Carol BarashI was a sophomore at Yale. Though I looked fine on the outside, my life was unraveling. My past came back in flashes--a hand around my throat, a feeling of being crushed, or walking around a corner and someone jumping out. But there is no one physically there. Against my mother's objections, I took a year off, lived and worked in a residential treatment program for people who had been hospitalized with severe mental illnesses. I learned many things that year: I learned that I did not want to major in psychology. I taught myself to bake bread. And I organized a Take Back the Night march through the streets of Northampton, Massachusetts. When you step off the predictable path, everything changes because your point of view changes. A gap-year can be used as a tool to broaden your understanding of what really matters to you. It can be travel, national service with programs like AmeriCorps, or Peace Corps (two years), or an internship in something new. Whatever you choose, make it meaningful by making a positive change. At Story2 I have the opportunity to work with students taking many different paths through high school and college. I am inspired by Gen X, Y and Z's commitment to making a difference by creating change for themselves and other people. As the direct path from high school to college to work becomes less normative by the day, more people of all ages build their career and life path based on a wide range of educational options, diverse work and volunteer experiences, and their unique vision for our shared future. Remember that you only need to change one thing. Any step in a direction that you choose for yourself, is the right step. Here are five examples of students who've worked with Story2 and changed their own lives, and the lives of others, by taking on simple projects in the world right around them:
- Romain was studying abroad in Shanghai. He started tutoring local students in English, casually at first to earn some extra money. But he saw a "bigger opportunity" and worked between his school and the local government to create an ongoing tutoring and mentoring program between his college and the nearby middle school.
Joel was the "first person in his family to attend college." Instead of just banging through pre-med courses on his path to medical school, he triple majored in biology, public health and public policy and took on primary research about the impact of poverty on young people's health.
And one more story from a previous generation: Marshall Ganz left Harvard a year before graduating in 1964 to join the Mississippi Summer Project. In 1991, after 28 years as an "activist for civil rights and workers' rights," he returned to Harvard to complete his BA, MPA and PhD studying social movements. Ganz writes and teaches about the importance of storytelling in galvanizing change and about individuals moving from spectators to actors on a shared stage.
"If deep change depended solely on outside intervention it would never happen." -Marshall Ganz
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