Archive for June 2017

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Keeping teens busy over the summer

Guest author: Allison Hall

While summer is a time to de-stress from the school year and spend time with friends and family, excessive free time can also have its consequences; among them prolonged internet usage, television watching and boredom. To combat this lull, summer activities are an opportunity to enhance the personal, social, educational and professional facets of a teen’s life.

Summer opportunities are beneficial to maintaining progress in school, college applications as well as resumes. Beyond the practical applications, while most activities in school are planned and required, summer opens the doors to activities which are of interest to a teen. Whether volunteering, working a job or participating in a program, an organized activity allows for choice to explore an area of learning that school may not allow for. This independence and subsequent responsibility allows teens to gain real-world experience and the ability to apply knowledge learned in school to new settings. Further, the experience of searching for an activity, crafting an application, interviewing and meeting new people are all invaluable life skills.

Underlying the summer activities is an even more fundamental advantage: discovering a sense of identity, purpose or direction. As a student, the first question one is asked is: what are you studying? What are your future aspirations? While these questions are likely unanswerable as a teen, knowing what one is interested in (or not interested in) is enormously fulfilling and useful in future endeavors.

An example of such a program at Seattle Children’s Research Institute is called Summer Scholars, which is a part of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT). The week-long program is designed for high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in research in various fields. The program has a strong focus on diversity, by placing emphasis on reaching students for whom these opportunities may be difficult to come by, particularly those who live outside the city of Seattle.

During the program, each student is to develop a research question of interest to them which is related to social media and adolescent health. Throughout the week the students then collect data, analyze it, and ultimately produce a poster for which they give a presentation. In addition, Summer Scholars week is jam-packed with a plethora of fascinating undertakings. Among these, tours of Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s bench lab with a question and answer session, panels from STEM workers, a Seattle Children’s Hospital tour, guidance from researchers, mentoring from alumni of the program and much more.

The program has proved rewarding to students who find that the program helps them hone research skills, identify particular areas of interest, or simply opens their eyes to the breadth of careers available to them. More information can be found on SMAHRT’s website: http://smahrtresearch.com/

How does one find a Summer Activity?
1. Research opportunities to shadow or observe individuals who work in career fields of interest
2. Look into summer programs at universities or organizations that cater to a passion or interest
3. Become a summer counselor for youth or apply for other local jobs. Help your teen write a cover letter and resume or help guide them through the application process
4. Volunteer, join an existing service project or plan one of your own

Should your teen take a gap year

Guest post by University of Washington Nursing student Alicia Spiess

As high school graduations are being celebrated across the country, our guest author has some thoughts on whether or not it might be a good option to take a year off before pursuing further education. In this post, we hear about the ‘gap year.’

According to Forbes, the average yearly in-state tuition for a 4-year university is $30,000. Private and “elite” universities can cost double that. An average of 70% of America’s high school graduates attend college, and of those attendees, 1 out of every 3 drop out. One alternative that is common in other countries for high school graduates not ready for university is to take a year off. A “gap year,” consisting of constructive learning, is an option that is not often talked about in this country. When I began college in 2001, I did not know a gap year was an option, and as I was in my early 30’s, I ended up taking a sabbatical because of my own burnout and desire to experience other cultures. Looking back, I may not have done anything differently because I felt I was ready for university, but there are so many youth out there today who may not feel the same.

A gap year in the case of our youth can be defined as taking a “sabbatical” in-between the time one completes high school and starts university. This can push youth to discover who one is as a unique individual and what one wants to do in the next phase of their life. A year is a common amount of time taken off, and shorter time periods are possible, but not as common. A gap year does not mean your teen will sit on the couch all day playing video games or watching TV, but rather should be spent learning responsibilities and discovering new possibilities. The youth in both Europe and Australia have been participating in gap years for decades beginning in the 1970’s. Currently 12% of Europe’s youth take a gap year compared to 1.2% of those in American. We have to think, is a gap year such a bad idea? Instead of pressuring our youth to go straight into college, can we be open to other options to ensure the long-term success and decreased burnout of our youth which could follow them into adulthood.

What is to be gained from taking a gap year? This additional year may help our youth gain personal or professional experience through volunteer work in a field of interest, working to learn trade, learning a second language, or exploring their personal interests, all of which will be of great value for them throughout their lifetime. In a YouGov survey, in which 251 human resource employees participated, 46% said they would be more likely to employ a graduate who participated in a “constructive” gap year. Other studies have shown that students who have taken a gap year had a higher likelihood of completing their degree and with higher GPAs than those who did not. In fact, 9 out of 10 youth who took a gap year returned to college and completed their degree successfully.

Taking a gap year is not without its challenges. Taking a year off may become expensive. Some ways your teen can overcome this obstacle is to start planning early by saving money, fundraising, or by asking friends and family to donate. Some colleges or universities allow students to defer a year which ensures their spot the following year. It seems there are far more advantages than disadvantages in taking a gap year before college for those who may need it. A gap year can help youth to gain identity, as well as give them an advantage when it comes to scholarship applications and resumes. Several resources are listed below to help guide you and your teen in making a decision as to whether a gap year is right for them.

Tips and Resources for Readers:
Tips:
1. Encourage your teens to explore their interests without swaying them.
2. Help your teens to discover who they are through support and encouragement.
3. Take some pressure off your teens to attend college or university straight out of high school when they are not ready.
Resources:
1. “College Costs Could Total As Much As $334,000 In Four Years” article
2. “Why Are Gap Years More Common in Europe than the US”
3. Book: “Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs”
4. University Deferral Policies for Gap Years: http://www.americangap.org/fav-colleges.php
5. Gap year Programs: https://usagapyearfairs.org/programs/
6. Choosing a program abroad: https://www.gooverseas.com/7. LEAPNOW Transforming Education: http://www.leapnow.org/