International Gap Year Adventures + Structured, Experiential Learning + Supportive Community


LEAPYEAR is either the coolest year of college that you can imagine, or the most comprehensive gap year program on the planet. LEAPYEAR responds to the developmental needs of the "in-between" state that most 17-24 year olds find themselves in.

During this phase of life, students are attempting to transition between:

  • home and independence
  • high school and college
  • adolescence and adulthood

These are three major life transitions - all piled one on top of the other! Most students make them unconsciously, without much help from the adults in their world. Our culture gives teens very little support with this most dramatic life transition. We simply tell them to continue on to college, and they'll figure it out.

If you wish to make these transition gracefully, and make better use of an expensive investment in college, it simply doesn't make good sense to continue sitting in classroom and learning passively without connecting to the real world. LEAPYEAR is a creative and evolutionary response to the developmental needs of students at this most dramatic phase of life and integrates:

  • the freedom and adventure of a gap year
  • the opportunity to complete a full year of college
  • a chance to build an intentional context for your adult life.

LEAPYEAR provides a strong and gentle container in which you can remember and embrace your life purpose, and challenges you to answer the call you are hearing, so that you can fulfill your unique purpose in living. The big investment of time, money and energy in your remaining three years of college make a lot more sense if you have a clear sense of your life purpose and if you have taken time to discover and define your interests.

Fundamental questions of this life phase are, "Who am I, really?" and "What am I going to do with my life?" These questions arise with a sense of urgency, a strong need to know. This is an amazing time and opportunity for a human being to realize that our life is our own - that we can take the tiller of our life and determine which direction our ship will travel.

At this point in your life, you don't need MORE information, you need to place your life into context. Someone said, "schools were created when students were information-poor and experience rich. Now students are information-rich and experience-poor, but schools haven't changed. At this life stage, we need to learn directly about ourselves and the greater world we live in - the twin contexts that hold our life.

Testimonials from past LEAPYEAR students and parents:

Every kid is different, but for our daughter LEAPYEAR was fantastic. Sam and Cassie Bull are caring professionals offering a unique, growth oriented experience for young people coming into adulthood. Our daughter enrolled in LEAPYEAR as her freshman year of college, and I can tell you it was far more valuable than freshmen year enrolled in Beer 101 at a regular college. She was a good kid going in to LEAPYEAR, but came through with an even better head on her shoulders. We were a bit apprehensive, so gave it a full vetting, including interrogations of Sam and interviews with parents of kids who had gone through it plus a personal inspection trip to Calistoga, and it checked out fine. Only you know your kid and whether this program would be right for her. (It's not right for everybody.) But if you think it's a good match, we heartily recommend it. Every day we continue to see remarkable evidence that it helped our daughter become a more confident, self aware, resilient, resourceful, accountable adult.
Parents of a LYR 2009 student.

The connection I have with you and Cassie, the staff, the land and the Pegasus group is one of my most valuable alliances: of realness, honesty, and freedom to evolve (safety) - so many things. I am so grateful for this past year and SOO grateful that you and Cassie created LEAPYEAR and molded such a beautiful perfect place for everything that goes down across that bridge.
LEAPYEAR 2010 Graduate

LEAPYEAR includes cultural immersion, language immersion, meaningful work, great friendships, life-long connections overseas, job skills, testing out possible career paths, religious diversity, historic perspective, emotional maturation, budgeting skills, travel skills. It's hard to narrow it down, but those are the ones that come to mind.
Parent of a LYR 2010 student

Click here to read more from past students and parents

Humans learn best by doing - by working actively in the outer world and by learning how to transform our inner worlds. LEAPYEAR is designed to be experiential and participatory - for people who realize that there is much more to life and learning than sitting passively in a classroom and letting educational "experts" talk AT us.

We grow in our own lives by facing successively greater challenges. We grow by surrounding ourselves with others who wish to grow and be challenged. We grow by taking time to lay down a solid foundation in our life based on integrity and alignment with our inner self. We grow by leaving home.

If, like most people, you choose to follow the herd to college for four more years of classroom schooling, you might continue to live an unexamined life - choosing to defer real inquiry into what you are made of, and choosing to let others define or limit what you learn. If you do so, you replace your family with another institution that houses and feeds you, and that generally limits how you learn to a classroom.

Private college now costs over $1500 per WEEK. If one does not have a compelling reason to be there, it can be a tremendous waste of time and money. Indeed, many people end up using their freshman year as a year off! The U.S. Dept. of Labor tells us that only 57% of new college students have graduated after 6 years have passed!

We hear more and more students express the sentiment that they don't want to waste their money or their parents' money by going to college without a plan or a purpose. Students who go to college without a clear sense of inner purpose are often afflicted by "sophomore slump" when they have to choose a major but have had no real life experiences to inform their choice.

A better alternative to 16 uninterrupted years in the classroom is to take time to explore - real exploration that leads to life experience, perspective, and the beginnings of wisdom - time to engage the world in a genuine way reflecting our individual interests - rather than continuing in contrived learning situations. Life is NOT a race, and there is inner work that needs to be done at this time in order to grow up. To do this work we need time, and we need experiences that allow us to take the measure of ourselves - LEAPYEAR is specifically designed to provide "the right stuff" for this passage. The year contains both formal and informal rites of passage - a vital necessity in a society that does not give its youth markers for the journey into adulthood.

LEAPYEAR gives you study abroad college credits, group travel, individual internships, and transformative teachings.

This all-in-one program is a way for people between the ages of 17 and 24 to get what they need to make a graceful and powerful transition into creative, independent adulthood. LEAPYEAR provides a full palette of physical, mental, social, spiritual and cultural challenges. It would be very hard to complete the program without becoming a well-rounded and mature individual. At the end of a LEAPYEAR most students have the emotional literacy of people who are a decade older.

Gap Year for College, Independent Study or High School Completion - a 9 Month Program

Most students use LEAPYEAR as a first or second year of college. It can also be used as:
  • A not-for-credit gap year between high school and college (this reduces the cost of LEAPYEAR)
  • A final year of high school - accredited either through your high school or a high school that we partner with here in northern California.
"The unexamined life is not worth living."
- Socrates


LEAPYEAR is your experiential education alternative

What makes LEAPYEAR unique is the synthesis of so many valuable experiences and teachings - bringing together grounded life skills acquisition, rites of passage, group travel, individual internships and service work abroad, spiritual pilgrimage, and a curriculum focused on awareness and personal maturation.


  • LEAPYEAR takes the whole person into account - working with the body, the emotions, the mind and the spirit; providing an amazing crucible for a person to fundamentally change their life. Humans are slow learners, and a year gives them time enough to alter habits that may have been laid down over decades. Not only is LEAPYEAR a place to deal with elevated topics such as life purpose, but it's also a place to write your first resume, learn to cook and bake, and try on possible careers.
  • Many programs that purport to be transformative give you an experience, but then provide little or no follow up - it's as if you fall off the edge of the world when you are "done." You then have to work out how to integrate the experience on your own. LEAPYEAR gives graduates a full year of access to resources, counsel, and follow up workshops to insure that what is gained is retained, and built upon, and an annual 3-day reunion is available to all graduates at no cost each year, and LEAPYEAR can be followed by the LEAPYEAR2 program.
  • Most programs and colleges claim to be committed to a substance-free experience - LEAPNOW is one of the few organizations we know of where this is taken seriously. We want our students to experience life without "additives" for a year, so they can have the experience of how intrinsically good life can be. Parents give us the sacred trust of caring for their sons or daughters for a semester or a year - we don't believe that we can responsibly ensure their safety while traveling in foreign lands if they are using drugs or alcohol. This commitment radically heightens the quality of dialogue between students, staff and others.
  • As colleges have gotten to know LEAPYEAR through our graduates, they have begun to value them preferentially over other applicants, understanding they they are getting students with a higher level of emotional literacy, broader exposure to the world, a clearer sense of purpose, greater motivation for learning, and greater maturity. College of the Atlantic, for example, offers LEAPYEAR graduates admitted to to their institution an annual scholarship of $10,000 per year for up to four years! Quest University Canada guarantees credit transfer and offers each admitted LEAPYEAR graduate a grant of $5000 per year.
"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom - the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of the world."
- Paulo Freire

Addressing the purpose of climbing mountains, the famous Italian mountain climber Walter Bonatti said: "The mountains are the means, the human being is the end. The idea is to improve the human being, not to reach the top of the mountain. "

Though LEAPYEAR might at first glance look like a study abroad program, travel is only the means toward the end of improving the human being, and helping each student regain a sense of wholeness.

After 12 years in a classroom focusing on the acquisition of knowledge, it is vitally important that students take significant time to establish a solid context for the next chapter of their lives. The next chapter is marked by leaving home, beginning to encounter the world unmediated by the family, and more than anything, exploration.

The two main contexts for a human life are the Earth itself, and the individual human organism. To step effectively into the world, we need to know who is stepping (oneself), and where they are stepping (the world). In order to create an extraordinary program and support for this life transition, it makes sense to integrate exploration of the world in equal measure with exploration of self.

Other elements that are vitally important at this time are a balance of structure/guidance, and freedom/choice. We need a scaffolding to guide our steps into a larger world, and we need to make and exercise choice, so that we can learn to live responsibly with freedom. The first semester of LEAPYEAR focuses on structure and support, and the second on choice and freedom. Since life is hard to learn to do well, we also benefit greatly from a community of like-minded others - peers who are making a similar journey and who can witness our steps, and reflect ourselves back to us.

Most people leave our compulsory educational system with the backwards notion that education is something that someone else does to them. They learn that the classroom is where real learning happens. By the end of a LEAPYEAR students have re-learned that learning is a joy, that it can and should be intimately connected to what we love, and that we should be directing our own education for the rest of our lives. You can imagine that this transforms the experience of the rest of college.

Integral and vital aspects of the human experience are marginalized in compulsory American schooling: creativity, imagination, freedom to choose what we learn, emotional literacy, mystery, contemplation, the sacred or the religious, movement and the full expression of the body, sexuality, cultural exploration. Removing these from our schooling makes us all inestimably poorer and make it hard to grow up with healthy values and a sense of wholeness. These aspects of the human experience are welcomed and are an integral part of each LEAPYEAR.

Our wholeness and sense of connection to ourselves and other is best regained through real and whole experiences: living in the home of a family in India or Peru, painting a mural at the LEAPNOW campus, a daily physical movement practice, making our own food and building our own buildings, living for three months in South Africa, learning a language where it is spoken every day, learning to play the guitar rather than selecting a song on your iPod, making bread and granola at 6:30 AM for 40 people, creating a learning plan based on an internship you have chosen from a list of 6,200 others, etc.

LEAPNOW Assumptions:

We believe that there are many paths to the same mountaintop – that there is a commonality of human experience, and as many ways to express it as there are human beings. We welcome all spiritual traditions – and prefer any approach that allows one to remain open to the validity of the experiences of others.

Our path is easier with help – from mentors, from our peers, from new experiences and from a learning environment with high expectations.

We are multi-dimensional beings – much larger and deeper than our bodies and personalities. The journey into adulthood makes much more sense if we can broaden the context of our inquiry.

Life is glorious and to be enjoyed. Learning should be fun and "juicy."

We see a world that is getting faster, less personal, more electronic, less private. The work of human maturation and deepening tends to be slow, inward, more personal, and may require time when we aren’t accessible to others.

To help our students deepen, there are regular times during the LEAPYEAR program that we restrict the use of electronic media, cell phones, the Internet, tuning out through “tunes.” We believe that this can help an individual hear a quiet, guiding, inner voice, and also help open us up to the vertical dimension of life – its depth.

We believe that a person has most everything that they need for happiness within them – that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” To this end, and also in order to safeguard our students’ safety and well-being, each participant and trip leader puts aside drugs, alcohol and tobacco for the duration of the program. LEAPYEAR is about increasing awareness and gaining clarity which we feel is served by putting these substances aside for the year.

We feel that it is important to learn to live peacefully and consciously in community and learn to serve our community. In the words of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, "the gurus of this age will be communities."

We assume that travel into unknown inner or outer terrain is often uncomfortable – this can be confusing, disorienting and scary, as well as expansive and exhilarating. It is also one of the most valuable and satisfying things we can do. We assume that LEAPYEAR participants want to know who they are, and are willing to go into their unknown to get there. We assume that they will be willing to undergo a certain discipline to help them evolve.

We assume that our students will be willing to leave friends, family and their known environment to undertake a quest into a larger sense of self, and a larger world.

As an organization, we see no good reason to disempower ourselves by giving in to terror, which seems to be the dominant zeitgeist of this era. On the contrary, we take a positive stand for integrity, for decency, for peace, for bringing light into the world, and for living without compromise.

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