Taking a gap year is one of the very best things a young person can do for themselves and their future prospects – if they do it right.
Which is where we come in. The Canadian Gap Year Association (CanGap) is a registered non-profit organization with a mission to support young people looking to take an intentional step off the conveyor belt of life to explore and experience ‘the real world’ according to their talents, goals and interests.
What began in the early 2000s with two parents who saw a need for support while their own children were exploring gap years, has grown and evolved into a dynamic and trusted resource for providing gap year information.
Under the leadership of our Director and gap year expert Michelle Dittmer (who you can meet below!), we support gappers and their families through one-on-one coaching , a year-long certification program and a wealth of free resources – all designed to help you plan and execute on an epic year, whatever that looks like for you.
gap year (noun)
\ ˈgap \ \ ˈyir \
an intentional and purposeful step away from your normal routine to focus on personal and professional growth through work, volunteering, personal interest activities and/or travel
President & Co-Founder
Recognizing that students were not being provided with enough opportunity to get hands on experience to develop life skills, Michelle left the classroom to explore other ways of helping young people find direction and fulfillment. She worked to train other teachers, she instructed outdoor education, she traveled for pleasure and for work and researched what today’s youth really want and need. All of her life experience drove her to the same conclusion – we need to slow down and give young people the space and time to figure out who they are and to engage in meaningful experiences. She founded the Canadian Gap Year Association as an antidote to business, mental health challenges and young adults feeling confused and unfulfilled. She has committed her professional life to giving families permission to slow down so their kid can be the best version of themselves and make a healthy transition into adulthood.
In addition to working as an educational consultant and corporate trainer, Kate Cassidy is a lecturer with Brock University’s Department of Communications and a research associate with the Niagara Community Observatory. She formerly held the position of Director of Continuing Education, Community Learning, and Youth University at Brock University where she assumed responsibilities over the educational programs of over 90, 000 learners. Over the course of her career she has served as Canadian Chair and Journal Submission Reviewer for the Association for Experiential Education, as well as sat on committees and boards focused on innovative and inclusive education. She has written articles for education and business audiences and chapters for books such as The Theory of Experiential Education and Identities, Youth and Belonging. Kate holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a MEd and PhD in Education.
Susan is the former Director of Education of the York Catholic District School Board. In addition to being the Co-Chair of the Human Services Planning Board of York Region, she is Chair of Rose of Sharon, a service for young mothers. She is also the Senior Strategist with Education Research Development Inc. and a volunteer with WE Charity and Ontario Special Olympics. Susan has a B.A. from Ottawa University and a Masters of Education and Master of Business Administration from Queen’s University.
Board Member & Co-Founder
Madelyn has worked in higher education for close to a decade assisting students as they arrive, survive and thrive throughout their post-secondary experience. Madelyn has a Masters of Education from the Ontario Institute for the Studies of Education in Adult Education and Community Development. After her first semester at the University of Guelph, where she later completed her undergrad, Madelyn embarked on her own gap year and is passionate about guiding and supporting youth to take the same leap! She is a proud Katimavik-alumni!
Richard is currently the Associate Dean of Liberal Studies, Mohawk College. Prior to that, he was employed as Executive Director, Research, and Programs with the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), and he held numerous prior positions in other provincial and federal government departments and the private sector. He has also taught nearly 100 postsecondary courses, including at the graduate level, and holds a doctorate from Georgetown University, a Masters from the University of Ottawa, and a Bachelor's from Carleton University.
““Young people are more capable and innovative than they are given credit for, but they need guidance and confidence in their abilities to discover and explore their passions and interests outside an academic setting”
President and Co-founder
As the world begins to pay attention in new and more intentional ways to a long-fought battle for racial equity, the Canadian Gap Year Association recognizes that Canada, like many other countries has many systems that perpetuate racism. We acknowledge that CanGap has a role to play within the gap year movement and we commit to taking action. We echo the sentiments from the US-based Gap Year Association and unite by sharing these words:
As an industry that long stands on a history of its own systemic issues of [in]equity, inclusion[exclusion] and white privilege, we have a long road ahead. Our field needs to accelerate the vital work of educating ourselves to better impact our communities, students and their families about core issues like systemic racism, white supremacy, implicit bias, and racial inequities.
We recognize that while some gains will come quickly, systemic change is only possible with prolonged and consistent efforts on our part. While our role will continue to evolve as we engage in more purposefully with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) communities, the Canadian Gap Year Association commits to:
Expanding our Board of Director team to better represent diverse perspectives in decision-making and guiding the direction of the Association.
Additional clauses in the CanGap Partnership MOU that require a commitment to anti-racism, diversity and inclusion efforts.
Designing a fair and sustainable advisory council model that will empower BIPOC voices within the Canadian gap year community to address increasing equity and access to gap year activities, racial inequalities, and adjusting harmful gap year narratives and programming.
Work with qualified professionals to develop anti-racism, diversity and inclusion resources for gap year professionals and gappers. We will begin with:
Staff training (internally and for gap year professionals across the field)
Suggested standards & self-evaluation tools for gap year programs
Resources for gappers who wish to focus on social justice issues on their gap year
Ongoing education for our members and ourselves on anti-racism and allyship.
If you would like to be part of one of the above-mentioned initiatives, this sustained effort, or be involved in any way in addressing the systemic racial issues perpetuated by the gap year industry, we invite you to connect with us. We can do more together.
(Updated June 23, 2020; PDF Available HERE)