We know transition is difficult. You want what is best for your kids. You want them to succeed. You want them to be happy. You want your teenager to take on new responsibilities. You want your college student to grow into who God has made him/her to be.
Our gap year program is designed to meet the needs of students in this time of transition into college and life beyond. We know how vital a role you play as a parent in your son or daughter’s journey towards adulthood. Here are a few points to consider as you make your decisions together for the next step.
1. How will Kivu Gap Year contribute to the personal development and maturity of my son/daughter?
We provide our students with an experience-heavy learning environment. We support those experiences with mentorship and guidance along the journey. We look to develop those parts of a student that tend to be underdeveloped at this stage in the development process: understanding your unique voice, recognizing your passions, learning to love God and others as Jesus commanded us (Matthew 22:37-39), owning your faith and integrating it into your daily life experience, becoming friends with people of other cultures, faiths, and socio-economic backgrounds, valuing family and community, becoming honest, authentic, and vulnerable in relationships with others. Please see our Key Objectives and Core Competencies to understand our focus.
2. How will Kivu Gap Year consider safety and responsibility while my teenager is traveling?
We commit to responsible planning and proper risk management for each destination and each traveler. Students are traveling to destinations with people Kivu calls 'friend'. We are sending students to friends and partners who want to give each traveler the warmest welcome.
From registering with the US Embassy, to having international insurance coverage, to having effective orientations, to maintaining thoughtful relationships in these local communities, we are confident that a student can experience the stress and challenge of life in an unfamiliar place with responsible assessment of risk.
While appropriate boundaries and guidelines are set at each location, students are also expected to maintain a level of personal responsibility with each new experience and destination (please also see the Contract of Commitment). Through proper orientation at the beginning of the program and field orientations at every new destination, students are well aware of the 'ground rules' at each place they visit.
3. Does Kivu have a statement of faith?
When it comes to faith, the central focus of our program is a person. His name is Jesus. The whole of what he represented can be summed up in his two great commandments to “love God and love others” just as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). These words of Jesus are both the pivot point and the centrality by which we guide each student in their spiritual growth and formation.
Our program presses students deeply into this challenging command. We push students towards love of God, self, and others. We encourage students to look carefully at all three of these areas while exposing them to the breadth of the body of Christ around the world. We challenge students to love their ‘other’; whomever that may be. We hope students meet those with whom they disagree both inside and outside the faith. There should be many experiences that pull the student outside of their comfort zone. But, with Jesus as the center, we challenge them to love all people as human beings who are made in the image of God and fashioned in his likeness (Genesis 1:27). This is the foundational premise for all our encounters with people around the world.
We also believe that today’s youth (particularly Millennials) have a different path by which they desire to affirm and live out their faith compared to their parents. Lived experience is critical to the commitment of each student in their faith. Students want to see their faith come to life and lived out authentically in those around them. Part of this year is a search, a wrestling with God, a wandering in the wilderness, to see if faith can be worked out in real time. We want students to be free to genuinely go on this desert journey—much like Jesus wandering into the wilderness for 40 days or the Israelites passing from Egypt to the Promised Land through the desert for 40 years. Thus, struggle is important to the students personal development while in the program.
However, we also point students towards the center of their story which is Jesus himself. We encourage students to ask hard questions, to doubt, to challenge their own faith, especially if they have never done so. We find that this healthy questioning is a disorientation that draws them deeper towards the heart of Jesus and owning their own faith. In the process, we desire them to shed the layers of their faith that are not representative of Jesus. The parts of their faith that are more loyal to religion, nation, or moralism than to what Jesus truly advocated. Most of our students come from families of Christian background. But that background is very wide in it’s expression. We hope that each student is able to say (much like Paul) that the seeds planted in their soil growing up at home will be watered by the experiences they have while in the Kivu Gap Year program. But, indeed, we recognize it is God who makes all things grow. Thus, the spiritual growth of each student is not in our hands but God’s alone. All we can simply say is “Follow me as I follow Jesus”. From this process, we believe students come to a deeper knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has called them towards in this world today.
4. What are the long term benefits of this investment for our family?
Let's start with college.
It is now becoming a 5-6 year journey for the average student to complete college. Gap Year students average 4 or less years in the completion of their undergraduate work. They come to college with a renewed passion and appreciation for academics. They are ready to focus and get it done. Thus, many of our students will graduate with their peers at the same time even having taken a year away from traditional education.
Let's talk about adulthood.
It is now said that youth do not reach true adulthood until 25-30 years old. This new stage of development (age 18 to 30) is now being called 'emerging adulthood' by social scientists. Taking a year away from traditional education helps students grow into a more balanced person as they develop interpersonal and cultural skills while thinking more concretely about their passions and giftedness in internships around the world. The program is designed to help students begin asking and living out the questions that many of their peers don't consider till after graduation. Put simply: your student will come back from a gap year more grown up.
For more statistics on gap year student outcomes, we encourage you to explore the data presented by the American Gap Association. Click here.
5. Can I speak with a past parent who had their teenager in your program?
We are happy to provide you with referrals from other parents that have been down this road before you. They will speak with you very candidly about the joys and the challenges of sending your child on a program such as this. One thing we can tell you: It is a faith-filled journey for everyone in the family, not just the traveling student. God will do so much in your own heart and life as you watch your son/daughter travel the world. Please request parent referrals by contacting Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Is Kivu Gap Year the right place for my son/daughter to learn how to live life away from home?
Honestly, our program is not for everyone. We attract students who want to get out and do stuff. They want to experience a lot, take on responsibilities at internships, struggle through cultural barriers, and experience more of what the real world is like. If your son or daughter has a hard time getting motivated, going to work, or engaging with other people, this program may not be the right place. If your child is also struggling with significant socio-emotional issues that require professional care, we do not have the right support staff for proper growth and development. Ultimately, we trust that God has brought each of you to look at this program. We hope you have found the right fit!
7. What is the staff to student ratio during the program?
To date, we have maintained a staff to student ratio of 1:7 for all destinations. Often times, the ratio is smaller when students are participating in sponsored Kivu events. For example, when students are hiking Kilimanjaro for example, our 1:7 ratio is supplemented with an outfitter who is primarily responsible for guiding the trip and responding to emergencies.