- John Taylor Gatto
A full academic year of experience, adventure & reflection to cultivate the whole person. LEAPYEAR includes:
"Nine months, six countries, and more than enough experiences for a lifetime, it’s hard to believe my LEAPYEAR journey is coming to an end. My accomplishments over the past year cannot be measured in the classroom. I have obtained a worldview, climbed a volcano, found love, SCUBA dived in Madagascar, learned a language, stood on pyramids, learned to live consciously, hugged a baobab tree, and the list goes on. Life is my journey, and my journey has a purpose. I have discovered my personal legend; I have never felt so enthused to dive into the unknown."
- Kyle O’Brien, LEAPYEAR 2007/08 Alumn,
group travel in Central America and solo internship in Madagascar
LEAPYEAR is filled with many opportunities for travel and adventure. The year kicks off with group travel to India or Latin America where a small cohort of students, along with experienced leaders, spend ten weeks exploring these rich cultural landscapes.
The second semester holds a solo adventure designed to empower students to step fully into the realm of adulthood and personal responsibility. We encourage our students to dream big, because with our huge internship database there are possibilities to go anywhere and do anything.
At LEAPNOW we believe that the journey of self-discovery is just as important as the physical journey out into the world. This inner journey is facilitated through four residential retreats totaling eight weeks at our campus in northern California.
During retreat, students put aside their digital media (phones, computers, mp3 players, headphones, etc.) to minimize distraction and virtual engagement, and focus on hearing their unique and guiding inner voice as well as connecting with their peers in a new and profound way.
These retreats, ranging in length from eight to twenty-one days, form the backbone of the LEAPYEAR program. They bracket three distinctive journeys:
Retreats are designed to provide pre-departure support for the travel periods, as well as to provide a home base for post trip reflection on the experiences and lessons of each adventure. Each day is packed with engaged, experiential workshops and activities to help support students in getting the most out of their LEAPYEAR.
The daily schedule for each retreat includes three to five hours of workshops and discussion in our studio, one hour of a physical discipline (such as yoga, martial arts, or dance), four hours of outdoor work or cooking and baking in our community kitchen, and some free time to swim in the creek, take a walk, make music, or tackle a creative project. Learn more about our Living Skills Curriculum.
LEAPYEAR is unique because, unlike 98% of all programs, it emphasizes the all-important inner journey as much as the outer journey in the world.
This inner journey is facilitated through 4 residential retreats totaling 8 weeks at the LEAPNOW campus in northern California. These retreats, ranging in length from 8 to 21 days, form the backbone of the LEAPYEAR program. They bracket 4 distinctive journeys: Group Travel, Going Home after Group Travel, the four Retreats & the Individual Internship. Students put aside their phones, iPods, texting and Internet to minimize distraction and virtual engagement, and focus on hearing their unique and guiding inner voice.
Retreat #1 is devoted to:
The daily schedule for each retreat includes 3-5 hours of participatory and embodied classes in our studio, one hour of a physical discipline (yoga, t'ai chi, dance), four hours of outdoor work or cooking/baking, and free time. The schedule is full and all activities are real and relevant. Learn more about our Living Skills Curriculum.
During the first semester of a LEAPYEAR, students travel in groups of 8-12 with two experienced adult leaders. LEAPYEAR starts in the Fall and the Spring:
Spring LEAPYEAR (January - August): LEAPYEAR groups will be traveling throughout Nepal & North India.
Fall LEAPYEAR (September - May): Students can choose between groups that travel to Nepal & India or Latin America.
The emphasis is on breadth of experience - immersion in the language, sampling of diverse short-term internships, social service work, trekking, work with endangered animals or on behalf of the environment, and completion of short-term yoga or meditation retreats. During these group travel months, students learn the skills they will need to live, travel and work independently during the individual internship in the second half of the year.
Retreat #2 follows 10 weeks of intensive group experiences in Asia or Latin America. This is the time when most programs fall short – they neglect to give participants the needed time and space to digest their experiences BEFORE going home. Indeed, many programs “complete” the travel experience by saying goodbye to you at the airport in the U.S! This limits how much you can learn, and borders on irresponsible. So much learning happens for people AFTER they have an experience. As Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Our program design gives you 8-9 days to land gently back in the U.S., re-connect with the full LEAPYEAR group, and reflect on and harvest the uniquely personalized lessons of your travel experiences BEFORE you return to your family and familiar surroundings.
During Retreat #2, LEAPYEAR students:
Retreat #2 looks both backwards and forward. It is a significant thing to travel home after 10 weeks immersed in life in Asia or Latin America, so this retreat is a vital time to prepare for the shock and potential awakening of Going Home.
Unlike a traditional college journey, traveling home after the first semester is an integral and important part of the LEAPYEAR learning
journey – we don’t separate your life from your learning! On the contrary, returning to someplace familiar after group travel and seeing it
with new eyes is a tremendous learning opportunity, an opportunity to understand yourself better. Rather than going back home, LEAPYEAR students
are encouraged to go forward home!
To support this learning, the curriculum continues during the mid-program break. Daily writing and contemplative practices begun at the start of the program continue at home. Students give presentations about their group travel to schools, friends and family, they interview their parents about their childhood and birth, and begin to write an autobiography.
The mid-program break time is also when students begin to do directed research for their individual internship. Because each student chooses their internship based on their unique interests, their learning plan for the final semester must needs be unique. At this point in the program, students begin to grapple with the challenges and opportunities of designing their own education. This is a vital skill, since we each ideally become the director of our own lifelong learning. The idea is that LEAPYEAR students have the opportunity to realize that education isn’t about jumping through someone else’s hoops, but it’s about creating and meeting your own learning challenges, in the light of your unique and specific life purpose.
Retreat #3 lies at the center of LEAPYEAR. The group travel opens you up to the world, and helps you question the reality and assumptions that
you grew up with. The first two retreats serve to grow community and foster trust. Now, after five months journeying together, the group is ready
to dive together into themselves.
The Third Retreat is designed to take you gently and steadily into the depths of yourself as you reflect intentionally on the transition you are in and what it means to become an adult. We examine our thoughts about ourselves and the personas/masks we have adopted for safety. We learn about feelings – what they are, where they live in our bodies and most importantly, what to do with them. We learn about the ways we sabotage ourselves, and our reliable essential gifts. We express creativity as a daily practice. We take time to define a vision of adulthood that calls us forward into life.
Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis said, “It takes a long time to learn to play like yourself.” One of the overarching goals of LEAPYEAR is to align yourself with yourself. We have only to look as far as one of our fingerprints to realize that each person is specific and mysterious. David Whyte said: We are the only creature in creation that can refuse to be itself. You never hear a crow saying…..Oh, if I could only be an eagle! We are the only creature in creation that can live in exile. That is why it is an absolute triumph to just be yourself. We say “Just be Yourself.” Actually, it’s the most frightening thing to be. The entire LEAPYEAR, and particularly the retreats, are time set aside to learn how to be yourself. This isn’t something to leave to chance!
LEAPYEAR retreats are also a time that some students are able to lay down burdens that have been carried for too long: old griefs, incomplete relationships parental divorce, the loss of a sibling or loved one. When do we normally give ourselves a chance to consciously let go of the incomplete past? It’s a hidden benefit, but very important.
Retreat #3 culminates in a 3-day formal Rite of Passage into adulthood. Parents come to the campus for the final two days, with the purpose of witnessing this transition, letting go of what needs to be released, and giving their blessings for the passage into adulthood.
Three days after the Rite of Passage ceremony, each student “enacts” adulthood in the form of their Individual Internship which is an informal, but even more important, Rite of Passage. For students the presence of their parents and knowing they are getting on a plane for three months of unique travel and engagement in the world confers special relevance on the formal ceremony. For parents, the Rite of Passage is unusually real because they know they will be letting their “child” go for extended work and travel in some far away place. The trust and validation implicit in this letting go is very powerful for both the students and parents.
LEAPNOW maintains an unparalleled database of over 6,100 internships, volunteer options, work exchanges and apprenticeships which are
available only to LEAPYEAR and LEAPYEAR2 students. We have amassed this database through travel, networking and research since 1977, and
it is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.
The internship is an incredible opportunity to explore an interest in depth or “try on” a field you are considering majoring in college or doing for a living
The breadth of these options allows us to ask questions that are asked far too rarely in educational environments: "If you could wave your magic wand, what would you most like to do? What learning environment would bring you most alive? What’s the "juiciest" thing you can conceive of doing for 3 months?"
In his book, "Drive," Daniel Pink identified three elements of true motivation: 1) autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives, 2) mastery, the desire to continually improve at something that matters, and 3) purpose, the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves. These elements are too often completely missing from traditional schooling, but are integral to the LEAPYEAR individual internship.
Individual Internships allow you to:
The LEAPYEAR internship is NOT intended for wandering, pursuit of distraction or recreation, or simply touring around. It's a chance to further your development and evolution as a human being. The internship begins three days after and builds naturally on the formal Rite of Passage at the end of Third Retreat, allowing you to "enact" adulthood in real and profoundly meaningful way. Please note that the internships available to LEAPYEAR students number in the thousands and range across 126 countries, including the United States. Here are some of the thousands that are offered:
----- and much more....
This quote only becomes true if we give time and attention to our lives. An important purpose of Retreat #4 is to distill the information
and experiences of the year into useful knowledge and wisdom that can guide your steps forward after LEAPYEAR.
Retreat #4 is when the individual traveler is welcomed back into the celebratory embrace of their group. Like retreat #2 it’s a time to give a presentation: to tell the story of your adventure and map the journey you’ve made through the year. It’s a time to connect heaven and earth – the visions you’ve glimpsed for your life, and the specific next steps you’ll take.
Grounding, integration and completion are the guiding words of this final retreat together. You not only map the defining and pivotal moments of the year, when the veils parted and you glimpsed some essential aspect of your life purpose, but you also translate the year onto your resume. You learn how to talk about your experiences in ways that will make sense to a job interviewer or college admissions officer. You will learn skills needed to carry out both your “survival dance” and your “soul dance.” How do you feed yourself through your 20’s and become financially independent, and how do you carry your unique gift into the world as an offering?
By this time of the year, it is common to hear students say, “I feel closer to this group of people than I have ever been to any other group.” So this is also a time for celebration and grieving the ending of the experience.
LEAPYEAR was first envisioned in 2001 and post-program connection to support and community was built in from the time of conception. We didn’t want to create an amazing year then tell our students to “have a nice life!” The POST-LEAPYEAR SUPPORT & RESOURCES below lists the many ways that LEAPYEAR continues after the first year is done.
LEAPYEAR is a year of intense and intimate experiences. Students become very close and our staff gets to know students really well. LEAPYEAR
doesn’t end when the program is over. We encourage students to return to campus to visit, to renew themselves, to remain connected to their group,
to give back at retreats, to lead future travel groups, and to fill staff positions. We hold the campus as a home for our students – a place and
community that they can return to over and over. Many LEAPYEAR grads go on to colleges with communities of LEAPYEAR graduates in place, which
generally makes for a saner and more supportive college experience.
Google Groups: While doing Individual Internships and while scattered all over the planet, each group and staff stay in touch by posting to an online group. This makes for a communal and connected experience of the internships. These online groups remain active after the year is over, and they become a place of ongoing dialogue and connection – usually for at least 2-3 years after the year is over.
A year of life path counseling and internships placements: Built into the LEAPYEAR tuition is 12 months of internship placement after graduation. Some students don’t get enough of travel and exploration during LEAPYEAR and some wish to gain more specific career or academic-related experience. We assist graduates to create ongoing learning adventures for themselves. One graduate who did her LEAPYEAR Individual Internship with a printmaker in Cuba, created a further six months of study with artists in the year after LEAPYEAR. She apprenticed with artists throughout India, southeast Asia, Indonesia and Australia/New Zealand. Before choosing to complete college in Scotland, she was able to work with ceramicists, silk painters, wood carvers, jewelry-makers and many other artists.
Annual reunions: Each June, we hold a reunion for all LEAPYEAR graduates at the LEAPNOW campus. This is an opportunity to reconnect with group members, get to know other LEAPYEAR graduates, remember what you learned, track your own growth each year after the program, and be exposed to new materials that we are constantly developing.
LEAPYEAR Two: LEAPYEAR2 (LYR2) is a second year program available exclusively to LEAPYEAR graduates and it builds on what is taught in LEAPYEAR. Whereas much of the focus of LEAPYEAR is on unlimiting your life and taking off the ceiling to your vision, LYR2 is much more focused on turning vision into grounded action. The cost of LEAPYEAR2 is half of LEAPYEAR and the responsibility is doubled. During LYR2 students help hold the "learning container" for the next LEAPYEAR group, learn to self-design their education, run the campus kitchen and work on the land, and pursue studies focused on education, embodied learning, conscious leadership, sustainability, or movement. Due to small group size and the intensity of the program, individual mentoring during LYR2 is much greater than during LEAPYEAR.