poets, and aspire to careers ranging from politics to mechanical engineering to global public health.

Alberto Servin is preparing to embark on an entirely different kind of higher education. Having recently graduated from Branham High School in San Jose, Alberto has deferred his admission from Middlebury to take a Global Citizen Year.  While his classmates are rushing fraternities and slogging through required courses, Alberto will be living in rural Ecuador and teaching at a local school. “Global Citizen Year is an experience I look forward to because I want to learn about the world. With that knowledge and first hand experience, I hope to use it to help address the global issues that my generation faces.”

Today, over 30% of college freshman do not return for a second year and on average it takes students six years to complete a degree at four year institutions.  In explaining the phenomenon, college admissions deans and administrators point to a host of factors including students’ lack of maturity, focus and motivation.

At the same time, there is growing evidence that students who take a structured “bridge year” before college arrive more motivated and better prepared to persist and complete college.  A recent study published in Education Week suggests that students who take a structured year off before college reported significantly higher motivation in college in the form of “planning, task management, and persistence than did students who did not take a gap year. As policymakers ponder how to get students to complete college, some parents and researchers suggest a counterintuitive strategy: Encourage students to take time off school after graduation.” (Source: Research suggests a ‘gap year’ motivates students. Education Week. September 15, 2010).

But this is just the beginning of a much bolder vision for growth.  This week, the organization has been invited to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City where they will make a commitment to engage 1,000 diverse American high school graduates annually in a transformative global service “bridge year” by 2015.  Working in partnership with colleges, companies, goverment and social enterprises around the world, GCY will unleash a pipeline of emerging leaders who enter college knowing what they want to pursue, why, and how to use their education to have an impact in business and public service—for our nation and our world.


About Global Citizen Year

Global Citizen Year is a non-profit organization which is building a movement of young Americans who engage in a transformative “bridge year” between high school and college.  Through an innovative cross-sector model that partners with high schools and colleges in the US, and NGOs around the world, we create opportunities for emerging leaders to work as apprentices in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  By providing intensive training and support, we ensure that our Fellows develop an ethic of service, the ability to communicate across languages and cultures, and a deep commitment to becoming agents for social change.

Global Citizen Year has benefited from generous investments from the Draper Richards Foundation, The Mind TrustThe Hewlett Foundation, and the Peery Foundation.

Global Citizen Year is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation.