What is a Gap Year?
Students take a year off of school in between high school and college (typically deferring their enrollment into a college) in order to refresh themselves, refine their educational objectives, see the world, and get a better understanding of where they desire to focus their studies as they enter the university. While this practice is common in the UK, Southeast Asia, and Australia, it is now becoming a more common practice among students in the United States.
Why choose a Gap Year?
Students are burned out academically from the demands of their high school years.
Students desire to see more of the world around them in order to see how their future profession contributes to the global community in which we now live.
Students often arrive to the university undecided on their Major and need an extra year of self-discovery in order to better access where they desire to focus their studies as an undergraduate.
Students spend too much wasted time and tuition changing majors early on as an undergraduate.
Students have not experienced enough bumps and bruises in life in order to understand who they are and be self-aware of their unique giftedness.
Students need a Gap Year experience in order to better integrate and contextualize their classroom studies with the experience, maturation, and affirmation of their passions.
There have been several studies conducted to capture the rewards of taking a gap year. Below you will find a concise list of findings. For an in depth layout of all the data, academic benefits, and personal benefits, please visit the American Gap Association website.
What Students Are Saying
"I’m so happy that I took part in the Kivu Gap Year program. I am daily encountering situations that I feel extremely more well prepared for because of my experiences on a gap year. Dealing with roommates, conversations with professors, and handling stressful workloads comes with greater ease and an appreciation for what comes out of all of the work I’m doing here. I’m watching lots of other students fail their classes, stress themselves out, and complain about “how hard school is,” or simply not having the maturity to handle what is expected of them by professors due to the immense changes between high school and college life. My gap year taught me how to adapt to and thrive in adverse, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable conditions and how to be more proactive in accomplishing my academic goals.”
-Dex Piz, Kivu Gap Year, Class of 2011
"Kivu Gap Year provided me with the tools that I believe are necessary in productively moving forward in my educational career. College is no longer just another step I have to take because I grew up being told it will help provide me with a high-income job, but it is a necessity to my purpose within the Kingdom. This is no longer a time of my life in which I experience a vague sense of wandering with no direction. Motivated by my experiences on the gap year, I am now continuing to pursue Christ and His purpose in my life... which I can confidently say has much more clarity than it did one year ago.”
-Phil Gibson, KIVU Gap Year, Class of 2011
""KIVU Gap Year helped me sort out who I am, who I'm not, and who I want to be. I feel a lot more grounded spiritually and mentally, which I think allows me to be confident in the choices I make. Gap year was exactly what I needed."
-Ashleigh Gerlach, KIVU Gap Year, Class of 2011
"When I was challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually… I grew. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yet, I suppose that’s part of why I did what I did it; why I took a Gap year. There is so much more that will shape and change you than what you encounter in your everyday life. From east to west, God stretched my comfort- He raised questions in my life. And I sought those questions that led me into a deeper realization of who I was. Real life situations pushed me to see where my heart stood and not necessarily what I wanted to do in life but a passionate desire of who I wanted to be. Adventuring for a year to delve into the depths of God’s mystery rewarded me with maturity and understanding. We do not serve a timid or domesticated God, nor do we live a life with apathetic hearts. Time abroad taught me the real appreciation of education with the knowledge of the realities the world holds. Outside the gates of college, the world awaits me once again. I’ve tasted it; and am ready for it."
-Russ Crowe, current summer staff
"Taking a year off to solely focus on the things I have always wanted to do and have great passion for was one of the best choices I made. With no academic stress or pressure, I was able to venture out to countries and meet people that radically changed my life. It’s a rare opportunity we have, with the ability and choice to go outside our “norms” and have life changing experiences.
Allowing yourself to grow outside a school environment, away from your comforts and familiarities, is such an enriching experience. I guarantee your life will be ruined for the ordinary, in a good way. Take a year off and take risks, live, challenge yourself, try something new, travel, but above all, love."
"Half way through my senior year of high school, I decided that I was going to take a gap year. A pretty novel concept in my high school, I didn't have very many resources to turn to...Honestly, my gap year was a life-changing experience. I think that the best thing that I did was to split up my gap year into different sections. Each segment of my gap year provided a different learning experience and new knowledge about myself and my interests. Peru was one of the best things I have ever done, but by the end of my three months there, I was ready to go. It was one of the best things that I've ever done, but sometimes it was hard.
For me, taking a year off from school was the perfect thing to do. In a time when people are dealing with ridiculous pressures to pay off student loans or to transition straight into the workplace or grad school right after graduation, my gap year provided a much-needed break from all of the pressures. Even though I missed out on going through the first year experience with my friends, it was definitely worth it. And I wouldn't switch places with my friends for the world.
Also, for the record, it's not weird at all being a year older than everyone else in your grade."
Vision: Vocational Discovery in a Global Community
Mission: We prepare college-bound high school graduates for success in higher education through domestic and international learning adventures that help them clarify their faith, discover their passions, focus their career goals, in a global context.
Values: We believe the primary way to teach students how to live out faith in the real world is to expose them to the real world in a control group. Students will leave The KIVU Gap Year with real world experience.
Discovery. We believe that students discover themselves by exploring and interacting with the world outside of what is familiar.
Faith. We believe God has uniquely designed each individual to accomplish something beautiful in this broken world.
Community. We believe God intends for students to grow personally and spiritually by living in the tension of 'life together'.
Authenticity. We value transparency and honesty as important qualities in moving from adolescence into adulthood.
Vocation. We believe that a healthy understanding of a students faith, God given abilities, and understanding of the world around them can help students find their future profession in life.
Global Worldview. We believe that exposure to people groups across cultural and socio-economic backgrounds leads to dynamic transformation.
Students will leave the KIVU Gap Year with college credit, a deeper faith, a more comprehensive worldview and a vision for what they want to do in life. By connecting vocational opportunities with appropriate choices of college majors in real-world environments both in the United States and abroad, students enter college with a broad understanding of their opportunities, a deep understanding of themselves and clear goals for the future.
Writing a Life Thesis. Every student in the Gap Year Program will write a thesis paper for their future career aspirations to be revised, edited, and amended throughout the program. Before leaving the program, the student will have a fully developed life thesis that speaks into the purpose, focus of study, and vision for their life in the next 5-10 years. It is the culmination and final product of their overall comprehensive experience in our program. Each student presents their final Life Thesis at our Continuation Ceremony at the end of April in Denver, Colorado as the KIVU Gap Year comes to a close.
KIVU Gap Year Destinations (Students travel to ALL destinations below during 8 months together)
Start Date: September 1st
End Date: May 1st
*Please note that every year consists of 1-2 destination changes. However, students always begin the program in Denver, travel to Rwanda, hike Kilimanjaro, and travel to the Philippines. This gives each Gap Year Class a unique experience specific to their own year.
Move In Weekend and Orientation Week (Begins in Denver, CO and travels by van to Durango, CO)
Rwanda . . . developing world business & education
Tanzania . . . hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro
Philippines . . .poverty alleviation, healthcare, education, agriculture
Please visit the following links in order to view the experiences of our current Gap Year class.
Discover Urban America (Denver, Colorado)
Purpose: Students consider the challenges of those living in the margins of society in their own country.
Partnerships: Mile High Ministries
Vocational Opportunities: See website for the wide variety of options. Click here.
Students live in downtown Denver together as they discover the challenges facing the urban poor. Through a healthy balance of classroom instruction (Monday and Friday) and internship experience (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), students see the margins of society at eye level while gaining up to 9 college credits through spiritual formation and leadership development class work. This experience is foundational and preparatory for the rest of the program that moves towards an international focus.
Purpose: Students are given a short term two week trip into the poorest country in the Western hemisphere to observe how a local organization is implementing long term development strategies to alleviate poverty.
Partnership: Children's Lifeline
This short term trip is the only portion of the program that is volunteer based. Students are given a collective project upon arrival. They are given a tour of Port-au-Prince, a brief history of Haiti, as well as a personal look at each component of their program that impacts the recipients in the local community. Students walk away with an exposure that opens their eyes to great need while preparing them for their upcoming international semester beginning in January.
Discover East Africa (Kigali, Rwanda)
Purpose: Students observe the progress and challenges of vocational work in a developing African nation by observing best practices in fields of developing business and education.
Students live in homestays with local Rwandan families. From there, they learn how Rwanda has developed into a nation of hope and progress after recovering from a devastating war in 1994. They are exposed to Rwanda's rapidly developing economy by working in developing business and education internships in the capital of Kigali. Other exciting trips within the East Africa experience include hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Discover Southeast Asia (The Philippines)
Purpose: Students intern at a local ICM base where they travel in to slum communities with the local staff on a daily basis to participate in this organization's multi-pronged approach to addressing the needs of the poorest of the poor.
Partnerships: International Care Ministries
Vocational Opportunities: Students are exposed to community development programs, open air clinics, regular home visits to recipients, malnourished children feeding programs, preschool programs, slum relocation projects and effective outreaches that have a long term sustainable impact on the community.
Students have opportunities to observe effective value, health, and livelihood programs through ICM's remarkable successful TRANSFORM program. They shadow local indigenous staff as they travel out to rural communities to observe best practices of meeting the needs of the poorest of the poor.
PROGRAM COST: The base cost of this program is $ 25,200. If the student chooses to opt into college credit, the expense will grow from there to $ 335 per credit for up to 9 credit hours. The base cost covers all expenses within the program including room, board, international travel, and airfare. There are no hidden expenses in the program other than domestic travel to and from our program destinations.
*There are a variety of ways students can work to make this program affordable. We encourage students to consult us for suggestions as well as consider raising a portion of their funds through the support raising process.
To apply for the KIVU Gap Year Program students must meet the following requirements:
1. Be in their senior year of high school OR have completed a MAXIMUM of 2 years in undergraduate work.
2. Graduate high school with a minimum 2.5 GPA.
3. Applied to a college of their choice or have clear intentions/goals for their future academic plans. *All students should apply and defer their enrollment before arriving to the gap year
Upon arrival, the application will be reviewed by the KIVU full time staff with acceptance letters going out after the March 1st deadline. Students are expected to have applied for college in addition to applying for the KIVU Gap Year. Our intention is that the student may be accepted to a college of choice in the spring and then defer enrollment for one year to enter the KIVU Gap Year.
Students accepted into the program will be asked to put down a non-refundable 300$ deposit in order to reserve their spot.
ATTENTION PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS FOR 2014-2015: Deadline for all applications is March 1st, 2014. *Please request an application today at
Applications can be sent to the following address:
Gap Year Program
9658 C.R. 501
Bayfield, CO 81122
*Applications are made available upon request.
Students currently have an opportunity to earn up to 9 college credits during the "Urban America" Experience located in Denver, Colorado.
Our partnership with Mile High Ministries gives students an opportunity to receive academic credit for their coursework. The courses are accredited through Sterling College and include the following classes:
Internship (3 credits)
Students should bring these courses to the attention of their selected university in order to see how they would be received by the institution as each school has different parameters.
Students may acquire the college credit at $ 335 per credit hour up to 9 hours. Students are not required to purchase any college credit while in the KIVU Gap Year program. This opportunity is simply made available for those who desire to include college accreditation in their gap year experience.
Visit our Blog page where students update in real time with weekly stories from the field.
Unfiltered, honest reflections on their internships, travels, joys, and struggles.
Student blogs are located on the left hand margin. Click over and read where they are now!
Will the students be safe at each given destination?
We do not take students into conflict zones. All of our contacts are based on destinations in which we have already taken larger groups of students on short term mission trips. In 2009, we took 30 students to Rwanda. In 2010, we took a group of 60 to the Philippines. In 2011, we took 10 students to Haiti. Gap Year students will be working with the same partnerships and in similar areas where we have already visited. Students never travel to destinations our full time staff have never been before.
We also assess risk very carefully at each destination. We employ three layers of support that facilitate excellent program implementation in addition to functioning as a proactive system of prevention. We have (1) In Country Coordinators who work long term with our partnership organizations and live in the city our students work in, (2) Gap Year Field staff are hired to travel the entire 8 months and function as an on-site liaison, mentor, and residential advisor, (3) the students live in community together in the program and travel often in groups of 2 or more, especially on the international front.
Lastly, we also trust that our students take responsibility to follow given guidelines within each country and/or use their judgement throughout their travels.
Will the students be free to travel home for holidays?
Yes. Students will be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, there is no 'spring break' during the months between January and April.
What is the actual day to day schedule?
A typical week consists in working at internships Monday through Friday, 8-5pm. While in Denver, students are in class settings on Mondays and Fridays as well. Evenings consist of community dinners cooked by the students themselves under the supervision of full time Gap Year Staff. Some evenings will be for processing experiences and organized activity. Other evenings students are free to rest and relax.
What will students do on weekends?
In Denver, students have open schedules. They do not have Gap Year obligations or responsibilities with the exception of one weekend retreat to the mountains together. The students do have expectations and guidelines for how and where they choose to spend their free time. We expect students to make responsible decisions in light of the guidelines given at their destination. In Rwanda, students take field trips for most of their weekends in which they engage in a more comprehensive exposure to the country and people. In the Philippines, students have a combination of planned activities and free weekends.
Can parents go on any part of the trip?
We encourage parents not to visit their children while going through the program. A strong part of the experience is that students learn to grow personally outside of the comforts and guidance of what is familiar. In addition, visits can cause students to struggle with the challenge of living away from home and in an unfamiliar culture. We believe it is an important part of the program for students to wrestle with this tension and discomfort.
Can college students participate in the program?
At this time, our program welcomes college students who have completed up to 2 years in their undergraduate work.
Can students work while in the program?
No. It would be very difficult to maintain part time employment while in the program as students are already involved in internships which commit them to 30-40 hours per week. Evenings are dedicated to fellowship, cultural experiences out in the community, as well as group discussion time. Students are encouraged to find work before their Gap Year experience as well as in the summer after the program.
Can students raise funds for this program?
We encourage students to pursue support raising to assist in the financing of the program. We also believe this process helps students gain a better appreciation and understanding for the opportunity they are preparing to embark on. Please contact us directly for assistance in the support raising process as donations will be tax deductible for all donors.
Will students be able to choose their internships?
Yes. Students will be given a wide variety of options from which to choose. Most of these decisions will be made upon arrival at their destination and given proper orientation. This process ensures that students make well educated and informed decisions as to where they apply themselves. Students do fill out internship request forms in both Denver and the Philippines. In Rwanda, recommendations and placements are made upon arrival in country.
Who will be supervising and staffing the oversight of this program?
KIVU hires 2 Gap Year staff (one male/one female) to travel with and oversee the community of 15 students for their entire 8 months of travel. They create and manage community in the homes as well as personally mentor the students as they go through the program. Most of our staff have a sustained history of excellence in working with us at KIVU on our property in Durango, Colorado during the summer time.
In addition, KIVU Full time staff are in constant weekly communication with the Gap Year staff. KIVU Full time staff, primarily Luke, Andy, and Jamie Jo, will also be visiting each site to stay and encourage the team and ensure that the program, partnership, and internships are well in place. We also have local In Country Coordinators working with us on a day to day basis to help bridge the cultural divide. They devote 20+ hours of their time per week to be with our team.