Finding Your Right Direction to the Gap Year in Israel
When Phyllis Folb saw her daughters off to Israel – for a year of study, travel and service prior to beginning their college careers – she did not know how profoundly the experience would alter their lives. Nor did she foresee that counseling students about the benefits of spending a “gap year” in Israel would become a calling for her.
Now, more than a decade later, Folb, is in her third year of organizing a unique event – the only college fair in Los Angeles dedicated exclusively to “gap year” programs in Israel. Hundreds of students and parents will learn about more than 40 enriching educational, and community, programs when the 2015 Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair takes place at the Shalhevet High School on the evening of Monday, November 16.
Folb, the founder and director, Find Your Right Direction, Educational Services & Events, a company specializing in college/gap year advising and programming, spoke with the Jewish Link about the fair, and about the benefits of deferring college to spend a year in Israel.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME AN ADVOCATE OF SPENDING A” GAP YEAR” IN ISRAEL?
My daughters were my living and breathing inspiration. They both returned from their gap year in Israel with a commitment to Jewish Life that not even 12 years of day school, or our home observance, could have instilled in them. Their experience changed all of our lives forever!
WHAT IS A GAP YEAR FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE GENERAL CONCEPT?
A Gap Year is a period of time between completing high school and beginning college. It is a time to explore the world, reflect on personal values and goals, and prepare to take the next purposeful step in life. More and more educators are encouraging students of all backgrounds to pursue a year of enrichment activities before they enter college.
Gap Year programs give students a developmental advantage over their peers by providing them with an opportunity to expand their perspective, and gain insights that give the college years meaning and focus. They become more mature and independent, thereby increasing their odds of academic success.
AND FOR JEWISH STUDENTS, WHY A YEAR IN ISRAEL, RATHER THAN A YEAR OF ENRICHMENT TRAVELING IN OTHER PLACES OF THE WORLD?
I am convinced that the year spent learning and traveling in Israel prior to beginning college prepares Jewish students to remain true to their religious values and fortifies them against the pressures to conform once they begin their freshman year. Seeing Israel’s strengths and challenges through the intimacy of daily life is also the best approach to prepare college-bound students to deal with the campus anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism they may face for the very first time. These tools are particularly timely and necessary for today’s teens.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE LOS ANGELES ISRAEL GAP YEAR FAIR?
The Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair is only place where parents and students can get first-hand exposure to the many diverse Gap Year programs in one setting. The fair and various day schools are working together to make a positive Gap Year choice possible for each student.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND THE 2015 LOS ANGELES ISRAEL GAP YEAR FAIR?
This fair is designed for interested public, private or home- schooled Jewish students and their parents. It is particularly timely for juniors and seniors, but it is open to all grades as it is never too early to discuss the Gap Year in Israel.
Parents, students and educators need to begin think of the gap year as, not an extra or bonus year, but as a necessary and inclusive part of a student’s academic endeavors.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE 2015 LOS ANGELES ISRAEL GAP YEAR FAIR?
Last year, we had hundreds of people in attendance, not only from L.A., but from communities as diverse as San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle, so we are meeting a need previously unfulfilled for many students. I would like to see the Fair grow so that we can provide increased Israel Gap-Year options for our community.
The Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair is endorsed nationally by the American Gap Association and the USA Gap Year Fairs. A distinction that no other “Israel Night” in the country is privileged to have. I would like build board and generate national funding so that we can continue, as the Fair’s tagline suggests, “Changing Lives though the Gap-Year Experience” for many years to come.
For more information about the 2015 Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair on Monday, November 16, and about services offered by Find Your Right Direction Educational Services, contact Phyllis Folb at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310-702-0644.