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Top Ten Reasons to Take a Gap Year

Gap year programs are by no means a new idea. In many countries it is the norm for students to take a structured break from formal education between high school graduation and a higher degree. These ‘gaps’ are meant to increase awareness of one’s self, the world, and make them more desirable to employers and colleges. Typically these experiences are achieved by traveling, volunteering, interning, or working, and can be between two months or two years in length.

As the research on the positive effects of gap year programs increases, so does their popularity with colleges, students and even future employers. Here are the top ten reasons you should consider a gap year.

1. You need a break: Gap year programs allow students to step-off the education treadmill for a year to pursue other interests and tap into skills they didn’t know they had. After 12 years of structured academia, it is important for students to take time to rejuvenate before delving into the next phase.

2. Get to know yourself: Day-in and day-out we are influenced by our environment and the people in it. Have you ever stopped and wondered who you would be without all those influences? Gap years challenge students to step away from their family, friends, everyday activities and in some cases technology, to find out who they really are. 

3. Have an adventure while you are young: As you get older, it becomes harder and harder to travel for extended periods of time due to financial constraints and responsibilities at home. Imagine trying to travel in Africa for a year with a mortgage, car payment and family.

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Staff Profile: Kelly Biasiolli

For this quarter’s Trail Tales we interviewed Kelly Biasiolli, long-time instructor and this year’s “Catcher in the Rye Award” winner!

1. What does it mean to you to win the Catcher in the Rye award?  It has reminded me of the larger systems and structures needed to account for safety and how it is such a collaborative effort of so many to deliver safe courses. I appreciate the School as a whole for continually striving to improve our safety standards and I am particularly grateful to be amidst so many other staff that are equally focused on and dedicated to safety.  I think we are a group of collective "catchers."

2. The wilderness is often unpredictable. What do instructors do to make sure their students are safe on course?  In addition to ongoing training and mentoring that is always happening for field staff, instructors have numerous conversations before, during, and after course about how to manage risks and make specific plans to keep students safe emotionally and physically. The goal is to offer students enough opportunities involving risk so that they may have powerful learning experiences and adventures (while staying safe), as well as teaching students how to also use what they are learning so they, too, can prevent incidents and respond proactively to our greater teacher: Nature, which can often be unpredictable!

3. I was told you work at multiple NCOBS locations. Which is your favorite and why?  I've worked in the mountains of NC and in the Everglades.  While I love climbing and being immersed in the woods, the splendors and unpredictability of the Glades is like no other place I've ever been.  Dolphins, rage tide, sunsets, night paddles, sleeping on the boards under the stars...there are teachings and majestic moments happening all the time there (along with the bugs, which aren't exactly what I would call 'majestic').

A Note From the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

We at NCOBS have so much to be proud of: a long, distinguished history; a proven track record of offering safe, rewarding programs; a wide range of impactful courses that serve a diversity of students; and both mountain and coastal course areas that stretch through places of natural wonder. But while all of these features are important, I believe it is our staff who represent the School's greatest resource. These compassionate educators work tirelessly, day in and day out, to create the life-changing experiences that define NCOBS.

In this issue, we feature one such educator, Kelly Biasioli who was recently awarded with the prestigious "Catcher in the Rye Award," given to the Outward Bound instructor throughout the whole system who best exemplifies Outward Bound’s commitment to safety, quality education and character-building. Kelly’s award represents the second year in a row that an NCOBS staff has earned this distinction.

I believe that the future of NCOBS—and, for that matter, the future of all of Outward Bound—depends heavily on a strong cadre of compassionate and committed staff. This is one reason why NCOBS recently hosted a Field Staff Sustainability Symposium for the national Outward Bound system in Asheville from January 20-22.  The event, made possible by a grant from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, brought together leaders from Outward Bound schools throughout the US to share best practices and begin a dialogue on future initiatives that will support the development and retention of top quality field instructors—key to delivering quality Outward Bound experiences and essential to our shared goal to grow our impact nationally.

As we prepare for our busiest season in the field, let’s all take a moment to appreciate the individuals who make Outward Bound experiences transformational, and to reflect on how we can continue to invest in our greatest resource.

Until our paths cross again,