My SCA Gap Year


Entering college with purpose after a year spent serving the planet

SCA offers a variety of activities to help you gain life experience and perspective during your gap year, all while serving the planet. Don’t take our word for it though. Hear what life lessons Sarah Newsham acquired during her gap year experience:

A couple of weeks ago I was filling out a roommate questionnaire in anticipation of starting college in the fall after a gap year with SCA Massachusetts AmeriCorps. One question asked what experience I had, if any, of living with other people. I couldn’t help but laugh, because I had an answer that I bet they don’t see very often: I currently sleep in a bunkhouse with 24 roommates!

Community living is one of many new experiences I have had this year that have helped me grow as a person and prepared me for life in college and beyond. The opportunity to face challenges in a supportive environment has made me a more confident and capable person, and I head off to college in a few weeks with a renewed sense of purpose and drive to make a difference.

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I have spent the past ten months living in Hawley, Massachusetts, doing trail work on public lands across the state and teaching environmental education to elementary school students living in rural communities. I have led trail crews, built bridges and staircases, survived my first real winter, become a Wilderness First Responder, taught elementary school students (and myse¬lf) about this incredible planet on which we live, and so much more. I have been tremendously inspired by the amazing people I work with and the beautiful place I get to call home.

I have always enjoyed being outdoors, but until this year I didn’t really have much of a desire to learn about the natural world. When I got here, one of the first things we did was learn to identify the trees in the area. To me, a tree was pretty much just a tree. I knew that some of them had leaves that fell off in the winter and some didn’t, but beyond that I was pretty clueless. Now when I go for hikes around Hawley I try to identify as many trees and plants as I can.

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I may know more about trees than I did a year ago, but the more important part is that there is so much more I want to know about trees (and everything else). I now plan to study biology in college and build upon the incredible education I have received here. I have developed a personal connection with the environment that has strengthened my resolve to protect it, and college is the next step in my journey down that path.

After taking a gap year with the SCA, I feel infinitely more prepared and excited to take on college and “the real world.” If taking a gap year is something that you’re curious about, I would highly recommend looking into the various gap year experience offered by the Student Conservation Association!