Shaping an education the way you want is not a dream anymore. Abby Falik created a social venture program called “Global Citizen Year”, providing an opportunity for high-school graduates to have a “bridge year” of building real-world life skills. The year in a “world classroom” – no walls, no textbooks…just life through a global lens. Sounds awesome, right? 


Born “From the heart”

Global Citizen Year

The concept for Global Citizen Year was born out of a moment of personal frustration: Abby was looking for something like it when she graduated from high school, but she couldn’t find the right opportunity, cause she hadn’t had a college degree. Then there were 2 years of Stanford, studying International Development. Six month in Brazil just with the backback. Later on, several years of Harvard Business School and “pitch” competition, where Global Citizen Year won.

My first day of business school We were given a list of 100 jobs and asked to circle 5 jobs that spoke to us. It is meant to be an intuitive process, not a logical one. The jobs I chose were venture capitalist, entrepreneur, Rabbi, high school principal, and small town mayor. It’s funny looking back on this — in many ways, my current job combines attributes from all five!

So after a decade “becoming an expert” on the need – and promise – of a new pathway to college, she is building an organisation that fills the gap in the marketplace.


“What is my life purpose?!”

The pressure on students, especially on those who are close to the university is pretty high, so most of them are just following the typical steps, not getting right all the things they are doing. Sometimes they are not realizing, if they really want to do this or it’s just a “normal”. Let’s imagine what could happen, if they will get an opportunity to have the bridge year to ask themselves about the role in the world?

If you are thinking of your life purpose – probably you are the one to be the part of the program. Global Citizen Year through structured training in mindfulness and authentic leadership helping young people develop the empathy, self-awareness and grit. All of this skills they need to know to become impactful leaders over time. The program provides 8 month immersion in communities across Asia, Africa and Latin America. And there they do everything from assisting births in the Sahara to teaching English in the Amazon. That is also a program for those who understand, that college isn’t a “life vest” anymore – most of the executives sure, that knowledge students are getting in most of the colleges are not enough to lead in global economy.

Our schools are teaching kids to run on treadmills, but not to climb mountains, – Paul Tough, New York Times journalist.

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How to grow? Keep going

The concept started like an seed in the mind have grown tremendously. Today, it’s a world-class program and team. There are financial contributions from the Ford Foundation, the Nike Foundation, and other leading investors. Also, they created partnerships with colleges like Tufts and UNC, which now encourage — and in some cases pay — for incoming students to take a “bridge year” through Global Citizen Year before they begin college. The plans are to expand those partnerships to include hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of students.

The team is important. After five years running a small pilot, Abby built a great team. Right people, great personalities and talented in what they are doing. “When you’re working alongside amazing people who do their jobs well, going to work doesn’t feel like “work”!” It’s just a beginning. The next challenge – is to take the proven model to scale.

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