Madelyn Steed, the Board Member and Co-Founder of the CanGap Association shares how her Gap Year came about and her developmental experience with Katimavik. The exploration and experiential learning she did through her time with Katimavik set her life on a completely different trajectory, and has helped her make a stronger impact in the world around.
She currently works in academic support for post-secondary students to ensure that they strive and thrive in their environment. This includes helping students transition from their full-time studies to taking a break to reflect and create a strong gameplan for their upcoming years.
Why a Gap Year?
From a young age, Madelyn dreamed of saving the world!! But, she was not quite sure how to do this. Moreover, when it came time to picking University programs, she was unclear of what she wanted to do, what the University lingo actually meant and really what value she would get from the program.
Even though she was not sure if going to University would be the right choice for her, there was (and still is) a very strong societal pressure in grade 12 from your parents, peers and teachers to go to University and get a degree.
However, there really is no period, or even a long enough period for students to be able to step back and reflect on themselves, their values, their interests. In addition, really understanding what the program offers, how it meets your needs and wants, and whether it will allow you to explore a possible future career path.
Madelyn exclaimed that “when I wanted to change the world, I didn’t even know what the world was!”
In the end, Madelyn headed off to Trent University to study International Development. While she was ready for the social experiences, Madelyn was not prepared for the academics. After failing a series of courses, she decided to step back and take this time to really ask herself what she is prepared for and create that foundational gameplan to launch her next phase to success.
While this was a difficult time for her, her next adventure was calling, Katimavik.
“Katimavik is a Canadian national youth empowerment and youth development charitable organization. Their goal is to foster understanding, respect and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples”.
During Madelyn’s year, Katamivik offered a 9 month program, where they would take the group to 3 different provinces and they would be able to live with their host family, an indgenous family, and work on different volunteer opportunities and projects.
For example, Madelyn was in Port McNeil working on an island called Alert Bay. The island was absolutely breathtaking and she connected with the Nagmi community. Daily, they were invited to the big house and residential schooling and were able to experience through their and get their perspective.
Moreover, in Cornwall, Madelyn participated in a nature exploration research group, and she absolutely loved it! This was a surprise for her because in high school, she never had an interest in science, but this experiential learning completely shifted her perspective. She became interested in research, and is one of the reasons she pursued grad school.
Katimavik is a program by Canada for Canadians, it allows youth to delve deep and get experience to focus on truth and reconciliation, learning about the current reality of the Indigenous community.
Now, the program has been shortened to 5 and ½ months long, and it is heavily subsidized through the federal government. You only have to fundraise $1000 for 5 and ½ months and they will cover the rest of the cost! Which is an excellent deal, typically a 4 month university term can be anywhere around $4000 - $6000!
How did the Katimivak experience shape Madelyn's career?
Along with the Katimivak experience, she did work in a factory in order to fund her education.
Upon returning to campus, Madelyn did try her major International studies again. However, to really elevate her undergrad experience and to apply the leadership skills she gained from Katimavik, she got involved in her school community, welcoming first years and residence life. From this, Madelyn’s interest in Student Affairs significantly increased, and is what she pursued for her career. This resulted in her branching out to her learning about Student Affairs, which she had no idea that this could be a career.
Afterwards, she went to grad school and earned her Masters of Education from the Ontario Institute for the Studies of Education in Adult Education and Community Development.
Michelle commented that Madelyn's story really reinforces that it's not an “or ''. It is not a gap year or higher education. It is not experiential learning or academics. It is not research or job applications. Everything is or could be an and.
Reminding yourself that not everything needs to be done by certain deadlines, there is always a way to make an and. If you add an and to your story, you may add another year to your fictitious timeline. But then you have that and, you have the experience, life skills, and network. If you replaced that with an or, you might have missed out on those opportunities,
The golden rule is to never say no, you always say and. This will continue to lead you through this mysterious and exciting world.
Check out Katimavik!