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My name is Kristen Lee. I am seventeen years old and a recent graduate of Carrboro High School. I was born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Two years ago, I began considering the option of taking a year off before college, a gap or bridge year. But more than that, I began recognizing the idea of not being in a rush – not in a rush to grow up, not in a rush to go to college. In April of 2013, I decided to enroll at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. And simultaneously, I decided to take off that year prior to my undergraduate formal education.

There is one main reason I am doing so: experiential learning. And in itself, this reason is two-fold. I want to 1) witness and contribute to the fight against extreme global impoverishment that I have only read about and 2) become a stronger and more assured person through the discomforts I will face in my months abroad.

For the past two years, I have learned about and met with leaders in the field of fighting global poverty. From learning about mosquito habits to donor behavior to economic trading policies in land-locked nations, I became entrenched. Nonetheless, my learning was based out of a classroom. Taking a year off gives me the freedom to pursue these interests first-hand before I dive into them further in my formal education. I will be able to return to Chapel Hill with plethora of experiences to share, a revitalized desire to learn in a classroom, and an understanding of impoverishment only gained through personal experience.

In the midst of my service work, I will also be consistently uncomfortable – struggling to learn a new language, struggling to be alone, struggling to become more than a tourist. Abroad, I will be forced to recognize my strengths and weaknesses and, better yet, I will become a stronger person for it. I am ready to take time to focus on living, and learning specifically through that.

With these reasons in mind, I chose to take my gap year with Global Citizen Year, a program that focuses on experiential learning. Starting in August, I will be in the southern state of Santa Catarina in Brazil, living with a host family and devoting my time to a service-work-based apprenticeship. Global Citizen Year adds not only structure, but also an extensive network of insightful and inspiring students and staff. I am lucky to know that I am in good hands, but also have the freedom to live my bridge year the way I wish.

Within my lifetime, our planet earth will hold nine billion people, more than 60% living in urban areas. A college education no longer promises employment, environmental issues seem larger than the human race, and accurate economic predictions are ever-elusive. The North Carolina General Assembly is making a handful of changes and Moral Mondays persist. I am at this exquisitely beautiful stage where, because of my age, my generation is the future. By building a future of gap year students, we support experiential learning and all of its benefits – a stronger psyche, a creative, autonomous approach to learning, a time in life to deliberate and process. We must develop an awareness and skill set that allows our generation to keep this world sailing above all of its uncertainty. Only by stepping outside of the classroom, taking one year off, do we grow to become bolder leaders.

My ambitions to take a year off are only set to come true with the help of Global Citizen Year’s Fellow’s Fund, from which all financial aid has come. I have been granted over $19,000 in aid. And with your help, we can grant the Fellow’s Fund $2,500 before August 21st. Why? Because a full Fellow’s Fund means that one day in the near future, every student in the United States can afford to pause before college and consider taking a year off. Soon, every student in the United States will be able to afford to pause before college and consider taking a year off. Please donate to my campaign. I believe my generation has so much capacity to support the growth of the world, starting with experiential learning.

Eight months. Thirty four weeks. Two hundred and thirty eight days. Five thousand seven hundred and twelve hours. Global Citizen Year. A stronger generation.What could be more powerful?

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