School hosts gap year fair for area students


Students and parents from throughout the Los Angeles area speak to representatives of gap year providers. Credit: Sofia Heller/Chronicle

Sofia Heller

Students from different high schools in Los Angeles gathered with their parents at the USA Gap Year Fair in Hamilton Gym on Feb. 22 to explore their options after graduating high school.

Vice President of the Center for Interim Programs Jason Sarouhan was the keynote speaker at the fair and focused on the benefits of a gap year as well as the diversity of activities that students can participate in during that time.

Sarouhan defined a gap year as a specific amount of time a student takes to pursue a passion usually after high school graduation. In reality, the gap “year” usually ranges from three months to over a year, Sarouhan said.

“There is an alternative for students before they go on to that next, very adult chapter of their lives, and [a gap year] lets them be able to invest in themselves and gain levels of maturity and confidence that ultimately build to the independence of adulthood,” Sarouhan said.

He expressed a desire to placate parents’ fears that a gap year indicates their student is flailing. In fact, Sarouhan said that evidence shows students who take a gap year are more likely to succeed in college and lead a happier life than students who did not take a gap year.

“I hope students realize that a gap year really is a possibility, and it’s a possibility for any student regardless of their family means or available resources,” Director of Kutler Center and Summer Programs Jim Patterson said. “I think that an event like this opens a student’s eyes to the different possibilities.”

About 35 programs set up booths in the gym with representatives available to speak to students. The programs are grounded in academics, travel, community service and work experience, and are accessible to high school graduates up to the age of 22.

“I was hoping to get a general knowledge of the different gap year programs available since I’m interested in taking one between high school and college,” Jordan Bedikian ’18 said. “I think the fair did a really good job of telling us that, showing what I could get out of this and what the different opportunities are.”