The World’s First Climate Gap Year

Climate change is the challenge of our time and young people specifically will be the most affected by current inaction.  This generation knows that they’re being let down. In a recent study of almost 5,000 Gen Z-ers from all over the world, 80% responded they believe current leaders have not done enough to protect the environment and that governments need to listen to their generation more on the issue of climate change.

Students will be able to earn up to 18 college credits each semester while they gain hands-on experience learning about climate impacts and solutions, travel as a cohort, collaborate on a group capstone project, and volunteer with experts at some of the most interesting NGO’s, renewable energy companies and global supply chains working on climate issues.

FOCUS will begin accepting applications on Feb. 28, 2018. Students will be able to choose between four countries where we are currently ready to run programs: China, Chile, Argentina and India. Each of these countries has a unique climate story for students to experience. In addition to a comprehensive syllabus, students will get to hike glaciers, volunteer with renewable energy companies, explore national parks working on conservation and visit with scientists, innovators and community organizers working on everything from air quality to low-carbon transportation and farming practices.

For the first cohort, FOCUS is looking for the brightest thinkers and collaborators from rural and urban America looking to gain a deeper understanding of the climate issue and bring those experiences back home to the states. For less than the average price of a freshman year at an instate school, students who take a FOCUS Climate Gap Year can earn a full year of college credit while also accessing federal financial aid.

“Gap years are soaring in popularity because they’re a proven model to create strong young leaders and higher performing students. That rising interest alongside young people’s continued interest in climate, presented the perfect opportunity for Ethan and I to combine our passions and expertise to launch a totally new experience for today’s youth,” says Brennan. “And build a national network of young people who have the skills to collaborate and take action in their communities at home.”

A Perfect Storm

Portland, Oregon-based co-founders Garett Brennan and Ethan Knight bring more than 20 years of combined experience working with young people on climate and gap year programs. “In my 15 years of running gap programs,” says Knight, “2017 was the first year we ever had to cancel a program due to climate. When the hurricanes hit Cuba and we had to cancel, we saw a huge spike in student interest looking for opportunities to take action on climate and learn more about the issue.”

Between 2008-2013, Brennan was the executive director of Focus the Nation, a national non-profit that worked with college students on climate and renewable energy issues. On Jan. 31, 2008, they organized the largest teach-in in US history--mobilizing more than 1.5 million youth to organize campus events and engage more than 250 members of Congress in discussions about climate action. In 2011, after running campus-based engagement campaigns for years, FTN redesigned it’s approach to programming. It shifted its focus to experiential education, collaboration and leadership development—helping young people experience first hand the impacts of climate and energy in a region transitioning toward renewables, Mount Hood and Columbia Gorge. They shut their doors in 2013 after a merger with an east-coast climate group fell through.

In 2008, Ethan Knight founded Carpe Diem Education, which has now provided transformational gap year programming to more than 1500 students across 20 countries. In 2014, Ethan left Carpe Diem to launch the Gap Year Association, a partnership with the US Department of Justice, which is in charge of establishing the industry standards for quality, safety, and operations in gap year education.

Applications will be accepted starting February 28 on a rolling basis through May 15.  Final cohorts will be announced on May 25, 2018.

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FOCUS is the world’s first climate gap year organization.