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Canadian gap year students to benefit from new Impact Fellowship program

Gap-year students across Canada will get to have the opportunity to explore what interests them through a new program called Impact Fellowship, a program through the Canadian Gap Year Association (CanGap).
Some participants in a different program from last year. (Photo provided by Michelle Dittmer/Canadian Gap Year Association)

Gap-year students across Canada will get to have the opportunity to explore what interests them through a new program called Impact Fellowship, a program through the Canadian Gap Year Association (CanGap).

The program is free and is funded by RBC Future Launch and the Government of Canada under the Canada Service Corps.

The three-month program is free and is designed to provide mentorship and funding to students to develop their own project as they make a difference in their communities.

“In terms of time commitment, it’s about six hours a week, so it’s not a 40-hour program,” said Michelle Dittmer, president of the Canadian Gap Year Association.

“As part of this program, young people get to identify a local issue that they want to take action on, so it’s something that they identify in their own community whether it’s homelessness, gender equality, trash in the city, whatever it happens to be. The young people get to identify it and put together a plan for taking action on it.”

While in the program, participants will receive a $1,000 micro-grant, which will allow them to get their plan up and off the ground, so if they need to rent a venue, supplies, do some marketing, the money is there to help them.

“I know that young people can make a difference right now. They don’t need to wait until they’re a grownup, they don’t need to wait until they have more training, and a lot of them don’t realize that or have never been told that,” she said.

Dittmer said it’s all up to them what they want to do for their project in the community, whether that’s hosting a fundraiser, awareness campaign, or a city-wide cleanup.

“I think that’s why it can really be so localized in that it is whatever is happening in your community that people are identifying.”

This is the first year they are offering the program to students. There will be two times students can choose to participate. One begins in October, while the other starts in January.

Kay White, who was born in Rimbey, is very passionate about the program and wishes she would have had something like this available to her in the past.

White is currently facilitating experiential education programming in India but is a coach with the Impact Fellowship Program through CanGap, and will be returning to Canada during the winter season to help out with as many projects as she can.

“I have nieces and nephews who are graduating, and graduating in rural Alberta there’s a certain amount of apathy in outlook right now,” said White.

“So, connecting with CanGap, especially with the Impact Fellowship, has been really exciting because you can continue to stay at home, continue to be in your community and do something that will make impact, do something you wish you had as a resource for yourself and be supported in what you want to do as you find your way in the next steps in these next transitions.”

White has been very passionate about the program and is telling as many people about it as she can.

“I think that CanGap has done a really good job in the spaces in which they exist, and one of the reasons why I was hired was because of that rural Alberta connection. Those kids don’t always get the reach for some of these larger organizations.”

As a mentor and coach, one of White’s jobs is to connect the students with resources and organizations that already exist, spurring on motivation and inspiration.

White said one of the things Dittmer mentioned to the mentors was really trying to prioritize human-centred work and creating a sense of belonging.

“Part of Can Gap’s mission as a whole is trying to reach individuals who may not have had opportunities to be leaders in their schools, communities, churches, youth groups and social circles. There’s a lot of scholarships and programs that take advantage of that cream of the crop type of individual and CanGap is hoping to reach individuals who have maybe not been given those leadership opportunities in the past.”

Those students interested in applying can apply at all of the program info is listed as well as an interest form for their name and email address. They will then be sent the full application.

The first deadline is Sept. 22 for applications to the October program and mid-December for the January one.

Once admitted they will be assigned a coach who will work with them on a weekly basis to help them flush out their ideas, put a plan together and give them advice. They will also receive skill-building workshops to help them with media relations, budgeting, etc.